« AnteriorContinuar »
THE FUDGE FAMILY IN PARIS.
The success, far exceeding my hopes and deserts, with which Lalla Rookh was immediately cr
crowned, relieved me at once from the anxious feeling of responsibility under which that enterprise had been commenced, and which continued for some time to haunt me amidst all the enchantments of my task. I was therefore in the true holyday mood, when a dear friend, with whose name is associated some of the brightest and pleasantest hours of my past life *, kindly offered me a seat in his carriage for a short visit to Paris. This proposal I, of course, most gladly accepted; and, in the autumn of the year 1817, found myself, for the first time, in that gay capital.
As the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty was still of too recent a date for any amalgamation to have yet taken place between the new and ancient order of things, all the most prominent features of both régimes were just then brought, in their fullest relief, into juxtaposition ; and, accordingly, the re
* Mr. Rogers.
sult was such as to suggest to an unconcerned spectator quite as abundant matter for ridicule as for grave political consideration. It would be difficult, indeed, to convey to those who had not themselves seen the Paris of that period, any clear notion of the anomalous aspect, both social and political, which it then presented. It was as if, in the days succeeding the Deluge, a small coterie of antediluvians had been suddenly evoked from out of the deep to take the command of a new and freshly starting world.
To me, the abundant amusement and interest which such a scene could not but afford was a good deal heightened by my having, in my youthful days, been made acquainted with some of those personages who were now most interested in the future success of the Legitimate cause. The Comte D'Artois, or Monsieur, I had met in the year 1802–3, at Donington Park, the seat of the Earl of Moira, under whose princely roof I used often and long, in those days, to find a most hospitable home. A small party of distinguished French emigrants were already staying on a visit in the house when Monsieur and his suite arrived ; and among those were the present King of France and his two brothers, the Duc de Montpensier, and the Comte de Beaujolais.
Some doubt and uneasiness had, I remember, been felt by the two latter brothers, as to the reception they were likely to encounter from the new guest; and as, in those times, a cropped and unpowdered head was regarded generally as a symbol
of Jacobinism, the Comte Beaujolais, who, like many other young men, wore his hair in this fashion, thought it, on the present occasion, most prudent, in order to avoid all risk of offence, not only to put powder in his hair, but also to provide himself with an artificial queue. This measure of precaution, however, led to a slight incident after dinner, which, though not very royal or dignified, was at least creditable to the social good-humour of the future Charles X. On the departure of the ladies from the dining-room, we had hardly seated ourselves in the old-fashioned style, round the fire, when Monsieur, who had happened to place himself next to Beaujolais, caught a glimpse of the ascititious tail, — which, having been rather carelessly put on, had a good deal straggled out of its place. With a sort of scream of jocular pleasure, as if delighted at the discovery, Monsieur seized the stray appendage, and, bringing it round into full view, to the great amusement of the whole company, popped it into poor grinning Beaujolais' mouth.
On one of the evenings of this short visit of Monsieur, I remember Curran arriving unexpectedly, on his way to London ; and, having come too late for dinner, he joined our party in the evening. As the foreign portion of the company was then quite new to him, I was able to be useful, by informing him of the names, rank, and other particulars of the party he found assembled, from Monsieur himself down to the old Duc de Lorge and the Baron de Rolle. When I had gone through the whole list, “ Ah, poor fellows!” he exclaimed, with a mixture of fun and pathos in his look, truly Irish, “ Poor fellows, all dismounted cavalry !”
On the last evening of Monsieur's stay, I was made to sing for him, among other songs, “Farewell Bessy !” one of my earliest attempts at musical composition. As soon as I had finished, he paid me the compliment of reading aloud the words as written under the music; and most royal havoc did he make, as to this day I remember, of whatever little sense or metre they could boast.
Among my earlier poetic writings, more than one grateful memorial may be found of the happy days I passed in this hospitable mansion
Of all my sunny morns and moonlight nights
But neither verse nor prose could do any justice to the sort of impression I still retain of those long-vanished days. The library at Donington was extensive and valuable; and through the privilege kindly granted to me of retiring thither for study, even when the family were absent, I frequently passed whole weeks alone in that fine library, indulging in all the first airy castle-building of authorship. The various projects, indeed, of future works that used then to pass in fruitless succession through my mind, can be compared only to the waves as described by the poet,
“And one no sooner touch'd the shore, and died,
With that library is also connected another of my
the verses addressed to the Duke of Montpensier on his portrait of the Lady Adelaide Forbes; for it was there that this truly noble lady, then in the first dawn of her beauty, used to sit for that picture ; while, in another part of the library, the Duke of Orleans, - engaged generally at that time with a volume of Clarendon, — was by such studies unconsciously preparing himself for the high and arduous destiny, which not only the Good Genius of France, but his own sagacious and intrepid spirit, had marked out for him.
I need hardly say how totally different were all the circumstances under which Monsieur himself and some of his followers were again seen by me in the year 1817 ; — the same actors, indeed, but with an entirely new change of scenery and decorations. Among the variety of aspects presented by this change, the ridiculous certainly predominated ; nor could a satirist who, like Philoctetes, was smitten with a fancy for shooting at geese,* ask any better supply of such game than the high places, in France, at that period, both lay and ecclesiastical, afforded. As I was not versed, however, sufficiently in French politics to venture to meddle with them, even in sport, I found a more ready conductor of laughter— for which
*“Pinnigero, non armigero in corpore tela exerceantur:" the words put by Accius in the mouth of Philoctetes.