13 DECEMBER 1851, Page 14


HEAD'S FAGGOT OF FRENCH STICKS.• IT appears that Sir Francis Head had not been in France since he served there with the Army of Occupation. In the spring of this year he started for Paris, in search of an oculist ; and while under medical treatment for his eyes, he made such good use of them and his hands, that little more than a three-weeks trip has enabled him to turn out two volumes of nine hundred pages on the sights of such a familiar city as Paris, with reflections thereupon. The familiarity diminishes the • interest of the matter of the book. A man might almost as well write two volumes upon what he could contrive to see in London ; and though a Frenchman may take an interest in the author's observations as a stranger, such a source of attraction does not extend to the home public. The style of Sir Francis is diffuse and minute. He enumerates as often as he describes, and that in the manner of Dickens and his imitators—if they, indeed, have not imitated the " Gallop " and the " Bubbles." The book, however, is very curious, readable, and in some sense informing ; but perhaps its most remarkable feature is, how much may be seen in Paris in a short time by a man who resolutely sets about it. Sir Francis Head carried with him some letters of introduction, but he never used them; resolving to rely on himself, and French politeness, or rather liberality to streamers. Nor was he disappointed. Except in a few cases, where exclusion

on was the rule,—as in the military educational establishments, and the barracks, which last are closed in compliance with the soldiers'

dislike to be shown " like wild beasts,"—the application infor- mation of the traveller procured him free admission and full nfor- mation everywhere. To places that were closed Sir Francis used his name or his influence, for he got Ministerial orders of admission.

Much of the matter picked up by our author is not very fresh.

The streets of Paris, the public conveyances, the public sights—as the arch of the Etoile, the Pantheon, &c.—may be new to Sir Francis, either absolutely or in contrast with his old recollections, but they are not new to many of his readers, who have already seen them, and read a good deal about them in guidebooks if not elsewhere. Some of the places have greater attraction, either be- cause they are not visible or are rarely visited, or because the author has looked at his subjects wits discerning eyes ; while they not only manage some things better in France, but they really furnish les- sons we are practically in want of. If there is anything which an Englishman supposes he understands better than another, it is the management of horses and their stables. Our author's visit to the establishment of the Omnibus Association of Paris seems to shake this opinion. There would seem to be no commercial stables in this country so well planned, or so well managed, either as regards the cleanliness, comfort, and health of the animal, the profit of his owners, or the humanity of the question. The visits to establish- ments for the slaughter of sheep, cattle, pigs, and horses, show the vast superiority of the French in this respect. The subject has a further interest at present, when the hygienic influences of these things are admitted, and we have got a Board of Health, and Smith- field is abolished,—though, it would appear, without one single thought as to how, where, or when new markets are to be esta- blished. The clear and lively accounts of all these places by Sir Francis Head may be perused with advantage.

" If any other comes who has better iron, he will be master of all this gold," is as true now as when Solon warned Cr:Jesus of the uncertainty of his empire. The last few years have witnessed the overthrow on the Continent of Europe of such principles of public law as were obeyed under the old legitimacies. Military power, wielded without scruple or warning, is the fashion everywhere,— in Spain, in Italy, in Austria, in Prussia, by Russia, and at last in France. The kind of military training and education adopted by our neighbours—in comparison with our own no-system—is there- fore of considerable importance. Wherever Sir Francis Head went, he found everything admirable ; whether he went to the barracks, where the soldiery are trained—to what we should call the military schools, where the mass of officers are instructed—or to the Ecole d'Etat Major, where the most promising are initiated into the higher branches of military science, as well in theory as in practice, to qualify them for staff appointments as well as for command. It is possible, as is often the case in France, that the theory may be better than the practice, and that Sir Francis Head, according to his natural habit., exaggerates the good as well as the evil. But there is no doubt about the efficiency of the French army, no doubt that there is a thorough system, and as little doubt about certain facts. This method of exercising soldiers in gymnastics in the bar- rack military school, available for military purposes as well as for giving suppleness to the limbs, is only one branch of the training.

" After passing through a large park of artillery and of pontoons, I en- tered the gymnasium of the Ecole 31ilitaire; a large open court, containing, beanies all sorts of strange-looking hieroglyphics, a long lofty gibbet, with a ladder at each end, communicating with the beam, from which were hang- ing fourteen ropes; up which soldiers were hauling themselves until the approached the beam, beneath which they proceeded horizontally, by un hooking the fourteen ropes from one set of rings to another. In another d' rection, one or two soldiers were ascending the lofty wall that surroun the court, by inserting the points of their fingers and toes into slight cre that had been urposel • made by the abstraction of the mortar. In front another part of the wall, men were vibrating or swinging, by means of ro attached to the summit. In the centre, under the command of two offi on duty, several men were performing feats which really astonished Some, with great agility and in various ways, vaulted on and over a sor

• A Faggot of French Sticks. By the Author of "Bubbles from the Brwin Nassau." in two volumes. Published by Hurray.

wooden horse; others, kneeling on it, turned over in the air like mounte- banks. In another direction, on a pole about six feet from the ground, was seated a soldier, who, without touching it with his hand, raised his foot up to it, and then rose up. From a small moveable scaffolding, eight feet high, several soldiers sprang forwards and then backwards on a lump of loose sand beneath. Two or three jumped in this way from the top of the gibbet, four- teen feet high. Just before I entered this gymnasium for the second time, I had happened, within the Ecole Militaire, to meet Colonel Wood, who so gallantly distinguished himself in India, on Lord Hardinge's staff; and as we evidently took much interest in the feats we were witnessing, the two officers on duty called together a number of the men. Eight were made to stoop, with their shoulders resting against each other, and, while they were in this petition, three or four of their comrades, one after another, running quickly along a spring-board, not only jumped over them, but, making a summerset in the air, landed very:cleverly on their feet ; and the officers, seeing we were somewhat astonished, increased the number of stoopers from eight to four- teen, over the whole of whom two or three men, following each other in quick succession, making a summerset in the air and landing lightly on their feet, ran on as if no such parenthesis in their lives had occurred. From one of the officers I ascertained that all the soldiers under thirty years of age within the Ecole Militaire were required to perform gymnastic exercises twice a week for two hours at a time, but that after the age mentioned their at- tendance-ceased to be compulsory '

The candidates for commissions in the Line are subjected to a similar training in gymnastics, as well as in all the minutiae of drill, &c. at the same time they are exercised in their peculiar du- ties as officers.

"On enterino' the Champ de Mars, at about two o'clock, I found two com- panies of the eleves going through various manoeuvres in the presence of a Chef de Bataillon, who, in uniform and on horseback, held in his hand the notes of duties for the day ; but the words of command were given by the elevcs, who are taught—seriatim—to act the parts of all ranks, from a pri- vate up to that of the Chef de Battaillon who superintends them. They are also, for an hour or two every day, made first to trace on the ground, and then practically to construct, field-works ; and accordingly, some were em- ployed in finishing one, the parapet of which, fourteen feet high, was sur- rounded by a ditch six feet deep. Among the works they had completed, I' observed with great interest several ovens for campaigning—' fours de cam- pagne '—very ingeniously constructed beneath the surface of the ground. Adjoining to these they had been taught to construct, for the purpose of cooking, boiling cauldrons, &c., en bivouac,' holes, from which little sub- terranean flues, as if they had burrowed by a mole, ran for the admit- tance of air and for the exit of smoke. At the further end existed a small park of nine pieces of artillery, gabions, fascines, several sheds full of spades, pickaxes, &c., a yard containing shot and shells, and a powder-magazine.

"Beyond the Champ de Mars, in the long practising ground I have de- scribed, I found a butt and three batteries, one of which, with four embra- sures, five hundred and fifty yards from the butt, had been lately made by the elZves.

" We now walked up to a party of them in heavy. marching order, (with their knapsacks on their backs,) employed in practising with the new mus- kets and with fixed bayonets at a target, distant three hundred and thirty yards. Some fired at it erect ; others, by bending down on their right knee, and then placing their left elbow on the left thigh, obtained a rest appa- rently of great use. The recoil of the musket in the hands of these young men was very violent indeed ; and yet, by the report the officer superintend- ing them showed me, it appeared they had, at the distance above named, struck the target (six feet aix inches high by nine feet three inches, made to repri sent four men standing together) once in ten times, which, he observed to me, was about the usual average. "Each eleve or candidate for a commission in the Line, during the two years he is at tie establishment of St. Cyr, is required to fire per annum, at various distances, twenty-eight balls for muskets, and the same number for carbines, • musquetons' for cavalry, and pistols. A record is kept of every bullet that hits the target, and at the end of the year, a prize, consisting of a pair of pistols, is awarded to the best shot; besides which, the best thirty are assembled to fire in presence of the General, who gives a second pair of pis- tols to the best performer before him. During the second year only, each subdivision fire—from distances of five hundred and fifty, six hundred and sixty, and seven hundred and seventy yards—two shells from mortars, one from alawitzer, and nine shot from cannons ; and, as in the case of small- arms, a pair of pistols is awarded to the best marksman. " At a considerable distance off, in the open country, I observed several of the young men very intently occupied in walking together in groups and then suddenly stopping. On reaching them, I was introduced to the officer (the adjutant of artillery) in charge of the party. The object of the instruc- tion was as follows : the officer pointed out to them a tree about two hun- dred and fifty yards off, and, calling to them by their names, (in the French regiments of the Line the men are called by their numbers,) he inquired of each, before all the rest, what he considered was that distance ? and record- ing in the book he held in his hand the answer; he repeated seriatim the same question to every one, until all their replies were put down. The pre- cise distance was then measured with a chain by two of the eleves, followed by all the rest. As soon as it was ascertained, the officer, calling around him the whole of his party, announced it to them ; and having done so, he read out loud the name, (Monsieur —,) with tho distance he had esti- mated, and in like manner that of every one present : several had guessed it within ten yards."

The account of the " Ecole d'Etat Major" partakes more of the nature of a programme than the descriptions of the other military schools, which are mainly the result of observation. This is a useful hint as to the supply of the higher order of officers. • "As I was walking through the garden, I asked the Colonel to be so good as to explain to me, who had the patronage. of appointing to the 'Ecole d'Etat Major' the twenty-five students requisite to replace that number who were annually promoted from it to be, with the rank of lieutenants, aide-majors (assistant adjutants) of cavalry. He told me, that no such in- fluence was allowed to interfere with the Ecole d'Etat Major; and accord- ingly, that, by an order of Government, the yearly deficiency, without any patronage whatever, is supplied by three of the most distinguished scholars of the Ecole Poly technique, and by twenty-two who in like manner have most distinguished themselves in their progress through the military college of St. Cyr: "This sensible arrangement, which, regardless of expense, gives to the brightest talents the country can produce the best professional education it can devise, accords with the whole military system of the French army, which, among other regulations, has ordained that no one can be appointed to the rank of sons-lieutenant until he has either served at least two years as a non-commissioned officer (sous officier) in some corps of the army, or for two years has been an elive of the Ecole Militaire de St. Cyr or Polytech- nique, and has, moreover, passed all the examinations thereof."

Thus much for theory. As everything connected with the French army has a present importance, from the doubt as to what

uses its master may be compelled to put it to when there is no- thing left to conquer at home and not much to plunder, an ex- ample may be taken from its practice. Prince Louis Napoleon, be it said, is an old acquaintance of the author, and very graciously recognized him. He invited him to dinner, and afterwards to ride beside him at a review; and left an impression on the mind of Sir Francis as to his virtues, capabilities, patriotism, and so forth, which the late events, it seems, have not at all shaken. Passing pre- liminaries and the earlier part of the review, we come to the cli- max, towards the close of the chapter.

"As it approached, there first of all trotted very proudly by the President, with bodies half shaved and tails entirely shaved, excepting at the tip, the two white poodle-dogs of the regiment. Then came trotting by on foot, waving an ornamented pole, a magnificently-dressed tall tambour-rnajor, followed by his brass band, all of whom, playing as they advanced, trotted by, and then, suddenly wheeling to their left, formed in front of the Presi- dent, where they continued, tambour-major and all, dancing up and down, keeping time to the air they played: As each company rapidly advanced, their appearance was not only astonishing but truly beautiful. Although, according to French regulations, they bad come to the review not only in heavy marching order, (knapsacks and greateoats,) but laden with camp- kettles and pans for soup, &c. (they are not allowed when reviewed to leave anything behind,) they advanced and passed with an ease and lightness of step it is quite impossible to describe, and which I am sensible can scarcely be believed unless it has been witnessed. In this way they preceded the caval- ry, who were at a trot ; and as soon as the last company had passed the Pre- sident, the band and tambour-major, who had never ceased dancing for an instant, accompanied by the two white half-shaved poodle dogs, darted after them, until the whole disappeared from view. "On expressing my astonishment at the pace at which they passed, I was assured by two or three general officers, as well as by the President himself, that the chaseeurs a pied' in the French service can, in heavy marching order and carrying everything, keep up with the cavalry at a trot for two leagues; indeed, they added, if necessary, for a couple of hours : the effect, no doubt, of the gymnastic exercises I had witnessed, and which I had been truly told by the French officers superintending them were instituted for the purpose of giving activity and celerity of movement to the troops. The ehasseurs a pied are armed with the new internally grooved French carbine, the extraordinary range of which I have described ; and as their fire is deadly at a distance more than three times greater than that of the English ordinary musket, their power of speedily advancing, and, if necessary, as speedily running away, all added together, form advantages which, it is submitted, are worthy of the very serious consideration of the British nation."

A hundred thousand such men are now concentrated in Paris, and three hundred thousand are in other parts of France ; a large number of whom could be placed in a few hours on the shores of the Channel. It is a grave question what naval force we have at hand to oppose a passage if attempted, and what military means we have to resist an army if it managed to land. What number of men of war and war-steamers could be concentrated in eight- and-forty hours at Portsmouth ? what number of regular troops, or men who had ever been trained to arms, could be thrown upon any given point of our Southern coast at a few days' notice ? Of course it is easy to say that the President, Consul, Emperor, or whatever he is to be called, has no wish to involve himself in foreign wars, and that he has quite enough to do at home. To this it may be replied, that the acts of the ruler may not depend upon his wishes but his necessities ; while he has shown clearly enough that no restraints of law, morality, or usage, will be allowed to stand between him and any personal object. The historical reader will hardly need to be reminded that some of the foreign conquests of Rome, and all the triumphs of the first French Republic, were obtained amid greater internal dissension than any now existing in France. If this country was exposed to risk from a desperate dash under old and formal governments, which were overturned because they were too scrupulous to use a military force against open revolt- ers, that danger is greatly increased with a man who, notwithstand- ing his nominal despotism, must shortly be moved like a snake by its tail, and whom force or fear can alone restrain from any enormities that promise to answer his immediate purpose. To return to the volumes. There is a good bit of bookmaking about them ; and the reader cannot always implicitly receive Sir Francis Head's conclusions, for perhaps he now often errs as much in favour of the French as he lately did against them : but in spite of critical drawbacks, the reader will find both amusement and information in the Faggot of French Sticks.