A. COMIC LIFE OF THE EX-EMPEROR.*
WE gather from the preface that the publisher had a some- what original idea in intermixing the two distinct parts of this book. He tells us that "after he had looked over what Mr. Haswell had written about the Emperor, he felt that there still remained a part of the story untold, viz., that part which is con- tained in the public caricatures appearing immediately after each important event in the hero's career." Accordingly, a selection of caricatures with explanatory letter-press is bound up with the narrative, the result being in fact two narratives, which the reader can peruse simultaneously, the one, according to the pub- lisher's idea, forming the complement of the other, and the two enabling the reader to "arrive at an opinion not very far from the truth." But we very much fear that this brilliant notion of mixing up two books of a different nature, which will give an impression of the subject more correct than either of them singly, has
not been very successfully carried out. Unfortunately for the pub- lisher, the narrative which the caricatures are to supplement and
modify is itself a caricature, all the more happy because it is un- designed. Instead of giving the public two different books in one, therefore, he has only managed after all to present them with a single homogeneous volume, what we may call, from its whole etyle and method, and its travesty of sentiment and fine writing, a comic life of the Ex-Emperor. As such it may be read with some amusement, and is not without its moral.
To begin with, there is something not a little odd in the grotesque audacity with which "Part I." is put forward at all as a story of the career of Louis Napoleon. 'We could forgive omissions and want of proportion in a collection of caricatures, as the caricatures of a d'efinite period of time may vary so much in felicity of treat- ment that the collector will be compelled by mere regard for artistic merit to give disproportionate space to some incidents compared with others. But in a prose sketch we should expect some attempt at completeness. In the present case, however, there is not only no attempt at completeness, but an attempt to palm off as the atory of Napoleon III. the barest reeltauffe" of the leading personal incidents, such as the most cursory study of the newspapers of the day might have supplied. And this is not the worst. Even a re'sume of the newspapers, unverified and unconsidered, might have sufficed for a catchpenny publication, reminding the general reader of what he was in a hurry to know something about, with- out pretending to the accuracy of a real biography. But the pre- cept writer is quite indifferent to his incidents, omits at random long chapters of his hero's history, and slurs over the development of particular scenes. To take only the last part of the book, the long period from 1860 to 1870 is glanced at without even an allusion to the part played by the Ex-Emperor in the American war, or his diplomacy in the Polish insurrection in 1863, or his remark- able illness in 1860, upon which so much of the future history of France depended. Such incidents as are noticed—the Mexican venture, the International Exhibition in 1867, the Biarritz recrea- tions, the plebiscite in 1870 —are oddly enough jumbled, and there is not, to go farther back, the trace of a thread in the narration from IMO downwards. Earlier in the work there is the same free- and-easy style in dealing with the incidents, but the effect is not so glaring, the personal narrative not being so mixed up with the history of Franco. Of the absurdity of the latter part of the work, however, there can be no doubt, as almost anything written about French political history in those years, and in whatever order, would have answered the purpose of a history of Louis Napoleon as well as the present narrative. The only way we can account for the deficiency is to suppose that, having been allotted a certain space, and having filled up a great deal with Napoleonic manifestoes, chiefly Republican ones of 181840—which read very oddly now—the author was obliged to conclude anyhow, and so presents us with this strange sketch, in which so many parts the hero played are altogether left out.
But we must do justice to the positive qualities of the sketch,
* The Man of his Time. Part I. The Story of the Life of Napoleon III. By James 15. Haswell. Part If. The Same Story as told by Popular Caricaturists of the Last Thirty Years, London: John Camden Hotton. without which its merely negative sins of omission would hardly make it a caricature. So far as the author can make it, the book is an indiscriminate eulogy of the Ex-Emperor, and his govern- ment, and everything pertaining to him, couched in a curious dialect of the writer's own, to which we can only do justice by a few extracts. Take, for example, the eulogy of Queen Hortense, of whom the author refuses to believe anything scandalous, though stating in a clumsy fashion enough to raise more than suspicion : "A. noble woman she was, and as enlightened as noble. The gifts of her mind vied with the attributes of her soul,—her wit subtle, keen, and almost manly ; her thoughts refined and comprehensive ; her aspirations sublime. Even to this day her countrymen are proud of those lyrical melodies which she poured forth with the inspiration of a Sappho, and which have found an echo in every civilized country." It is evident from such a passage that Mr. Haswell's style is no ordinary one, and we should at any rate shrink from criticizing the author who perceives in the melody of " Patent pour la Sync" a strain of Sapplao's inspiration. Just as fine in its way is the author's moralizing over the effects of Queen Hortense's death on the character of her son, to which he traces the reserve and silence of the man of mystery. We have no space for the whole passage, but he begins as follows: "Severe bereavements almost invariably leave sonic indelible mark behind them. Their effects are various: mostly beneficial, sometimes ennobling ; seldom maudlin, except with weak minds. Hard as it may seem to say so, it frequently is a great gain to us to lose the dearest object of an affection. Death-beds of love have been bedewed with sincerer tears of penitence than have gushed to the smiling oratory of the preacher, than have wet the pillow of a hopeless illness, or have flowed over providential reverses of fortune." The "concatenation of epithets" here is very fine, and we should despair of finding another author equal to the invention of a classification of the effects of bereavement into "beneficial," " ennobling," and "maudlin," or who could dis- tinguish so minutely and in a breath between the "bedewing," "gushing," "wetting," and "flowing" characters of tears. The author's strong language is also of a peculiar character, as the following odd bit of swearing against Germans may demonstrate. France, he Bays, in 1870 had perhaps "less experience than other European nations of the fecundity of a race endowed, like the lower animals, with marvellous procreative powers, which threaten to overrun the world with guttural barbarians, and which have already foisted such a horde of shirtless princes, with little to recommend them save a dubious title and a crackjaw name, on the bounty of so many countries." We might quote many more specimens of this singular style, down to the onions and sudden peroration :—" Drop the curtain, and let us sing with heart and voice—God save the Queen! " but our readers may imagine for themselves what it is to have the praises of the Ex- Emperor sung at intervals in this sort of language throughout a narrative sketch which deals with the incidents of his career in the way we have described. The obvious sincerity of the author spoils the impression a little, but still it is impossible to get rid of the impression that Part I. of this book is as much a caricature as Part If., with which it is boand up for the sake of a modifying tone. The book abounds in such touches as the comparison of Hortense with Sappho, and the Second Napoleon is treated throughout as "skilled to rule in peace" as his great uncle was in war. It is almost superfluous to add that there is not any- where an estimate of the hero's character. The author entertains the simple notions current within certain limits in England about the Emperor,—that he was a friend of England and made France prosperous, and was exactly suited to rule these queer French people ; and the constant repetition of these ideas in connection with a career which, whether true or not, they do not describe in the least, is another obvious reason for the caricaturist air of the narrative.
While we point out, however, contrary to the publisher's notion, that the book is of a piece, we are bound to add that "Part II." is by far the most interesting. The career of the Emperor undoubtedly lends itself to avowed caricature, beginning with the prologues
of Strasburg and Boulogne, which were most appropriate farcical introductions to a gigantic extravaganza. All through, notwith-
standing the real ability of the hero, there was also a constant
trading upon reputation ; an attempt to magnify his capacity for a part he could not wholly fill ; something hollow and theatrical, and
meant only to impose on the world, in every characteristic speech and incident, from the first appearances in the costume of the great Emperor to that miserable skirmish of Saarbrtick, got up to give
the heir to the dynasty a safe "baptism of fire." Accordingly, the " grotesque " predominates in the career, and is in truth most hap.. pity hit off in many of the caricatures of the time. If the pretender had not strutted about in the costume of his uncle, the artist in almost the first caricature here given, could not have ventured to show the exultation of the Strasburg shoeblack in recognizing a new Emperor by his boots! In the same way, in the Boulogne affair, the attempt to invade France with an army of sixty raga- muffins would not have seemed so ridiculous as it did, but for the tame eagle which the adventurer took with him as the symbolic eagle of his dynasty, and which would not fly up and perch on the statue of his uncle at Boulogne. In 1848, again, the adventurer is once more put in a comic light by a cartoon representing a crowd of citizens and citizenesses reading open-mouthed his address to the electors, which consists of the First Emperor's great-coat, cocked-hat, jack-boots, and telescope. There must have been something false in a character which was hit so palpably by such jests. The spirit and drawing of many of the cartoons, we may add, are really excellent, giving a real account of the incidents to which they relate. The Boulogne fiasco, for instance, is effectively told, the sketches of the Emperor enlisting his Falstaffian following, the hackney-coach conveying his party to the steamer, including a cage with a tame eagle, and the steamer itself, with its cargo of sea-sick and suffering conspirators, being especially effective. Later on, in 1848, there is a powerful sketch of the " Paquebot Napoleonien," a skiff in the shape of an inverted cocked-hat, with the Emperor on board, drawn by an eagle, which the Emperor, plying whip and rein, is hardly able to check ; and more powerful still, a sketch of the Emperor driving a dog-cart and dressed ?s l'Anglais, whom an old soldier is staring at with the exclamation, "Oh! and is that my Emperor ? Those rascals of English, how they have changed him I" This second part of the book, however, is also unsatisfactory. It omits to tell us, except in a very few instances, where Charivari is acknowledged, the place of original publication of the caricature,—a most essential point in throwing light on the his- tory of the time ; and in the second place, it is, like the first part, terribly deficient. Certain parts of the hero's life are delineated, but many scenes and passages which would have been equally interest- ing are omitted. Of the latter, we may remember the proposals for a congress in 1863, the Roebuck and Lindsay mission from the Emperor to the House of Commons, and the whole history from 1864 to 1866, which is almost without a sketch. We could perhaps excuse the omission of such a cartoon as that of Charioari in 1860 representing Dr. Nelaton as being elevated to the Senate on a bladder ; but the whole incidents of the deception of the Em- peror in 1866 were most legitimate topics for caricature, and many excellent ones exist. We remember one in Punch representing the Emperor as a Paris rag-picker trying to pick up a few pieces of German territory, and Bismarck appearing as housekeeper to warn him off. Altogether, the value of this book as a caricature-history lies more in its suggestion of what might be done than in anything actually accomplished. Where so much has been effected with com- paratively so little effect, it might not be difficult to make a real selection, with an intelligible thread of connection and with a good explanatory letter-press. The present volume, with its burlesque narrative and omissions of every kind, though it is, no doubt, a cause of laughter, is too slight an affair even to be considered as a caricature-history of the Emperor.