PARIS AND ITS PEOPLE.
HAVING exhausted all that was outward in "the Great Metropo- lis" of England, Mr. GRANT paid a visit to Paris, to subject the French capital to the process which enabled him to manufacture a dozen publications from the modern Babylon. But his time was ill-chosen, and his powers restricted. He went to Paris in the autumn, when the Chambers had risen, the world was out of town, and the sights closing or closed—at least such as ever close in that gay capital. He was also ignorant of the language, to the extent, it would seem, of being unable to inquire his way. But this deft- ciency he overcame in a mode he recommends to others—engaging the hotel-interpreter at half-a-crown per half-diem and four-and- twopence for a whole day ; this medium of communication serving for his intercourse with barristers, officials, men of letters, and other more delicate communications; unless (which indeed seems to be the case) he occasionally stole a march upon his linguist, and " pumped" him for particular statistics, as well as for general views on social morals, without "extra payment." Still, Paris and its People is a remarkable book. Considering
how much has been written upon the French capital, it is no easy task to produce two volumes upon it in an autumnal trip, espe- cially without being able to " parlez vous"—and two volumes not resembling any thing that was ever before written. If it be a feat to do what no one else could do, Mr. GRANT has certainly accom- plished it in the volumes before us.
Coming down to particulars, Paris and its People consists of three distinct features, always perceptible, though not always form- ally separable. The first and most valuable consists of matter emanating entirely from the author. Such are his sketches of the first entrance to Paris, the general appearance of the houses, streets, shops, shop-women, vehicles, pavement or no-pavement, with the gutters and things therein. The cafes, hotels, theatres, and so forth, are in the same category, though scarcely so graphic and satisfactory, as sometimes verging upon higher ground. But generally, when the description runs upon outward forms, where Mr. GRANT has seen the whole with his own eyes, and only aims at conveying the impression which the actual has directly made upon his mind, the account is readable, and undoubtedly presents a better idea of such things in Paris than more ambitious attempts. The second class of composition is next in importance, and some- times more amusing : it consists mainly of what may be called Grantonian philosophizing,—as where the traveller undertakes to settle mooted questions, or to pass judgment upon the characters of monarchs and ministers, morality in general, or in national prac- tice, with war, peace, and religion. In this division, too, may be placed objects of a higher class of description, where taste and knowledge are required to apprehend the originals,—as a public library, and a collection of the fine arts ; though here Mr. GRANT is dry. The third division embraces a class of subjects where the matter, even if statistical, involves the necessity of discrimination or some other intellectual quality to exhibit it properly, or is of a dull and inert character till judiciously applied. It is just possible, too, that our author's interpreter possessed a spice of waggery ; though, considering his rate of wage, and the absolute power he possessed over both questions and answers when the person inter- rogated was totally ignorant of English, we feel bound to say that the au toerator of the Albion, Rue St. Thomas, is a very model of ab- solutists. We doubt, indeed, whether he has not served Monsieur GRANT in Paris better than Mr. GRANT served himself at home. Here and there is a dubious story, but we have met nothing so startling in Paris and its People as in some of this author's books about Lunnun-town.
As specimens of the bettermost parts of the book, we will take a few extracts.
THE STREETS OF PARIS.
Nothing more forcibly strikes the stranger the first few days he has been in Paris, than the height of the houses and the narrowness of the streets. The houses in all the leading streets range from five to seven stories in height. In most cases they have a lively, because a very variegated appearance. Though all built of stone, the fronts are covered over with plaster of Paris, similar to the houses in Regent Street and other places in London : they have, conse- quently, a perfectly smooth surface. Most of them are painted in fancy- colours ; and as these colours not only differ on different houses, but frequently even on the front of the same house, there is something very pleasing as we as strange to the eye of the visiter in the aspect of many of the streets. I am here speaking of those streets in the most busy parts of the city. In these, the very large size of the houses, and the exorbitance of the rents, render it impossible for one individual to occupy the whole of the premises. Every such house is occupied by a number of individuals; and as each individual has aright to paint the front of that part of the house which he rents in any way he pleases, that circumstance will account for the various hues which the aspect of particular houses presents. Another circumstance which gives the leading thoroughfares in Paris a peculiarly lively' appearance, is the number of signs,
and the variety and size of the letters. Most of these signs consist of the name and business of the parties painted, as with us, on a board which is affixed to the wall : in other cases, the letters are painted on the walls them. selves,—the smooth surface, to which I have already referred, being peculiarly adapted for this. The signs usually extend over the whole breadth of the front ; and the gigantic proportions of the letters will he understood when I mention that they are often two feet in length and one foot in breadth. The shops are not, as with us, confined to the ground-floor; many of them are on the first and second floors, to which there is access through a broad gateway from the street, and an exceedingly wide staircase. What may appear to the English reader more extraordinary still, is the fact that some of the shops doing the largest amount of business in fancy-articles, are situated in obscure courts and localities, up one, two, three, and sometimes even four pair of stairs.
THE ARCADES OF PARIS.
The arcades of Paris ought not to be passed over in a chapter devoted to ge- neral observations on the place. They are much more tasteful in their archi- tectural aspects than the arcades of London. You feel, too, that you can breathe more freely in them. In walking through our arcades in warm weather, you experience something of a suffocating sensation which makes you hurry out of them as fast as you can. In the Parisian arcades I never felt any sen- sation of this kind. They are not only light and lively in appearance, but efficiently ventilated. As regards the shops, again, those in the arcades of Paris are incomparably. more pleasing to the eye than the shops in the arcades of London. The exquisite taste, to which 1 have before referred as so cha- racteristic of the shops in the streets, is, if possible, still more strikingly dis- played in the shops in the arcades. Here the taste and the fancy of the French appear in perfection. You might gaze at one of these shops for days together, and inspect every article in it in detail, and yet not be able to detect a single instance of defective taste. You can hardly believe, as you look at the windows, either that human hand has made the diversified articles which delight your eye, or that human hand has sufficed for the admirable manner in which they are arranged. You involuntarily associate the idea of fairy workmanship and fairy arrangement with the more fanciful shops in the arcades of Paris. To see one of the better class of these arcades, when lighted up on a winter's evening, is a sight which, were it not to be had for nothing, people would most willingly pay to witness.
MR. GRANT SETTLING THB UNSETTLED.
The question is often asked, how happens it that the French women are so far before the women of all other countries in their style of walking? One of two answers is generally given to the question. Some persons account for the fact from the circumstance of their streets being so badly paved, and of their consequently being obliged, in passing along the streets, to make those short quick steps which are so much admired in their walking. This cannot he the reason ; because in many towns in England, Scotland, and Ireland, the cause- way is as rough and the pavement as bad as in Paris ; and yet we see nothing of the light, graceful, elastic mode of walking, among the women of our pro- vincial towns, which is the admiration of all foreigners who visit Paris. The other usual mode of accounting for the French women's mode of walk- ing is, to attribute it to the absence of carpets in the Parisian houses, and the circumstance of the floors being constantly rubbed over with soap, which renders them very slippery to walk on. This cannot be the right hypothesis any more than the other; for it is a well-ascertained fact, that English ladies who have gone to reside in Paris when they were very young, and before their style of walking could have been formed, hardly ever acquire that elegance of carriage and elasticity of step which all admire so much in the Parisian ladies. My own theory is, that the graceful walk of the French women is the result of that lightness of heart which is so marked a characteristic in the French character, and most of all in female character.
No better proof of Mr. GRANT'S philosophy could be offered than this limitation of lightness of step, from lightness of heart, to the ladies • in the male sex, exhilaration rather tends to another kind of gait.
As an example of his personal descriptions, here is the sketch of
Though a severe critic, and a capricious man, I do not think there is any thing constitutionally unkind about him. I met with him in Paris, and liked his manner exceedingly. He is in private what he appears in all his writings- & lively, pleasant, light-hearted man, with a great flow of animal spirits, and having all the appearance of one who is utterly indifferent as to what people think or say of him. When the servant ushered me into his room, I found him engaged in an active search through his library for a book, and humming a song to himself, evidently to his very great delectation. Be resides in apart- ments in a house nearly opposite the entrance to the Luxembourg Gardens. The house, like most houses in Paris, is very high, and Jules Janin lives nearly at the top. I was quite out of breath before reaching the apartments of the critic.
Literary men, in Paris, are rather proverbial for giving a preference to apart- ments near the top of the house; and Jules Janin rejoices, I am told, in the fact of his rooms being on the fourth or fifth story, I do not remember which. The walla of the apartment in which I found him were nearly all covered with tapestry of the most beautiful kind, after the manner of the Cartoons of Ra- phaeL Some of these cartoons are, I have no doubt, of great value, though my knowledge of the fine arts is not sufficiently great to enable me to speak in positive terms on the subject. The personal appearance of Jules Janin is very remarkable. Those who have seen him once will never forget him. He is rather, if any thing, below the middle height, and very stoutly and compactly made. His complexion is exceedingly dark; quite as much so as that of the generality of Italians. His face is unusually full; and its expression, on the whole, is pleasing. He has a singularly fine forehead, which attracts attention the more readily on account of the large quantity of jet-black hair, either brushed up or naturally disposed to stand erect, with which it is surmounted. I have rarely seen a more quick or piercing eye ; it is full of fire and intelligence. A patch of hair, which is never allowed to attain a greater growth than about a quarter of an inch, is always to be seen on the lower part of his chin. What may be the technical term, if there be one, for this fragment of a beard, I do not know ; it is much larger than the tufts, or imperials, which we sometimes meet with in this coun- try. I refer to it particularly because I do not remember to have seen any thing hire it in Paris, and because it imparts a very peculiar expression to the critic's countenance. The appearance of Jules Janin forcibly reminded me of that of ffir Charles Napier, the hero of St. Jean d'Acre ; only that Jules Janin is much the better-formed man of the two, and possesses much more regular features. His age, judging from appearance, I should suppose to be about forty-five ; but he may be a year or two older or younger. Though he reviews English books which have never been translated into French, and cuts them up without mercy, he cannot talk nor read a word of English. He deeply re- grets that he did not make himself acquainted with our language in early life. And as I was in pretty much the same predicament in reference to French, we should have looked very awkward when together, but for the presence of a third party who is acquainted with both languages.
Prefixed to the first volume is a portrait of the author, which shows the advantage of a trip to Paris, especially when used to give the last finish to an extensive survey of fashions at home. As APELLBS selected the beautiful features of the beauties of Greece for his Venus, so Mr. Gaara has culled for himself the fashions of the Parliament beaux. There is the "smart black stock" which so struck his fancy when SPRING RICE sported one in days gone by ; there is the velvet waistcoat, and possibly (we desiderate colour) BULWER'S "green surtout" ; and there, "displayed on the breast," or rather on the pit of the stomach, is a watch-guard, though seemingly not so " splendid " or so "massy" a pledge (could it be expected?) as that belonging to the now First Lord of the Treasury, which he admired and has immortalized in the Random Recollections. But these selecta veteri are combined with an air that Westminster could not bestow, and the well-arranged locks have the design and finish of a Parisian artist Still, "nature wont give way to art." Abstracting the extrinsies that Fortune could take away—removing the effects of the hairdresser, the tailor, the limner—and fixing attention on the os sublime, one sees at once the facile princeps of gossiping penny-a-liners.