The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz/Volume One/Chapter 12
THE Kinkel family resolved to settle down in England. Kinkel occupied himself for a little while with the study of the most important architecture, picture galleries, and other art collections in Paris, and then left for London. I preferred to stay in Paris for a while, partly because I hoped there to find special facilities for continuing my favorite studies, partly for the reason that Paris was regarded as the great focus of liberal movements on the continent, and I believed it was the most convenient point for one wishing to work as a newspaper correspondent. Thus we parted.
Now I had to begin an orderly method of life and active self-support. My journalistic connections in Germany were quickly resumed, and I found that I could earn 180 francs a month by letter-writing for newspapers. I resolved to limit my regular expenses to 100 francs a month, and thus to lay by a little reserve for emergencies. This presupposed a careful economy, but I soon learned with how little money a person may decently get along in Paris. This school of economy has always remained useful to me. I shared the quarters of my friend, Strodtmann, who had already been in Paris for some time and who occupied a spacious room in a hotel garni in the Faubourg Montmartre. But this common housekeeping did not last long. Strodtmann was not able to preserve order among his things, and as I, too, had my weaknesses in that direction, our room, which served at the same time as a living and sleeping apartment, often presented the picture of most wonderful confusion. It is an old experience, that a person who is not himself very orderly finds the disorderliness of another sometimes quite unendurable. So it was with us. Of course it appeared to me that Strodtmann was the greater sinner, and in this I was not altogether wrong. He was somewhat of a gourmet; he would study the delicacies exposed in the show-windows of restaurants with great enthusiasm and discernment, and he imagined that he himself could prepare fine dishes. He therefore made on our grate-fire all sorts of experiments in roasting and frying and filled the room with very unwelcome odors. He insisted also on preparing our coffee, for he was sure that he knew much better to do that than I or anybody else. To this assumption I should have offered no resistance whatever; but as he handled the burning alcohol of his machine very carelessly it happened that he set on fire papers and clothes that were lying around everywhere, and finally he burnt a big hole into the most valuable article of my wardrobe, namely, that large cloak with the hood, belonging to my Baden officer's period. We laughed together about his awkwardness, but after this catastrophe we agreed in the most amicable spirit that there was not room enough in one apartment for two persons as disorderly as ourselves. I therefore rented a room on the Quai Saint-Michel, No. 17, and Strodtmann settled down in the Latin Quarter in my neighborhood.
The house No. 17 Quai Saint-Michel was kept by a widow, Mme. Petit, and her daughters, two unmarried ladies no longer young. The house was in all things decent, respectable, and strictly regulated. In this regard it distinguished itself advantageously from most of the hotel garnis in the Latin Quarter. Those of Mme. Petit's tenants whose conduct was especially correct were rewarded with invitations, from time to time, to take tea in her little salon, where the presence of the two faded daughters and some friends of the family created an atmosphere of extraordinary dullness. After having gone through that experience once we avoided a repetition. My room in the house was, according to my notions, quite comfortable. To be sure, the windows did not open on the side of the Seine, but they looked into a narrow and dirty side street. In order to reach my room I had to go up several stairs and to go down several other stairs, and to wander through a long, dark corridor and to turn various corners; but that did not disturb me. It was rather spacious, had a floor of red tiles, upon which there were a few diminutive pieces of carpet, several chairs fit for use, a round table, a fireplace, a wardrobe for my clothes, and even a piano, which was indeed very old and bad, but might have been worse. My bed stood in an alcove, and by means of chintz curtains I could hide it from the gaze of visitors, so that my room looked not like a bedchamber, but like a little salon, which I was quite proud of. For this dwelling I had to pay a rent of thirty francs a month, a sum rather high for me; but I thought that the character of the house would otherwise help me to save. My first breakfast consisted of a cup of coffee, which I prepared myself, or a glass of wine and a piece of bread, sometimes with butter. After having worked at my writing-table until noon I took a second breakfast or lunch that never was to exceed one-half franc in cost, in some restaurant of the Latin Quarter, and in the evening I dined in an eating-house kept in the Rue Saint-Germain l'Auxerois near the Louvre, that was kept by a socialistic association of cooks, the Association Fraternelle des Cuisiniers réunis. Cooks, waiters, and guests addressed one another according to the model of the French Revolution, “Citoyen,” and this pride of civic equality showed itself also in the circumstance that the citoyen-waiter accepted no tip from the citoyen-guest. These citoyens furnished for one franc a very simple but very substantial and good meal, including even a “confiture” as a dessert and a glass of wine. The company was mixed, but this made it easier for us to imagine ourselves during the meal as living in the ideal state of general fraternity.
Other expenses, of laundry and of an occasional fire in my room, brought the amount of the whole budget to not quite three francs a day, less than sixty cents in American money, or ninety to ninety-three francs a month. I could permit myself even some luxuries: the purchase of a few books, some of which are still in my possesion; also occasional tickets for the parterre in the Odéon or in a Faubourg theatre; now and then a cup of coffee on the Boulevard and—only now and then, to be sure—I could afford to see Rachel at the Théâtre Français. Thus I managed to incur no debts, to save a small reserve, to be obliged to nobody for anything, and to feel myself quite independent and comfortable.
Of course I could not, under such circumstances, indulge in expensive social enjoyments. Aside from an occasional visit to the salon of the Countess d'Agoult, the well-known friend of Franz Liszt, my intercourse remained mainly confined to German exiles, some students and young artists who pursued their studies in Paris, and also some young Frenchmen who attended lectures at the Sorbonne or other institutions of learning, and in this circle I found very agreeable companions. We had every week a “musical evening”; sometimes in my room, in which young musicians—among them Reinecke, who afterwards became the famous director of the well-known “Gewandhaus Concerts” in Leipzig—reviewed the most recent composers, and now and then produced their own compositions, while I and others served as an enthusiastic public. On such occasions we used to drink a punch which, for reasons of economy, left nothing to be desired in point of weakness.
In this circle my good comrade, Adolph Strodtmann, was a general favorite. He had at that time plunged deep into the socialistic poetry of that period, in which he saw a promising symptom of a new mental and moral revival of the human race. Some French poems of that kind he translated with extraordinary skill into sonorous German verse, which he read to us at our social meetings to our great delight. He was also a generous listener, and although very deaf, professed great interest in our musical performances, giving his sometimes startling judgment in a thundering voice. We all loved him for his high enthusiasms, his ardent sympathies, the frank honesty of his nature and the robust ingenuousness with which he promulgated his occasionally very eccentric opinions of men and things. At times his oddities afforded us much amusement, which he good-naturedly shared, frequently laughing loudest with childlike astonishment at the queer exhibitions he had made of himself. He might well have served as the original to many caricatures of the “absent-minded professor,” who is a favorite subject of funny pictures in German periodicals.
Now and then he was seen on the street smoking a long German student's pipe, as he had done in Bonn. In Paris the passersby would stand still with amazement when they beheld so unaccustomed an apparition, and soon he was known in the Latin Quarter as “l'homme à la longue pipe.” One day he came into my room with a hairbrush under his arm, and when I asked him, “Strodtmann, what are you carrying there?” he looked at the thing at first with great surprise, and then laughed boisterously and said, with his loud voice, “Why, this is my hairbrush. I thought it was a book from which I wished to read to you.” Another time when he visited me I noticed that his face bore the expression of extraordinary seriousness, if not trouble. “I have only one pair of boots,” he said; “one of the boots is still pretty good, but the other, you see”—and here he pointed to his right foot—“the other is bursting in the seams. Have you not a boot that you can lend me?” Indeed, I possessed two pairs, and it so happened that of one pair one boot was a little damaged and the other in a perfectly serviceable condition. This sound boot I gladly put at Strodtmann's disposal. When we undertook to make the exchange we noticed at once that the two good boots, his and mine, belonged to two different fashions. His was pointed at the toe and mine was broad-cut, and both were for the left foot. These unfortunate circumstances did not disturb Strodtmann in the least, and although he may have suffered at times considerable inconvenience, he walked about in these two left boots, one of which was pointed and the other broad, until his own footgear had had the necessary repairs.
I felt the necessity of perfecting myself in the French language in order to speak and write it with ease, and with that delicacy which constitutes one of its characteristic charms. One of my friends recommended to me a teacher who bore the high-sounding name of Mme. La Princesse de Beaufort. According to rumor, she belonged to an old noble family, but was impoverished to such a degree by the political revolutions, that she had to earn her bread as a teacher of language. Whether this was all true in reality I do not know, but when I sought her out I found her in a modest apartment of a hotel garni, an elderly lady of very agreeable features and a quiet, refined and somewhat courtly manner that permitted me to believe she had really moved in distinguished circles. She accepted me as a pupil and declared herself willing to give me two lessons a week, each of which should cost one franc. We began the next day. My teacher allowed me the choice of the method of instruction, and I proposed to her, instead of following the usual custom of memorizing rules of grammar, that I would write for her little letters or essays on subjects that interested me. She was then to correct my mistakes and to instruct me in the idiomatic forms of speech. In following this method we were to have a grammar at hand for the purpose of pointing out the rules which I had violated. This pleased her, and as I was already able to make myself somewhat understood in French, we set to work without delay.
This method proved very successful. My letters or short essays treated of real happenings that had occurred to me, or of what I had seen in museums, or of books, or of the political events of the day. Now, as I did not merely link together grammatically constructed sentences as the pupils of so many educational institutions usually do when writing their Latin themes, but as I set forth my experiences and my views with great freedom and thereby tried to give my exercises some intrinsic interest, my teacher did not confine herself to the mere correction of my grammatical mistakes, but she entered into animated conversations with me, in which she encouraged me further to enlarge upon the subjects narrated or discussed in my papers. These conversations, in which she showed, aside from a thorough knowledge of French, much independent thought and comprehension, became to both of us so agreeable that not seldom the passing of the hour escaped our attention, and when I rose to take leave she insisted that I stay in order to pursue the discussion a little farther. Aside from these lessons I read much and never permitted myself to skip over words or forms of speech which I did not understand. My progress was encouraging, and after a few weeks it happened sometimes that my teacher returned my paper to me with the assurance that she found nothing in it to correct.
This way of learning a foreign language proved no less effective than agreeable. One may begin the attempts of free expression, and thus an independent use of the language, with a comparatively small vocabulary. Conscientious reading and well-conducted conversations will then quickly enlarge the vocabulary and develop the facility of expression. But I cannot lay too much stress upon the fact that the free and exact rendering of one's own thoughts in writing is the most efficient exercise in acquiring a language. In mere conversation we are apt to skip over difficulties by permitting ourselves vaguenesses and inaccuracies of expression which would sternly demand correction—and correction, too, easily kept in mind—when the written word looked us in the face. To quicken the efficacy of this exercise requires, of course, a teacher able not only to pound grammatical rules into the head of the pupil, but also to stir up, through study of the language, a mentally active interest in the subjects spoke or written about. Mme. La Princesse de Beaufort filled these requirements to a high degree, and the hours which I passed with her have always remained with me an especially agreeable memory.
Another similarly effective method of acquiring foreign languages without a teacher I will explain later in connection with my study of English. Thanks to my teacher, I rapidly acquired such fluency and ease in the French language, that I could, and did, write short letters to French journals, which were published without correction. I regret to say that in the course of time I have lost some of that facility in consequence of a want of practice. For this I reproach myself, because one may without difficulty, also without constant opportunity for conversation, retain a complete possession of a language once learned by simply reading to one's self every day aloud a few pages of some good author.
I continued with zeal to study French history, especially that of the time of the great revolution, and as France was still regarded as the revolutionary leader, and we expected the most important results from the developments there, I took a lively interest in French politics and pursued with the intensest concern the struggle going on at that time between the Republicans and the President, Louis Napoleon, who was suspected of usurpatory designs. But I had to confess to myself that many of the things which, as a critical observer, I witnessed around me seriously modified my conception of the grandeur of the events of the revolutionary period, and shook my faith in the historic mission of France as to the future of the civilized world. I frequently visited the gallery of the National Assembly when debates of importance were announced. I had studied the history of the “Constituent Assembly” of 1789, of the “Legislative Body” and of the “Convention” of the first revolution with great diligence and thoroughness, knew by heart some of the most celebrated oratorical performances of Mirabeau and others, was well acquainted with the parliamentary discussions of that period, and hoped now to hear and see something similar to that which had moved me so powerfully in reading and which lived in my imagination as a heroic drama. My disappointment in visiting the National Assembly with this expectation was great. Indeed, high-sounding speeches and scenes of stormy and tumultuous excitement were not lacking; but with all this, as it seemed to me, there was too little of an earnest and thoughtful exchange of opinions between eminent men, and too much of theatrical attitudinizing and of declamatory phrasemongery. It happened to me—as it frequently happens—that the disappointment of expectations which had been pitched too high, will, in the conclusions we draw, lead us to underestimate the character and value of existing things and conditions as we see them before us. What in fact I did witness was the French way of doing things. That way did not correspond with my ideals; but it was, after all, the French way, which, with all its histrionic superficialities, had in the past, especially in the great revolution, proved itself very real and serious and had produced tremendous results.
However, what I saw of political action on the public stage had a sobering effect on me, and this effect was intensified and confirmed by my observations in the Latin Quarter and in public places of amusement of the dissoluteness of student life—the habitual life of young men who might be considered the flower of French youth. I shall never forget the impression made upon me and my friends by a masked ball at the opera which some of us young Germans visited during the carnival season of 1851. Everybody was admitted who could pay for his ticket and provide himself with the prescribed attire, that is to say, the ordinary evening dress or some fancy costume. The ball began about midnight. The multitude present consisted of all ranks and conditions, among whom I recognized a good many students living in the Latin Quarter, with their grizettes or “petites femmes,” and of other persons who had come, not all to take part in the dance, but to witness this characteristic spectacle of Parisian life. The anterooms were teeming with women in dominos, who approached men walking about in a very confidential way. The great auditory of the opera and the stage were arranged as a ballroom. Dancing began in comparatively decent manner, but degenerated soon into the ordinary cancan. Police agents moved through the room to prevent the grossest violations of decency. At first they seemed to succeed in a degree—at least the dancers seemed to keep themselves in check in their immediate presence. But as the hours advanced, the temperature of the room rose, and the blood of the dancers became heated, the business of the guardians of order grew more and more hopeless. At last all restraint was at an end and bestiality would have its own way. Men and women, some of whom in the fury of the dance had torn their clothing from their shoulders, raved like crazed beings. The scene beggared description. The programme announced as the last dance a galop, called the “Hell Galop.” The orchestra played an especially furious measure, accompanied with the ringing of bells. In truth, the crowd whirling in the wildest reel of sensuality looked very much like a pandemonium rushing straight into the bottomless pit. While this galop was going on—it was about four o'clock in the morning—the rear of the big room filled itself with soldiers, who formed in line. Suddenly the music of the orchestra was drowned by a rattling roll of drums, and the infantry line, bayonets fixed but arms trailed, advanced slowly, step by step crowding the dancers and the onlookers out of the hall.
To drink the cup to the dregs, we went to one of the restaurants on the Boulevard near by to take some refreshments—“petit souper,” as it was called. The spectacle we beheld there surpassed all we had seen before. The most unbridled fancy could not imagine a picture more repulsive.
I had often tarried in the gallery of the Luxembourg in contemplation of Couture's great canvas, called “La decadance des Romains,” which so eloquently portrays the moral decline of a mighty people and a great civilization; but what we here saw before us lacked even the reminiscence of past greatness, which in Couture's picture is so impressive. It was moral decay even to putrescence in its most vulgar form, its most repulsive aspect, its most shameless display.
My friends and myself consoled ourselves with the reflection that we had seen the worst, an exceptional extreme, and that this could not possibly be representative of the whole French people; and to this thought we clung all the more readily as our hopes of the new democratic revival in Europe hung upon the part which we expected the French Republic to play.
But I had to confess to myself that on the whole the atmosphere of Paris was not congenial to me, and with sincere pleasure I accepted an invitation of the Kinkel family, urging me to visit them in London and to spend at least a week or two in their happy home.
Here I must mention an occurrence which at the time caused me astonishment. Strodtmann had made me acquainted with a marine painter by the name of Melbye, a Dane. He was much older than we, an artist of considerable skill, who talked about his art as well as various other things in an agreeable manner. He was greatly interested in clairvoyance, and told us he knew a clairvoyante whose performances were most extraordinary. He requested us several times to accompany him to a “séance” and to convince ourselves of her wonderful abilities. At last an evening was fixed for this entertainment, but it so happened that at about the same time I received an invitation from Kinkel, which I resolved to accept without delay. When I packed my valise Strodtmann was with me in my room and he expressed his regret that I could not attend the séance that evening. He went away for a little while, to return to my room later in the day and to accompany me to the railroad station. In the meantime the thought struck me that I might furnish a means for testing the powers of the clairvoyante. I cut off some of my hair, wrapped it in a piece of paper and put this into a letter-envelope, which I closed with sealing-wax. Then I tore a little strip from a letter I had received that morning from the Hungarian General Klapka, the celebrated defender of the fortress Komorn, and put this strip containing the date of the letter also into a folded paper and enclosed it likewise in an envelope sealed with wax. When Strodtmann had returned to me I gave him the two envelopes, without informing him of their contents, and instructed him to place them in the hands of the clairvoyante, with the request that she give a description of the appearance, the character, the past career and the temporary sojourn of the person from whom the objects concealed in the envelopes had come. Then I left for London.
A few days later I received a letter from Strodtmann, in which he narrated the results of the séance, as follows: The clairvoyante took one of my envelopes in her hand and said this contained the hair of a young man who looked thus and so. She then described my appearance in the most accurate way, and added that this young man had won notoriety by his connection with a bold enterprise, and that at the present time he was on the other side of a deep water, in a large city and in the circle of a happy family. Then she gave a description of my character, my inclinations and my mental faculties, which, as I saw them in black and white, surprised me greatly. Not only did I recognize myself in the main features of this description, but I found in it also certain statements which seemed to give me new disclosures about myself. It happens sometimes when we look into our own souls that in our impulses, in our feelings, in our ways of thinking, we find something contradictory, something enigmatical, which the most conscientious self-examination does not always suffice to make clear. And now there flashed from the utterances of this clairvoyante gleams of light which solved for me many of those contradictions and riddles. I received, so to speak, a revelation about my own inner self, a psychological analysis which I had to recognize as just as soon as I perceived it.
What the clairvoyante said about the other envelope, which contained Klapka's writing, was hardly less astonishing. She described the writer of the letters and figures contained in that envelope as a handsome, dark-bearded man, with sparkling eyes, who had once governed a city full of armed men and besieged by enemies. The description of his person, of his past, and also of his character as far as I knew it, was throughout correct; but when the clairvoyante added that this man was at the time not in Paris, but in another city, where he had gone to meet a person very dear to him, I thought we had caught her in a mistake. A few days later I returned to Paris, and had hardly arrived there when I met General Klapka on the street. I asked him at once whether, since he had written his last letter to me, he had been constantly in Paris, and I was not a little amazed when he told me that he had a few days ago made an excursion to Brussels, where he had stopped not quite a week, and the “dear person” whom he was to have seen there, I learned from an intimate friend of Klapka, was a lady whom it was said he would marry. The clairvoyante was therefore right in every point.
This occurrence mystified me very much. The more I considered the question, whether the clairvoyante could possibly have received knowledge of the contents of my envelopes, or whether she could have had any cue for guessing at them, the more certain I became that this could not be. Strodtmann himself did not know what I had put into the envelopes. Of Klapka's letter to me he had not the slightest information. He also assured me that he had put the envelopes into the hands of the clairvoyante, one after the other, in exactly the same condition in which he had received them, without for a moment confiding them to anybody else and without telling to anyone from whom they came; and I could absolutely depend upon the word of my thoroughly honest friend. But even if—which was quite unthinkable to me—there had been some collusion between him and the clairvoyante, or if he had, without knowing it, betrayed from whom the envelopes had come, it would not have solved the riddle how the clairvoyante could have described my character, my inclinations, my impulses, my mental qualities, much more clearly and truthfully and sagaciously than Strodtmann or Melbye ever could have done. In fact, Melbye knew me only very superficially. In our few conversations he had always done the most talking; and a deep insight into the human soul did not at all belong to Strodtmann's otherwise excellent abilities. In short, I could not in the whole incident find the slightest reason for the suspicion that here we had to do with a merely clever juggler. The question arose: Was not here a force at work which lay outside of the ordinary activity of the senses and which we could indeed observe in the utterance of its effects, and which we perhaps could also set in motion, but which we could not define as to its true essence or its constituent elements? In later years I have had similar experiences, which I intend to mention in their proper places.
I shall now return to my visit in London. Kinkel had rented in the suburb of St. John's Wood a little house, where I was most heartily welcomed as a guest. He had already found a profitable field of work as a teacher, and Frau Kinkel gave music lessons. I found the whole family in a very cheerful state of mind, and we spent some happy days together. In fact I felt myself so much at home that Kinkel could easily persuade me to give up Paris and to come over to London, where I, as it seemed to me, would be able to make a comfortable living as a teacher without great difficulty. I then returned to Paris, as I thought only for a few weeks but my departure from the French capital was to be delayed by an unexpected and very disagreeable incident.
One afternoon I accompanied on a walk the wife of my friend Reinhold Solger, a fellow-German refugee, a man of great knowledge and acquirements, who later was to occupy a respected position in the service of the United States. We were in the neighborhood of the Palais Royal when an unknown man stopped me and asked to have a word with me aside, as he had something very confidential to communicate to me. As soon as we were out of the hearing of Mrs. Solger he told me that he was a police agent, ordered to arrest me and to take me at once to the “Prefecture de Police.” I excused myself to Mrs. Solger as best I could and accompanied the unwelcome stranger.
He conducted me first to a police commissioner, who inquired after my name, my age, my nativity, and so on. I was astonished that the police, who seemed to know my name, did not know where I lived. I declared to the commissioner that I had absolutely no reason for concealing anything, and acquainted him with the number of the house in which I lived, as well as with the place in my room where the keys to all my belongings could be found; but I wished to know for what reason I had been taken into custody. The commissioner mysteriously lifted his eyebrows, talked of higher orders, and thought I would learn of this soon enough. Another police agent then conducted me to the “Prefecture de Police.” There I was turned over to a jailer, who after I had surrendered the money I had with me and my pocket-knife to a subordinate turnkey, took me into a cell and locked me in. To the question whether I would not soon be informed of the reason of my arrest I did not receive any answer. My cell was a little bare room, sparingly lighted by a narrow window with iron bars high up in the wall. There were two small, not very clean, beds, two wooden chairs and a little table.
I expected every moment to be called to a hearing, for I thought that in a republic, such as France was at that time, they would not incarcerate anybody without telling him the reason therefor at once; but I waited in vain. Evening came and the turnkey informed me that I might have a supper, consisting of various dishes which he enumerated, if I were able and willing to pay for it; otherwise I would have to be content with the ordinary prison fare, which he described to me in a manner not at all alluring. I ordered a modest meal, and in eating it I thought with melancholy longing of my good Citoyens in the Rue Saint-Germain l'Auxerois.
Late in the evening, when I had already gone to bed, another prisoner was brought to my cell. In the dim light of the turnkey's lantern I saw in the newcomer a man still young, in shabby clothes, with a smooth-shaven face and dark, restless eyes. He at once began a conversation with me and informed me that he had been accused of theft, and upon that accusation had been arrested. The charge, however, was entirely unfounded, but as he had been arrested before on similar suspicions, the authorities would not accept his assurances of innocence. I thus had a common thief as my companion and roommate. He seemed to see in me a fellow-laborer in the vineyard, for he asked me in a rather confidential tone what accident I had been caught in. My short and entirely truthful response did not appear to satisfy him; he may have even regarded it as unfriendly, for he did not say another word, but lay down upon his bed and was soon in a profound sleep.
During the still night I thought over my situation. Had I really done anything in Paris that might have been considered punishable? I examined all the corners of my memory and found nothing. Of course the reason for my arrest could only be a political one, but however my opinions and sentiments might displease the government of President Napoleon, I certainly had not taken part in any political movement in France. In Paris I had only been an observer and a student. I did not doubt that while I was in prison the police would search the papers in my room, but that could not disquiet me, as I knew that nothing could be found there except some historical notes, a few literary sketches and some letters from friends of an entirely harmless nature. All the papers which might in any way have been considered questionable, as well as the pistols which I had carried with me during the Kinkel affair, I had been cautious enough to entrust to one of my friends for safekeeping. Nothing remained but the suspicion that I had been taken into custody at the instance of the Prussian government. But would the French Republic be capable of surrendering me to Prussia? This I deemed impossible; and thus I looked the future calmly in the face. But I was stung by a feeling of the degradation inflicted upon me by shutting me up in the same room with a common thief. It revolted my self-respect. And this could happen in a republic!
My indignation rose the following morning when I still failed to receive information about the cause of my arrest. At an early hour the thief was taken out of the cell and I remained alone. I asked the turnkey for paper, pen and ink, and in my best French I wrote a letter to the prefect, in which, in the name of the laws of the country, I demanded that I be informed why I had been deprived of my liberty. The turnkey promised to transmit the letter, but the day passed without an answer, and so another day, and still another. Neither did I receive a word from my friends, and I hesitated to write to any of them, because the receipt of a letter from me might have embarrassed them. In those few days I learned to understand something of the emotions which may torment the soul of a prisoner—a feeling of bitter wrath against the brutal power that held me captive; the consciousness of complete impotency which rose in me like a mockery of myself; the feverish imagination that troubled me with an endless variety of ugly pictures; a restless impetus that compelled me to run up and down for hours in my cell like a wild animal in its cage; then a dreary emptiness in mind and heart which finally ended in dull brooding without any definite thought.
On the morning of the fourth day I addressed a second letter to the prefect still more vehement and pathetic than the first, and shortly afterwards the turnkey told me that I would be taken to the bureau of the chief. In a few minutes I found myself in a comfortably furnished office-room and in the presence of a stately gentleman, who kindly asked me to sit down. He then complimented me elaborately upon the correctness of the French of my letters, which he called quite remarkable, considering my German nationality; and he expressed in the politest phrases his regret that I had been incommoded by my arrest. There was really no charge against me. It was only desired by the government that I select a place of residence for myself outside of the boundaries of France, and to this end leave Paris and the country as soon as might be convenient to me. In vain I tried to move this polite gentleman to a statement of the reasons which might make my removal from France so desirable. With constantly increasing politeness he told me that it was so desired in higher places. At last I thought to appease his evident trouble about my lacerated feelings by the remark that in fact the desire of the government did not incommode me at all, inasmuch as I had intended to go to London, and that my arrest had only delayed me somewhat in my preparations for departure. The polite gentleman was enchanted at this happy coincidence of my intentions with the desire of his government, and he told me finally not to be in too great a hurry with my preparations for leaving. He would be delighted if I felt myself under his especial protection while in Paris, where I might still remain two, three, four, even six weeks, if that would amuse me. He would then put at my disposal a passport for any foreign country; but after my departure he hoped that I would not embarrass him by returning to Paris without his special permission. Then he bade me farewell with a friendliness bordering on actual affection, and I left him with the impression that I had made the acquaintance of the politest and most agreeable police tyrant in the world.
I hurried back to my quarters and found the Petit family in great tribulation on my account. Madame and the two faded daughters told me in a shrill trio how a few days ago two police agents had searched my room and examined my papers, but had left everything behind them in the best of order. The police had also tried to inform themselves of my conduct by putting questions to the Petit family, and I might be assured that the Petit family had given me the most excellent character; but then the Petit family had become very much disquieted about my lot, and had informed my friends who had called upon me of all that had happened, and requested them to set in motion every possible influence that might help me. Subsequently I learned, indeed, that several of my friends had made proper efforts in my behalf, and it is quite possible that this had hastened my discharge from imprisonment.
The reason of my arrest, however, soon became quite clear to me. Louis Napoleon had begun the preparations for his coup d'état which was to do away with the republican form of government and to put him in possession of monarchical power. While the republicans deceived themselves about the danger that was looming up, and tried to ridicule the pretender as an “inane ape” of his great uncle, this man set all means in motion to win the army and the masses of the people for himself and his schemes. The Napoleonic propaganda was organized in all parts of the country in the most varied forms, and this agitation fell especially with the peasant population on very fertile soil. The legend of the Napoleonic Empire, with its wars and victories, and its tragic end, was the heroic lay of the country people, in the glamor of which every peasant family sunned itself and felt itself great. Each could tell of some ancestor who at Rivoli, or at the Pyramids, or at Marengo, or at Austerlitz, or at Jena, or at Wagram, or at Borodino, or at Waterloo, had fought under the eyes of the mighty chief, and in this heroic epic there stood the colossal figure of the Great Emperor enveloped in myth, like a demigod, unequaled in his achievements, gigantic even in his fall. Every cabin was adorned with his picture, which signified the great past history of power and glory embodied in this one superior being. And now a nephew of the Great Emperor presented himself to the people, bearing the name of the demigod and promising in this name to restore the magic splendor of that period. Numberless agents swarmed through the country, and pamphlets and hand-bills passed from house to house and from hand to hand, to make known the message of the nephew and successor of the great Napoleon, who stood ready to restore all the old magnificent grandeur. Even the barrel-organ was pressed into the service of that agitation to accompany songs about the Emperor and his nephew in the taverns and the market-places of the country. The more intelligent populations of the cities did indeed not reverence the Napoleonic legend with the same naïve devotion; but that legend had, even before the nephew began his career as a pretender, been nourished in a hardly less effective manner. Beranger's songs and Thiers' “History of the Consulate and the Empire” had stimulated the Napoleonic cult, and even the government of Louis Philippe had paid its homage to it, by transporting Napoleon's remains with great pomp from St. Helena to the Church of the Invalides. The field so prepared was incessantly tilled by Louis Napoleon, while he stood as president at the head of the executive power. As the barrel-organ did service in the country districts, the theater was made to serve in the cities. I remember a spectacular drama, which was produced on one of the Faubourg stages with great pomp and startling realism. It was called “La Barrière de Clichy,” and represented the campaign of 1814, the exile of Napoleon on the Isle of Elba, and his return to France in 1815. Napoleon appeared on the boards in an excellent mask, on foot and on horseback, and all the engagements of that campaign in which he was successful passed before the eyes of the multitude; the French infantry, cavalry, and artillery in the historic uniforms of the Empire; the enemies, Prussians and Russians, barbarous-looking fellows, uncouth and rude, and constantly running away from French heroism. Blücher appeared in person as a boisterous barbarian, indulging in the most horrible blackguardism, constantly smoking a short pipe, blowing forth tremendous clouds of smoke, and incessantly spitting around him. The enemies were regularly defeated, so that it was difficult for the impartial beholder to understand why Napoleon, after all these splendid victories, succumbed, and was forced to go into exile. At any rate, he soon returned amid the enthusiastic acclamation of the people. The army went over to him promptly, and this piece concluded with his triumphal entry into Grenoble. The public applauded with enthusiasm, and the cry of “Vive l'Empereur” was heard, not only on the stage, but not seldom also in the galleries, in the parterre, and in the boxes. Thus the city populations were being labored upon.
The so-called “Prince-President” sought to win the army by appearing at parades and maneuvers in a general's uniform, by showing the soldiers all possible favors, and by drawing to himself the most adventurous spirits among the officers. In the spring of 1851 he began also to prepare the prospective battlefield of the intended “coup d'état.” The bourgeois of Paris were made to apprehend that the city was full of the most dangerous elements from which every moment an attempt at a complete subversion of the social order was to be feared; that “society” was in imminent danger and must be “saved.” The “Prince-President,” so the word went forth, was ready to undertake that work of salvation, but the parliamentary power sought to bind his hands. However, he was doing what he could, and would first undertake to deliver Paris of the dangerous characters infesting it. One of the measures taken to that end consisted in the driving away from the city all foreigners who might be suspected of an inclination to take part in forcible resistance to the intended “coup d'état,” and in that category I too was counted.
A police agent, who described the threatening dangers in a pamphlet written for the purpose of terrifying the timid bourgeois, called me an especially daring revolutionist, who in his old fatherland had already committed the most frightful outrages. To illustrate this, he narrated the liberation of Kinkel, describing him with the most fabulous fabrications as an uncommonly detestable criminal. To these circumstances I owed my arrest and my exile from France, in spite of my modest and retired conduct during my stay there. It is indeed not at all improbable that if I had been in Paris at the time of the coup d'état I should have seen in the popular resistance to the Napoleonic usurpation the decisive struggle for and against liberty in Europe, and I might have taken up the musket and fought with the republicans on the barricades on the 2d of December. So it may be, that, if it had otherwise been my intention to remain in Paris, the police saved me from participating in a hopeless enterprise, and possibly from a miserable end.
The last weeks of my sojourn in Paris were devoted to visits to galleries, museums, and interesting architectures, and to merry conviviality with my friends. To one of them, a young Frenchman from Provence who had studied medicine in Paris, my departure was especially hard. I had made his acquaintance as one of the lodgers of the Petit house, and I mention him because he furnished a remarkable example of the effect of German philosophy upon a French brain, which I would not have deemed possible had I not personally witnessed it. Soon after we had become acquainted he attached himself to me and to several others among my German friends, and as he was a modest, agreeable, and able young man taking life seriously, we reciprocated his friendly feelings. He loved Germans, so he said, because they were the nation of thinkers. He had made the acquaintance of some products of German literature in translations, and tried to possess himself of the language, mainly for the purpose of studying the works of German philosophers; but he seemed to find it very difficult. Thus he had to content himself with French renderings of German philosophical works, and he frequently came to us for the explanation of phrases which he did not understand. Sometimes we could give him such explanations, but many of the dark expressions we did not understand ourselves. Suddenly we became aware that our young Provençal, whose conduct of life had always been very regular and irreproachable, visited the German beerhouses, of which there were a great many in Paris, and drank heavily. This went so far that one day Mme. Petit and her daughters asked me to visit him in his room, as he had come home the night before much intoxicated, and was now, it seemed, seriously ailing. I complied with this request at once and found my friend in that condition which at the German university is designated as a deep “Katzenjammer.” The young man confessed to me that he was heartily ashamed of his behavior, but he thought if I knew the cause of it I would not think so ill of him. Then he told me, with great gravity, that he had for some time tried to study the German philosopher Hegel, and he had found in his works many things that had tormented him with doubts as to the soundness of his own mind. Therefore he had tried to amuse himself, and as the Germans, of whom he believed that Hegel's philosophical works were their favorite reading, liked to drink beer, he had also made an effort to facilitate the Hegel studies by accustoming himself to the same beverage. The good boy talked so seriously and so honestly that I refrained from laughing, and assured him with equal seriousness that many a German, too, had nearly become insane in studying Hegel, and that the drinking of beer did not help them. Now, if Hegel, in the German language, produced such effects upon German heads, what effect could be expected upon my friend of a French decoction of Hegel? This seemed to quiet my good Provençal very much. I advised him now to give up Hegel, as well as the excessive drinking of beer, and to devote himself again to the study of medicine, like the well-behaved, serious, and diligent man he had been before. He promised this, and he did it really; and on the day of my farewell from Paris we took leave of one another with the sincerest regret. As this story may seem somewhat extravagant and improbable, I cannot refrain from concluding it with the assurance that it is literally true.