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Chapter 12: Paris.—Society and the courts.—March to May, 1838.—Age, 27.

Early in March, Sumner changed his lodgings from the Latin quarter to the vicinity of the boulevards, with the view of seeing more of French society, and mingling in the various scenes of the metropolis. His intercourse with Demetz, Chevalier, Cousin, Sismondi, and Pardessus belongs to the months included in this chapter: two weeks earlier he had been brought into relations with De Gerando. He still frequented the Sorbonne and the College of France; but his attendance on the courts, both in Paris and at Versailles, is also an interesting feature of this period.


March 4, 1838. The last three days I have wearied myself in search of other lodgings on what is called the fashionable side of the river near the boulevards. For my last few weeks in Paris I wish to be where I may see more of the world than I can in my present comfortable, but retired, quarters. I have been pleasantly situated on this quiet side of the river, hearing lectures, studying French, and familiarizing myself with the objects of interest here. It was amusing to call at so many houses, as I did, to inquire for lodgings, and to practise my French upon all the women who kept them. It was a good exercise,—better, perhaps, than that with a French master.

March 5. Some days ago received an invitation to dinner with the Baron de Gerando. There were at the table an Italian poet, a Spanish Procureur-General, several Frenchmen, including a proper quota of Counts, and Colonel White and lady of Florida. I was placed between these two, unfortunately; and so lost the opportunity of talking French, except across Colonel White with Mademoiselle, the niece of our host, who did the honors of the house with great grace. There appeared to be no head or foot to the table. It was a parallelogram. Mademoiselle sat at one end, and the Baron in the middle of one of the sides. After dinner we adjourned to the drawing-room, where we had coffee, and joined the soiree of our host. Here I talked with several persons. There were Spanish, Italians, Germans, French, and Americans present, and through the medium of French I talked with all. The Baron, our host, was kind enough to give me a ticket to the House of [262] Peers, to sit in the box set apart, I think, for the eldest sons of Peers. In the salon, during the soiree, I could not but observe that the ladies were more herded together than among us. Gentlemen stood in groups talking with each other, and did not seem to feel obliged to entertain the ladies. Some ladies, indeed, asked me to bring them a book or pamphlet from the table to read; and this was in a room almost crammed with people. I should remark that these were German ladies.

March 6. To-day I left my quarters in the Rue de I Odeon, and entered my new apartement in the more thronged and fashionable quarter. It is No. 5 Place des Italiens, looking on the square in front of the Italian Opera House. It is a neat, comfortable room, with a thick carpet, and chairs and sofas of red plush. French taste always selects something of this kind. I have not seen in Paris our simple hair-bottom chairs.

March 7. Took a cab and drove in various directions, leaving letters of introduction, which I had retained till the present time because I could not speak French enough to justify presenting them: and now I do it with the greatest distrust; but, if ever done, it is necessary to do it quickly, as the days which remain to me in Paris are few. After leaving my cards I attended a sitting of the Peers. I entered the room between soldiers, and found myself in a small place, hardly larger than the box of a theatre. I have already made mention of the chamber, which I had seen before to-day; though this is the first view I have had of the Peers in session. The session was pretty full. The dress of the Peers was a blue coat with a standing collar and cuffs trimmed with gold. The assembly appeared highly respectable. Most of the Peers were considerably advanced in years, and the snows of age seemed liberally scattered among them. The subject under discussion was a law regulating the number of horses and the weight of vehicles allowed to pass on the public roads. All the members, who spoke at any length, left their places and mounted the tribune. If they only spoke by way of explanation, they did not leave their seats. Several Peers who spoke had their remarks apparently written out, and read them from the paper in their hands. The style of debate was entirely creditable; it was animated and courteous. Indeed, I can hardly imagine an assembly appearing more respectable, or a debate conducted with more of that spirit by which truth and the public good are best advanced. Yet I cannot help recording, that I observed a Peer standing in a most prominent place, on the elevation of the President's chair, and in conversation with the President, with his thumbs stuck in the arm-holes of his waistcoat,—which I remember hearing years ago was a Yankee trick.

After the debate in the Peers, dined, and called on Foelix; spending several hours of the evening in conversation with him. It seems that, like many others, he has been banished from Prussia, his native country. He described the state of Prussia to me as very bad, its government as false (that was his word) and detestable.

March 8. Spent a large portion of the day in preparing some law papers for a friend. Among the letters of introduction which I left yesterday was [263] one to M. Érard.1 I received from him this morning a ticket to one of the concerts at his salon, which I attended, and heard most delicious melody. I regretted that some of my friends with ears better attuned to harmony were not in my place.

To George S. Hillard, Boston.

Paris, March 8, 1838.
my dear Hillard,—A month has passed since I have written you; and your two letters have been running through my mind every day. How I long for news of distant Boston, and how I picture all its clean streets, its sensible people, and my dear friends! Stands my office where it did; and all Court Street, is it still firm on its foundations? . . . I rejoice to hear from various quarters of the reception of Prescott's book in our country. I have seen a copy and glanced through it. By the way, the American edition is every whit as well printed as the English, and has some plates more appropriate than those prefixed to the English. The book reads beautifully, and I am glad that we have produced a work with so much of research, learning, suavity, and elegance. A few days since, at dinner at the Baron de Gerando's, I met the Procureur-General of Spain. I was full of Prescott's book, and took the occasion to endeavor to scatter some seed in Spanish ground. I described the work and the labors of Mr. Prescott to the Spaniard, who appeared particularly interested and inquired the name of the author. He was quite astonished when I told him that the historian had drawn from unpublished manuscripts and documents. Ticknor has placed a copy of the book in the hands of one or two French litterateurs, who have promised to review it in some of the French journals. Ticknor leaves for London in a few days. I am sorry to lose him and his family. . . . Write me about the ‘Jurist’ and all other things. I shall stay in Paris till the middle of April. I find ten times as much here to interest me as I anticipated. The lectures, the courts, the arts,—each would consume a year, to say nothing of the language which I am trying after very hard. Love to all.

As ever, affectionately yours,

To Dr. Francis Lieber, Columbia, S. C.

Paris, March 9, 1838.
my dear Lieber, —I was longing to hear from you when your agreeable letter of Jan. 18 came upon me. Here at Paris I have to satiety the richest fare for mind, and body also; that is, when I choose to extend my hand for it: but that does not make me wish any the less for a cup of refreshing drink [264] from the distant waters of my own country. A word from a friend, when it has traversed so many ridges of the sea, becomes tenfold consecrated. All that you have promised for me in Europe has been more than realized. I have seen new lives; and the life of life seems to have burst upon me. Cicero could hardly have walked with a more bounding and yet placid joy through the avenues of his Elysium, and conversed with Scipio and Laelius, than I,—a distant American, of a country which has no prescription, no history, and no association,—walk daily in the places which now surround me.

. . . There is no individual about whom I have more changed my mind by coming to Paris than Louis Philippe. I had hitherto esteemed him a sensible, prudent, but ordinary sovereign. I find him a great one, truly great; mingling in business as much as his ministers, and controlling them all. He is more than his cabinet. Measures emanate from him. With skill that is wonderful, he has reined in the revolution of July. He stands now, with the Republicans pressing on one side and the Legitimists on the other, both complaining of broken oaths and promises: the first, of his promise to surround his throne with republican institutions; the second, of his ancient relations with his cousin, Charles X. His habits are very industrious. He rises so early as to be in his study at eight o'clock; breakfasts at ten with his family; from twelve to four attends to public business, receives, &c.; from four to six takes his exercise; at six dines with his family, with whom he passes the evening till ten o'clock; When he retires to his study, and writes till two o'clock, his hour of retiring. It is supposed that he is engaged upon some book,—memoirs, perhaps. . . . Tocqueville has been absent from the city till last week. I shall call on him to-day.

As ever, faithfully yours,


March 9, 1838. Assisted about law papers; called on M. Érard, who invited me to dine with him on Sunday next. Visited Foelix, and examined his library; with most of the books on French law I am already more or less acquainted. Next tried to find Tocqueville, but he has left the city; returned to my room, and was in deshabille;, preparing to go out to dine with a French lawyer, when my door opened and a gentleman in black, of about the middle size, rather thin, with sharp black eyes, black hair brushed smoothly, entered my room. He announced himself as M. Cousin.2 I offered him a chair, and he was good enough to sit with me for more than an hour. He [265] inquired after

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