A Walk Through Paris
Lanty Cassidy called on me yesterday, about two o'clock. The morning and noon had been excessively sultry, as is usually the case in the beginning of September, but a dashing shower, accompanied by several peals of thunder had cooled the atmosphere, and rendered the afternoon extremely go-outable. He complained bitterly of having to ascend eighty-four steps to my domicile, and declared that he should have been broken-winded, only he breakfasted before nine, and I suspected Lanty of a suggestion, that luncheon would not be disagreeable, in which notion I fully coincided. Some of my readers, recollecting the height of my residence, may feel surprised when I inform them that in a few minutes we were enjoying ourselves over a cold veal and ham pasty, a few peaches and apricots, and a bottle of Burgundy. The apartment was floored with polished oak, half a dozen good pictures decorated the walls, and the furniture was walnut, cushioned with purple velvet, and fastened with gilt nails. At a corresponding height, upon the opposite side of the street, lives a marquis, and the suite of apartments directly under him form the residence of a duke. The lower part of my building is tenanted by a baker, and my aristocratic neighbors are over a very extensive concern, designated "Cremerie, Burre, Œ ufs et Fromages." When Lanty had appeased the "internal gnawing," which was certainly not of a conscientious kind, he inquired, "if I had seen 'Duffy' this month?" I replied "that I had been more than a month away from Dublin." "Oh!" said he, "I don't mean him, I mean the Magazine. I saw a very favorable notice of the last number, and I supposed that you might have a copy." "I expect it daily, but it has not yet arrived," was my answer. "Well," said Lanty, "I propose that we go and have a walk through the city, I think you can easily acquire, even in a few streets, sufficient materials for a readable article, to send over to Wellington-quay, for the next number. It may be under the simple title of "A Walk Through Paris." To this I made no objection. "We will go," said he, "along this street, which will bring us to the tomb of Napoleon, and crossing the Pont des Invalides, we will proceed to the Palace of Industry, then we will take the Boulevards, and go as far as Notre Dame, returning to the Quays. You can tell your servant to have some mutton cutlets, (in Dublin they call them chops), potatoes and peas, or French beans, about six o'clock. That Burgundy is very good. (The bottle was finished.) It will answer us very well." The suggested arrangements having been made, we issued forth. As we passed the entrance of L'Hotel de Castries, some person in the court-yard called out very loudly--
"Fermez le connivert." "I asked Lanty what this word 'connivert' meant, for that it was totally new to me?"
"It is a kind of cistern or tank," said he, "it's a new word, they are making new words in French as well as in English every day. I do not know where they picked up 'connivert.' Our new words are almost all taken from Greek, as the terminations in 'aph,' and 'ography,' and 'ology' denote.
"We seldom," said I, "make a new simple addition to our language, the only one that I recollect is 'stoker,' which was coined for the service of steam engines, perhaps from rhyming with 'poker.'" "There is a word," observed Lanty, "as widely spread in its application as any other used by human lips. It is not of Greek, Latin, or Hebrew derivation. It comes not from the old Celtic or Saxon. It is not borrowed from any living language, and yet it is ubiquitous. On the Himalayas, in the United States, in London or Melbourne, in Canada or at the Cape. It is everywhere, and it was born, if I may say so, in Eustace-street, Dublin, on the same day that the Duke of Leinster was ushered into this breathing world. I wish the Grace a long and happy life, but the word will survive him."
I expressed my surprise as connecting the birth of a word with the birth of a baby who, at the time, must have been incapable of uttering a distinct syllable. Lanty replied that "he did not associate the word with the duke, or his family, or friends, he only meant that they came into existence on the same day."
"Well," said I, "words are certainly very curious in their origin, but--here we are at the tomb of the Emperor."
"Have you seen it?" asked Lanty.
"Yes," said I; "I spent and entire day here; the tomb of Napoleon is, in my humble opinion, a silent sermon, and of the most impressive character, too."
"Well," he replied, "we have both seen it, so we need not stop here; I must say that, as a man, I never admired him much, he is little remembered for his best act."
"Which was that?" I enquired.
"Why, he got a bookseller or publisher, named Pam, a Nuremberg man, into his power, and he had him shot. I think that shooting a publisher entitled him to a fair memory amongst literary people. I place it before Austerlitz or Jena."
"It was a foul deed," said I, "Pam was not even his subject."
"I tell you," replied Lanty, " a publisher is the subject of every potentate on the earth. He belongs to the Pope and the Czar of Russia, to the Sultan of Turkey and the President of the United States. He traverses the dominions of all. It is a very good thing to shoot one occasionally. When the English shot an Admiral, that unfortunate Byng, for his miscarriage at Minorca, Voltaire said it was 'to encourage the others,' and I believe it improved our admirals. Now our publishers are of greater importance to the community than almost any other class of persons. The highest and most holy precepts, the soul-searching denunciations of sin, and the wholesome warnings against its consequent sorrow, all are evanescent as the air around us, unless preserved and treasured to instruct and guide the young, to confirm and edify the old. The publisher when directed and fortified by the approval of proper authority, brings back the mighty dead, and bids us stand in their saintly presence. He sustains and stimulates the human mind in the acquisition of everything necessary for a happy life, and consoles our nature with the humble hope of a peaceful death."
"And is this the class of men, Lanty," said I, "one of which you would occasionally shoot?"
"I was joking, you miscreant," replied Lanty, "and you know I was."
"Well," said I, "suppose that now you relapse into your account of the birth of that word to which you alluded. We have got to the Pont des Invalides, and I hope it will not take long to gratify my curiosity. What was the word?"
"I am not going to tell you the word so quickly," said he. "The end of an anecdote should not be placed at the beginning, and a word is not so unimportant. The utterance of a sound with the consequent creation of an idea in the hearer's mind. Human breath imparting human joy or sorrow, turning our thoughts to heaven, or, perhaps, which heaven forbid, in a contrary direction, prompting to good or tempting to evil, inducing contemplation of the past or speculating on the casual or probable productions of the future, is more extraordinary, in my opinion, than the formulation of our limbs, however perfect, or of our organs of vision, however clear."
"Will you leave off philosophizing, Lanty?" said I, "and before we get to the Champs Elysees, inform me what word it was that owed its birth to old Eustace-street, Dublin?" Lanty proceeded as follows.
"News had arrived in Dublin that her Grace the Duchess had given a son and heir to Ireland's only Duke. To all ranks of society the intelligence was interesting and welcome. For centuries the house of Kildare had been the pride and protection of the people. In the peerage Leinster and Charlemont were the most popular names, and in the Irish House of Commons Fitzgerald and Grattan, the 'Men of the People,' represented the metropolis. The Duke was the General of the Volunteers of his province, but the corps of which he was the peculiar head, his own corps, were the Dublin Volunteers; and along with the announcement of the birth of a young Marquis of Kildare, came an intimation that the Dublin Volunteers would be expected at Carton on the happy occasion of the approaching christening. The opportunity of paying a compliment to their beloved Commander was hailed by the citizen soldiers with the utmost enthusiasm, and there was a numerous assemblage of the Dublin Volunteers to learn the particulars and to discuss their arrangements at a tavern in Eustace-street, kept by a person named Bennett, and known as 'The Eagle.' The evening had a convivial termination, and amongst the company were many of those whose portraits appear in the picture of 'The Volunteers in College Green.' Carleton, Lightburne, Moncrieffe, Porter, and strange to add, a practicing barrister named John Fitzgibbon, who in after times became Chancellor of Ireland, and Earl of Clare. There was also present Richard Daly, then the proprietor and manage of the Smock-alley Theatre, who had an extraordinary propensity for making wagers in reference to incidental matters, however unimportant. The conversation turned upon the comic powers of Sparks, who was then drawing immense houses to Smock-alley. One of the company expressed his surprise how such crowds should run after Sparks, and remarked that 'his popularity was more the result of fashionable caprice than of historic merits. He is, in my opinion,' added the speaker, 'just what the French would term 'un fagot in.' 'And what is the exact meaning of that word?' asked another. 'There is, perhaps, no one word in the English language which conveys its meaning precisely;' said the interrogated party. 'If I could give an English word to signify a low, vulgar mountebank, I should not have employed the French term.' 'Then,' observed Daly, why do you not make a word and send it into circulation? You should not feel aware that your own language is deficient in expression without being charitable enough to supply its wants, especially as it costs nothing to make a word.' 'But,' rejoined the other, 'how could I insure the reception of a word into general use, it might be characterized as slang, or remain unnoticed and unadopted; it might be as difficult to obtain currency for a word, or more so, than it was to pass Wood's halfpence?'
" 'Dick,' said Harry Moncrieffe, 'suppose you try your own hand, as you think the matter so easy. I would leave the subject to your own ingenuity, but I fear you will find it very difficult to induce the public to take your word. If they took some of your assurance it might be an advantage, you have plenty to spare.'
" 'I thank you, Alderman,' replied Dick, 'I did not suppose so much wit could come from the neighbourhood of the Tholsel.'
" 'Oh,' said Moncrieffe, 'it has strayed up there from the theatre, where it has lately become scarce. But, Dick, why have you chatted so long without offering a single wage? Come now, start a bet.'
" 'I shall not use a phrase or make a word,' said Daly, 'in disparagement of Sparks, from whom I have derived much pleasure, and more profit; but I shall bet you twenty guineas, and I propose our friend Fitzgibbon as the judge between us, that within forty-eight hours there shall be a word in the mouths of the Dublin public, of all classes and sexes, young and old, and also that within a week, the public shall attach a definite and universal meaning to that word without any suggestion or explanation from me. I also undertake that my word shall be altogether new and unconnected with any derivation from another language, ancient or modern. Now Alderman, what do you say to 'taking my word,' or winning my money?'
" 'I shall not take your word, Dick, but I propose winning some of your money. I shall put five guineas in the wager, provided the present company take up the balance, and let the winnings be spent on the evening of the first parade day after our return from the christening of the young Marquis of Kildare.'
"The company were joyous and the proposal of a festive appropriation of the proceeds induced a speedy acceptance of the remaining liability. The terms were reduced to writing and deposited with Fitzgibbon. Daly looked at his watch, and took his departure. It was Saturday evening, and he reached the Theatre a short time before the termination of the performance. He immediately procured a quantity of chalk and a number of cards. Upon each of the cards he wrote a word. It was short and distinct, and at the fall of the curtain, he required the attendance of the call-boys, scene-shifters, and other inferior employees of the concern. To each of them he gave a card and a piece of chalk, and directed them to spend the remainder of the night in perambulating the city, and chalking the word on every door and shutter. His directions were most diligently obeyed, and on the succeeding Sunday, all through the town, upon flank walls, upon hall-doors, upon the shutters of the closed shops, one word had been conspicuously chalked. The timid were alarmed lest it should indicate some unlawful or hostile design, and marked its intended victims, but those apprehensions were dissipated by the fact of its universal appearance. One, as he issued from his dwelling, conceived that it was meant as a nick-name for him, but he immediately changed his opinion on seeing it on his neighbour's premises also. It could not be political, for all parties were treated the same way. It was manifestly not a mark on any religious persuasion, for Catholics, Protestants, Quakers, and Jews were all chalked alike. It was not belonging to any known language, nor could a word of any meaning be formed by the transposition of the letters. Still, the universality of its appearance excited the curiosity and formed a topic for public conjecture and general conversation. After a few days, the unanimous conclusion was that the word was a hoax, a trick, a humbug, a joke. However, it was not forgotten. The parties to the wager, which Dick Daly was admitted to have won, have all disappeared; I had the story from, perhaps, the survivor of them. The hands that chalked the word have mouldered into clay, but the term that owed its birth to the Eustace-street wager exists wherever the English language is heard: The word is 'Quiz.' "
"And a very good word it is for its purpose," said I, "and you will find it given in most of the Modern French and English dictionaries, as the English for 'persiflage.' "
"However," said Lanty, "a quiz has occasionally produced a reality. When James Madison entered on his official duties, as President of the United States, a young man connected with one of the first houses in Belfast thought fit to make an American tour. Accordingly he crossed the Atlantic, and passed his time for upwards of eighteen months to his perfect satisfaction. On his return he was greatly pestered by one of his fellow townsmen, a pushing, plausible, self-sufficient kind of fellow, for letters of introduction to some American friends, the applicant declaring his intention of visiting all the principal cities of the Union. At length the party solicited replied to an urgent entreaty, by declaring that there was no one with whom he felt himself warranted in taking such a liberty except 'his friend Madison,' 'The President!' exclaimed the importunate teaser, 'why, it would be invaluable.' Accordingly a letter was written, commencing with 'My dear Mr. Madison,' and conveying the assurance that the hospitable attentions which the writer had received would never be forgotten, and that the recollection of such kindness emboldened him to introduce a friend, in the humble hope that he would be received with even a portion of that lavish kindness which had been experienced so agreeably, and remembered so gratefully, by his ever faithful, and obliged, etc. etc. The traveller departed, and a considerable time elapsed before he re-appeared in Belfast. When he returned, his first visit was to the author of the valuable introduction. 'My dear fellow,' said he, 'I presented your letter at a public reception. The President was more than polite, he was downright cordial. I was invited to dinner-parties and to balls, I received every possible attention. It was, however, very extraordinary, that when I called to pay my farewell visit, the President asked me to describe your personal appearance, remarking that you had lapsed from his recollection.' After all, it was not to be wondered at, for the President had never seen the man, whose letter of introduction for the other was a thorough quiz. The Belfast man only quizzed a President, but a Dublin boy humbugged a King. When George the Fourth was reigning a Dublin doctor wrote a book. He got a copy splendidly bound for presentation, and then went to London to the royal levee, he handed a card to the lord in waiting, on which his name was written, as attending to present his work on a certain subject, and to receive the honor of knighthood. The lord in waiting thought all was right, the king thought so too, the Dublin doctor knelt down, the king took a sword, and gave him the slap of dignity. When the levee was over, there were some enquires as to who he was. Who had recommended him? Of what minister he was the protégé? But they were all too late, the knighthood had been conferred, people could only laugh. Canning said that he supposed the doctor claimed the honor by prescription. The poor doctor did not long enjoy the distinction. He is dead upwards of twenty years."
"I remember the man of whom you speak, Lanty," said I, "he lived in Peter's parish, and was very prominent in the old agitation times. At the vestries there could not be a vote on any matter of parish cess, to which he had not an amendment or direct negative to offer. On one occasion he complained to Archdeacon Torrens, who was presiding, that the vestry-room was too confined a place for such an important discussion as they were engaged in. 'I move, reverend sir,' he said, 'that we adjourn to the churchyard.' 'My dear doctor,' replied the Archdeacon, very quietly and archly, 'you will have us there time enough.' "
"Oh," said Lanty, "those were delightful times before we were emancipated, I am often tempted to wish for the penal laws again. Before emancipation we had hardly any civil rights or privileges, but we had more amusement, more excitement, more fun in one day than these dull times of regular politics produce in six months, and you were never at a loss for some amusement, morning, noon, or night. It was a terribly fagging time on the reporters. To the Courts to take O'Connell or Shiel in some libel case, to parish vestries, or the common council, the Catholic Association, or an aggregate meeting, and in the evening a charity dinner at Mrs. Mahony's great rooms, in Patrick-street. It was killing work on the 'pressgang.' There was a great crony of mine employed on a morning paper, and he unfortunately fell into my company one evening when he should have gone to the Malachean Orphan Society's dinner, where Dan was to preside. He became very tipsy about eight o'clock. It was at Radcliff's Carlingford tavern, on Aston's quay, and I had so much sense and propriety left as to bring him home. I feared much that he would get into a serious scrape by his neglect of duty. In a few days, however, I ventured to ask him how he had managed about the Malachean dinner. 'Oh,' he said, 'I slept until about 11 o'clock, and then I recollected myself, so I went quietly to the office and got the file of the year previous, and with a little alteration, it did for this year's dinner just as well. Very few noticed it, and Dan himself was quite satisfied with my report. It was not half so bad a mistake,' said my poor friend, 'as I made at Powerscourt, when George the Fourth went there. Lord Powerscourt had caused reservoirs to be constructed above the waterfall, in order that when his Majesty visited it, the sluices might be drawn, and a tremendous cataract produced. I went down in the morning and viewed the place, and noted minutely all the preparations. I then drew on my imagination for a description of a second Niagara, and put into the mouth of the Royal visiter various exclamations of delight and surprise. I sent off my report, and it appeared in due time, but unfortunately the King was too much hurried by other arrangements, and did not go to the waterfall at all, but drove direct to Kingstown, where he embarked. I was terribly humbugged for my imaginative report, but nevertheless I reported what the King ought to have done and what he ought to have said, and if he did otherwise it was not my fault.' "
"It is of Christy Hughes you are speaking now, Lanty," I observed; "there never was a more simple-hearted being, may he rest in eternal happiness; he was all kindness and good-nature. When in the exercise of his vocation it was necessary to detail transactions deeply criminal, poor Christy was as much dispirited as the culprit; and if any circumstance appeared favorable to the accused, it was always prominently noticed. He generally exaggerated misfortune or human suffering, because, as he said, 'it occasionally influenced the charitable to afford succour to the wretched.' I was walking in his company over Carlisle-bridge on a September evening, and a poor man slipped off a plank and was drowned in our sight. Christy stood looking at the sad occurance, and just as, for the last time, the head of the struggling sufferer appeared above the surface of the water, Christy exclaimed---'It is all over with you, my poor fellow; may God be merciful to you and forgive you your sins. You have met a sad fate, thus to terminate your existence in the filthy current of the Liffy. You are late for the evening edition, but, with the help of Providence, I'll give you a nice paragraph in the morning.' I once remarked to Hughes that 'he must have seen a vast deal of the roguery and other evil tendencies of human nature.' He replied, that 'the strangest piece of roguery he ever knew of was committed by a gentleman's coachman;' he continued:---'Shortly after Richard Wilson Greene obtained a silk gown he received a special retainer in a very heavy record for the Assizes of Kilkenny, and I was employed in taking a report of the trial. There was some subsequent litigation, in the course of which it was deemed proper to have a consultation at Mr. Lefroy's, and Mr. Greene asked me to accompany him there and bring my notes. I met him at the Courts, and when we went out on the quay he hailed a car, and desired the boy who drove it to go as fast as he could to Leeson-street. The horse was a fine-looking animal, but he stepped high and was very slow. Mr. Greene urged the driver to hasten on, and after two or three expostulations, he remarked to the jehu that the horse was unfit for a jaunting car, although he was large and strong, and that he would suit well for a carriage. The driver turned to him, and answered--'Bedad yer honor is a witch.' 'What do you mean?' asked Mr. Greene. 'Oh,' replied the driver, 'I mane no offince, but yer honor is right about the baste; that's what he is. I'll tell yer honor a saycret: The baste is a carriage horse belonging to one Counsellor Greene, and the coachman has a hack-car, and he generally manages to have something the matter with one of the horses, and that gives him an opportunity to work the other in the car.' 'Well,' added Christy, 'Mr. Greene was very angry at what the driver told him, but he never pretended that he was the owner of the horse, and before we got to Mr. Lefroy's, he could not help laughing, saying to me at the same time--'Mr. Hughes, will you oblige me by giving this driver your name and address as the hirer of the car, and we will not pay him anything.' Accordingly, when we arrived at Leeson-street, I had a scene with the driver, and subsequently I was summoned to the Head Office, at the owner's suit, for non-payment of the fare. Mr. Greene came with me, and I thought that the magistrate would fall off his seat with laughing, when it transpired that the learned Queen's Counsel had hired a hack-car drawn by his own carriage horse. The coachman ran away out of court, and never appeared to claim wages or discharge. The magistrate and Greene were intimate friends, and having accidentally met in a few in a few days after the conversation, naturally reverted to the carman. Greene said that he believed the fellow had left Dublin, but that he was strongly tempted to send the police in quest of him. 'Send your horse,' replied his worship, 'for he knows more about the carman's traces than any of the police do!"
"Well, Lanty," said I, as he ended his reminiscence of our friend Hughes, "here we are at the end of our walk, and not one incident have we observed, except the slight notice of the Emperor's tomb, which would not have been more appropriate if we had been strolling from Leeson-street to the Phoenix Park. If I send the chat of this afternoon to Duffy, and give it the heading of 'A Walk Through Paris,' he will wonder at our impudence, and think that we might as well transmit him a bottle of whiskey, with the label of 'Vieux Cognac.' "
"He might forgive even that offense," said Lanty; "I fervently wish that somebody would perpetrate such an outrage on us here; I would highly relish the joke that substituted John's-lane, or Bow-lane, or Marrow-bone-lane whiskey, for the best brandy that you can obtain in the Rue de Rivoli, or the Palais Royal. Send our 'Walk Through Paris' to Wellington-quay, and as we shall soon, please Providence, be back again in Dublin, we will have a ramble there from one end of the dear old city to the other and back again, and we will send it to Duffy, entitled, 'A Walk Through Dublin,' and it shall be entirely devoted to our Parisian reminiscences."