List Of Contents | Contents of Winter Sunshine, by John Burroughs
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revolution, do women emerge so conspicuously, often in the front ranks,
the most furious and ungovernable of any. I think even a female
conscription might be advisable in the present condition of France, if
I may judge of her soldiers from the specimens I saw. Small,
spiritless, inferior-looking men, all of them. They were like Number
Three mackerel or the last run of shad, as doubtless they were,--the
last pickings and resiftings of the population.

I don't know how far it may be a national custom, but I observed that
the women of the humbler classes, in meeting or parting with friends at
the stations, saluted each other on both cheeks, never upon the mouth,
as our dear creatures do, and I commended their good taste, though I
certainly approve the American custom, too.

Among the male population I was struck with the frequent recurrence of
the Louis Napoleon type of face. "Has this man," I said, "succeeded in
impressing himself even upon the physiognomy of the people? Has he
taken such a hold of their imaginations that they have grown to look
like him?" The guard that took our train down to Paris might easily
play the double to the ex-emperor; and many times in Paris and among
different classes I saw the same countenance.

Coming from England, the traveling seems very slow in this part of
France, taking eight or nine hours to go from Dieppe to Paris, with an
hour's delay at Rouen. The valley of the Seine, which the road follows
or skirts more than half the way, is very winding, with immense flats
or plains shut in by a wall of steep, uniform hills, and, in the
progress of the journey, is from time to time laid open to the traveler
in a way that is full of novelty and surprise. The day was bright and
lovely, and I found my eyes running riot the same as they had done
during my first ride on British soil. The contrast between the two
countries is quite marked, France in this region being much more broken
and picturesque, with some waste or sterile land,--a thing I did not
see at all in England. Had I awaked from a long sleep just before
reaching Paris, I should have guessed I was riding through Maryland,
and should soon see the dome of the Capitol at Washington rising above
the trees. So much wild and bushy or barren and half-cultivated land,
almost under the walls of the French capital, was a surprise.

Then there are few or none of those immense home-parks which one sees
in England, the land being mostly held by a great number of small
proprietors, and cultivated in strips, or long, narrow parallelograms,
making the landscape look like many-colored patchwork. Everywhere along
the Seine, stretching over the flats, or tilted up against the sides of
the hills, in some places seeming almost to stand on end, were these
acre or half-acre rectangular farms, without any dividing lines or
fences, and of a great variety of shades and colors, according to the
crop and the tillage.

I was glad to see my old friend, the beech-tree, all along the route.
His bole wore the same gray and patched appearance it does at home, and
no doubt Thoreau would have found his instep even fairer; for the beech
on this side of the Atlantic is a more fluent and graceful tree than
the American species, resembling, in its branchings and general form,
our elm, though never developing such an immense green dome as our elm
when standing alone, and I saw no European tree that does. The European
elm is not unlike our beech in form and outline.

Going from London to Paris is, in some respects, like getting out of
the chimney on to the housetop,--the latter city is, by contrast, so
light and airy, and so American in its roominess. I had come to Paris
for my dessert after my feast of London joints, and I suspect I was a
little dainty in that most dainty of cities. In fact, I had become
quite sated with sight-seeing, and the prospect of having to go on and
"do" the rest of Europe after the usual manner of tourists, and as my
companions did, would have been quite appalling. Said companions
steered off like a pack of foxhounds in full blast. The game they were
in quest of led them a wild chase up the Rhine, off through Germany and
Italy, taking a turn back through Switzerland, giving them no rest, and
apparently eluding them at last. I had felt obliged to cut loose from
them at the outset, my capacity to digest kingdoms and empires at short
notice being far below that of the average of my countrymen. My
interest and delight had been too intense at the outset; I had partaken
too heartily of the first courses; and now, where other travelers begin
to warm to the subject, and to have the keenest relish, I began to wish
the whole thing well through with. So that Paris was no paradise to one
American at least. Yet the mere change of air and sky, and the escape
from that sooty, all-pervasive, chimney-flue smell of London, was so
sudden and complete, that the first hour of Paris was like a refreshing
bath, and gave rise to satisfaction in which every pore of the skin
participated. My room at the hotel was a gem of neatness and order, and
the bed a marvel of art, comfort, and ease, three feet deep at least.

Then the uniform imperial grace and eclat of the city was a new
experience. Here was the city of cities, the capital of taste and
fashion, the pride and flower of a great race and a great history, the
city of kings and emperors, and of a people which, after all, loves
kings and emperors, and will not long, I fear, be happy without
them,--a gregarious, urbane people, a people of genius and destiny,
whose God is Art and whose devil is Communism. London has long ago
outgrown itself, has spread, and multiplied, and accumulated, without a
corresponding inward expansion and unification; but in Paris they have
pulled down and built larger, and the spirit of centralization has had
full play. Hence the French capital is superb, but soon grows
monotonous. See one street and boulevard, and you have seen it all. It
has the unity and consecutiveness of a thing deliberately planned and
built to order, from beginning to end. Its stone is all from one
quarry, and its designs are all the work of one architect. London has
infinite variety, and quaintness, and picturesqueness, and is of all
possible shades of dinginess and weather-stains. It shows its age,
shows the work of innumerable generations, and is more an aggregation,
a conglomeration, than is Paris. Paris shows the citizen, and is modern
and democratic in its uniformity. On the whole, I liked London best,
because I am so much of a countryman, I suppose, and affect so little
the metropolitan spirit. In London there are a few grand things to be
seen, and the pulse of the great city itself is like the throb of the
ocean; but in Paris, owing either to my jaded senses or to some other
cause, I saw nothing that was grand, but enough that was beautiful and
pleasing. The more pretentious and elaborate specimens of architecture,
like the Palace of the Tuileries or the Palais Royal, are truly superb,
but they as truly do not touch that deeper chord whose awakening we
call the emotion of the sublime.

But the fitness and good taste everywhere displayed in the French
capital may well offset any considerations of this kind, and cannot
fail to be refreshing to a traveler of any other land,--in the dress
and manners of the people, in the shops and bazaars and show-windows,
in the markets, the equipages, the furniture, the hotels. It is
entirely a new sensation to an American to look into a Parisian
theatre, and see the acting and hear the music. The chances are that,
for the first time, he sees the interior of a theatre that does not
have a hard, businesslike, matter-of-fact air. The auditors look
comfortable and cozy, and quite at home, and do not, shoulder to
shoulder and in solid lines, make a dead set at the play and the music.
The theatre has warm hangings, warm colors, cozy boxes and stalls, and
is in no sense the public, away-from-home place we are so familiar with
in this country. Again, one might know it was Paris by the character of
the prints and pictures in the shop windows; they are so clever as art
that one becomes reprehensibly indifferent to their license. Whatever
sins the French may be guilty of, they never sin against art and good
taste (except when in the frenzy of revolution), and, if Propriety is
sometimes obliged to cry out "For shame!" in the French capital, she
must do so with ill-concealed admiration, like a fond mother chiding
with word and gesture while she approves with tone and look. It is a
foolish charge, often made, that the French make vice attractive: they
make it provocative of laughter; the spark of wit is always evolved,
and what is a better antidote to this kind of poison than mirth?

They carry their wit even into their cuisine.  Every dish set before
you at the table is a picture, and tickles your eye before it does your
palate. When I ordered fried eggs, they were brought on a snow-white
napkin, which was artistically folded upon a piece of ornamented
tissue-paper that covered a china plate; if I asked for cold ham, it
came in flakes, arrayed like great rose-leaves, with a green sprig or
two of parsley dropped upon it, and surrounded by a border of
calfs'-foot jelly, like a setting of crystals. The bread revealed new
qualities in the wheat, it was so sweet and nutty; and the fried
potatoes, with which your beefsteak comes snowed under, are the very
flower of the culinary art, and I believe impossible in any other

Even the ruins are in excellent taste, and are by far the best-behaved
ruins I ever saw for so recent ones. I came near passing some of the
most noted, during my first walk, without observing them. The main
walls were all standing, and the fronts were as imposing as ever. No
litter or rubbish, no charred timbers or blackened walls; only vacant
windows and wrecked interiors, which do not very much mar the general
outside effect.

My first genuine surprise was the morning after my arrival, which,
according to my reckoning, was Sunday; and when I heard the usual
week-day sounds, and, sallying forth, saw the usual weekday occupations
going on,--painters painting, glaziers glazing, masons on their
scaffolds, and heavy drays and market-wagons going through the streets,
and many shops and bazaars open,--I must have presented to a
scrutinizing beholder the air and manner of a man in a dream, so
absorbed was I in running over the events of the week to find where the
mistake had occurred, where I had failed to turn a leaf, or else had
turned over two leaves for one. But each day had a distinct record, and
every count resulted the same. It must be Sunday. Then it all dawned
upon me that this was Paris, and that the Parisians did not have the
reputation of being very strict Sabbatarians.

The French give a touch of art to whatever they do.  Even the drivers
of drays and carts and trucks about the streets are not content with a
plain, matter-of-fact whip, as an English or American laborer would be,
but it must be a finely modeled stalk, with a long, tapering lash
tipped with the best silk snapper. Always the inevitable snapper. I
doubt if there is a whip in Paris without a snapper. Here is where the
fine art, the rhetoric of driving, comes in. This converts a vulgar,
prosy "gad" into a delicate instrument, to be wielded with pride and
skill, and never literally to be applied to the backs of the animals,
but to be launched to right and left into the air with a professional
flourish, and a sharp, ringing report. Crack! crack! crack! all day
long go these ten thousand whips, like the boys' Fourth of July
fusillade. It was invariably the first sound I heard when I opened my
eyes in the morning, and generally the last one at night. Occasionally
some belated drayman would come hurrying along just as I was going to
sleep, or some early bird before I was fully awake in the morning, and
let off in rapid succession, in front of my hotel, a volley from the
tip of his lash that would make the street echo again, and that might
well have been the envy of any ring-master that ever trod the tanbark.
Now and then, during my ramblings, I would suddenly hear some
master-whip, perhaps that of an old omnibus-driver, that would crack
like a rifle, and, as it passed along, all the lesser whips, all the
amateur snappers, would strike up with a jealous and envious emulation,
making every foot-passenger wink, and one (myself) at least almost to
shade his eyes from the imaginary missiles.

I record this fact because it "points a moral and adorns a 'tail.'" The
French always give this extra touch. Everything has its silk snapper.
Are not the literary whips of Paris famous for their rhetorical tips
and the sting there is in them? What French writer ever goaded his
adversary with the belly of his lash, like the Germans and the English,
when he could blister him with its silken end, and the percussion of
wit be heard at every stroke?

In the shops, and windows, and public halls, this passion takes the
form of mirrors,--mirrors, mirrors everywhere, on the walls, in the
panels, in the cases, on the pillars, extending, multiplying, opening
up vistas this way and that, and converting the smallest shop, with a
solitary girl and a solitary customer, into an immense enchanted
bazaar, across whose endless counters customers lean and pretty girls
display goods. The French are always before the looking-glass, even
when they eat and drink. I never went into a restaurant without seeing
four or five facsimiles of myself approaching from as many
different`directions, giving the order to the waiter and sitting down
at the table. Hence I always had plenty of company at dinner, though we
were none of us very social, and I was the only one who entered or
passed out at the door. The show windows are the greatest cheat. What
an expanse, how crowded, and how brilliant! You see, for instance, an
immense array of jewelry, and pause to have a look. You begin at the
end nearest you, and, after gazing a moment, take a step to run your
eye along the dazzling display, when, presto! the trays of watches and
diamonds vanish in a twinkling, and you find yourself looking into the
door, or your delighted eyes suddenly bring up against a brick wall,
disenchanted so quickly that you almost stagger.

I went into a popular music and dancing hall one night, and found
myself in a perfect enchantment of mirrors. Not an inch of wall was
anywhere visible. I was suddenly caught up into the seventh heaven of
looking-glasses, from which I came down with a shock the moment I
emerged into the street again. I observed that this mirror contagion
had broken out in spots in London, and, in the narrow and crowded
condition of the shops there, even this illusory enlargement would be a
relief. It might not improve the air, or add to the available storage
capacity of the establishment, but it would certainly give a wider
range to the eye.

The American no sooner sets foot on the soil of France than he
perceives he has entered a nation of drinkers as he has left a nation
of eaters. Men do not live by bread here, but by wine. Drink, drink,

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