Why I will defy any man to point out a single instance where the French republican armies or Napoleon ever injured or wantonly destroyed a single national edifice, a single work of art, a single book belonging to any other country! On the contrary, they invariably extended their protection to the Arts and Sciences. Why at Vienna, where there is, I understand, a most splendid museum, and many most valuable works of art and antiquity, tho’ this city fell twice into their possession, they never destroyed or took away a single article; but, on the contrary, there, as well as in Berlin, they invited the inhabitants to form a civic guard for the protection of their property. As to the Vandalism shewn during the reign of Terror, and I by no means seek to palliate it, that was of short duration, it was madness, if you will, but it was disinterested—and other nations who talk a great deal about their superior morality would do well to look at home. They would there observe, in their own historic page, that the atrocities of the French Revolution have not only been equalled but surpassed perhaps by more dreadful scenes committed at Wexford in 1798, under the auspices of the Government then ruling Ireland and which the noble and virtuous —— disdained to serve.
Excuse this long digression, but I feel it my duty to open the eyes of my countrymen and prevent them from supporting on all occasions the unjust acts of their Government, which reflect dishonour on a great and enlightened nation; which can boast, among its annals, of some of the most heroic, splendid, and disinterested characters that ever the world produced.
All that I need add on the subject of the statues and pictures is, that putting out of the question the justice or injustice of the restitution, it will be a great loss to England and to English artists in particular, should they be removed: many an artist can afford to make a trip to Paris, who would find it beyond his means to make a journey to Florence or Rome.
If these objects of art are to be taken away, it should be stipulated so in the treaty of peace; and then everybody would understand it. This would be putting it on the fairest footing. You then say to France: “You gained these things by conquest; you lose them by defeat”; but for God’s sake let us have no more of that cant about revolutionary robberies!
I went for the first time to the Grand Opera, or, as it is here called, the Academie Royale de Musique, which is in the Rue de Richelieu. Armida was the piece performed, the music by Glueck. The decorations were splendid and the dancing beyond all praise. The scenes representing the garden of Armida and the nymphs dancing fully expressed in the mimic art those beautiful lines of Tasso:
Cogliam d’amor la rosa! amiamo or,
Esser si puote riamato amando!