All the churches of Paris are open every day of the week, from early in the morning till five or six o’clock. They have bare pews or slips, and no seats. There are a plenty of chairs which may be had on Sundays and festival days, for two cents each, of an old woman who attends them. This custom is a singular one to the American, accustomed as he is to well-cushioned, and even luxurious pews. The pulpits, too, are nothing but upright boxes, with a spiral stair-case leading to them—not like our broad platforms, with rich sofas and tables in front.
[Illustration: Church of St. Eustache.]
Lamartine is a poet, a historian, and a statesman. He has not been successful in the last-mentioned capacity, but take his qualities together, he is, perhaps, the most distinguished of living French authors.
Alphonse de Lamartine was born on the 21st of October, 1791, at Mecon. His father was captain in a regiment of cavalry. Refusing to join with the terrorists in 1794, he fled from Paris into the country with his wife and two children. But he did not escape the spies of his enemies, who arrested and put him at once into a dungeon. Some months after, the terrorists having lost power, he was released. Resolving to provide for the future peace of his family, he purchased the chateau of Milly, a spot in the open, and nearly wild country. Lamartine gives us sketches of his life here. His mother was a good, pious soul, and taught him out of the old family bible lessons from the sacred scriptures. She often made visits to the poor, and Alphonse accompanied her on these benevolent errands, and thus very early in life learned to be gentle and good. He left the grounds of Milly at eight years of age, to enter the school of Belley, under the care of the Jesuits.
He took the prizes with ease, and his teachers discovering that he had a talent for poetry, encouraged it. His parents took counsel as to what should be done with their son. The father wished to make a soldier of him, but the mother was opposed to this plan—she did not care to make a human butcher of her boy. He paused some time at Lyons, on his return from school, and afterward he traveled over Italy. He here met a young man who was an excellent singer, and became quite intimate with him, so much so, that he often slept upon his shoulder. When the two friends had arrived at Rome, Lamartine was called down to the breakfast-room one morning, to behold—not his male companion, but a young woman of beauty, who greeted him familiarly. It was his friend who had been traveling in male costume, and who now said blushingly, “Dress does not change the heart.”