At this time the History of the Girondins appeared, and had a remarkable success. Lamartine was severely blamed by many for writing it, but none disputed the wonderful literary merit of the work. The next revolution came—and Louis Phillippe fled from France. The people flocked around Lamartine. They had been charmed by his grand words for humanity; they were now fascinated by his commanding mien and noble countenance. They thought because he sang sweetly, wrote nobly, that he was a statesman. They mistook. The author had no talents for statesmanship, and he fell. He was too ideal—not sufficiently practical; and he could not hold the position which the populace had given him. For a short time his ambition—never an impure one—was gratified, for he saw France turn toward him as a deliverer; but he has ever since had the bitter reflection that he was unequal to the occasion, and that he had acted wisely never to have invaded the domain of politics.
The history of Lamartine during the revolution of 1848 is everywhere known, and we need not repeat it. He soon gave up politics forever. Since that time he has attended only to literature. Recently, he ventured into speculations, and lost his fortune. I had the good luck to meet him last June, in the office of the editor of L’Illustration, in the Rue Richelieu. He was in good health, and I was much struck with his general appearance. He looks to be what he has always been—one of nature’s noblemen. His hair is almost white, but his figure is erect and noble. He is tall and dignified, and his manners are pleasing. Lamartine has struggled hard to save from the hands of his creditors his estate of Saint Point, where the bones of his ancestors lie. Every autumn he repairs thither with Madame Lamartine, and spends a few months in the golden quiet of the country. His wife is the angel of his household, and has proved a treasure far above earthly riches. Both husband and wife are exceedingly generous. A friend of theirs, who was very intimate with the family, was so angered at their liberality, that he one morning entered the house, demanding all the keys, and declaring that he would for a time take charge of their expenses. They willingly acceded to his demand. He locked up everything valuable, and left the house. Soon a sister of charity came, and sought alms for the poor. Madame Lamartine tried the desk for money—it was locked. She called the valet and had it broken open, and gave the sister eight hundred francs. Lamartine smiled, and kissed her for the generous act. The friend returned and found that there was not money enough left for dinner!
Lamartine possesses a noble heart, a conscience, and is a christian. He is a bright example, but alas! a rare one, among the authors of France.
[Illustration: HORACE VERNET.]
Horace Vernet, the great modern painter of France, was born in the Louvre on the 30th of June, 1789. The kings of France were in the habit of giving to distinguished artists a domicile in the Louvre, and the father of Horace Vernet, at the time of his birth, had apartments in the palace. He is descended from a dynasty of artists.