The menagerie of the garden is one of the finest in the world, and is in some respects like the menagerie in London, though arranged with more taste. The cages are scattered over a large inclosure, and it seems like wandering over a forest and meeting the animals in their native wilds. After passing beneath the boughs of dark trees, it is startling to look up and see a Bengal tiger within a few feet of you, though he is caged, or to walk on further still, and confront a leopard. This part of the garden is a continual source of amusement to the younger portions of the community of Paris, to say nothing of the children of larger growth.
The cabinet of comparative anatomy is one of the finest parts of the garden, and we owe its excellence mainly to the great exertions of Cuvier. Every department is scientifically arranged, and the whole form, perhaps, the best collection of anatomical specimens in the world. In the first room are skeletons of the whale tribe, and many marine animals; in the next, are skeletons of the human species from every part of the globe. A suite of eleven rooms is taken up for the anatomy of birds, fishes, and reptiles. Several rooms are taken up with the exhibition of the muscles of all animals, including man. Others exhibit arms and legs; others still, brains and eyes, and the different organs of the body all arranged together, distinct from the remaining parts of the frame. In one room there is a singular collection of skulls of men from all countries, of all ages, and conditions. Celebrated murderers here are side by side with men of ancient renown.
The gallery of zoology is three hundred and ninety feet in length, and fronts the east end of the garden. The other galleries are all equally spacious and well arranged.
The library is composed of works on natural history, and it is an unrivaled collection. It contains six thousand drawings, thirty thousand volumes, and fifteen thousand plants. This fine library is free on certain days to the world.
The good which results from such free exhibitions as that of the Jardin des Plantes is incalculable. The people become educated, enlightened to a degree they can never attain, upon the subjects illustrated, without them. This is one reason why Parisians are universally intelligent, even to the artisans. The poorer classes can scarcely help understanding botany, anatomy, zoology, and geology, with such a garden free of access. This is but a specimen of many like places in Paris. Lectures upon the sciences and arts are free to all who will hear, and whoever will may learn.
When France was governed by Louis Phillippe, the Palace Luxembourg was occupied by the Chamber of Peers, and it is now occupied by the Senate. It is a fine old building, and the impression it makes upon the stranger is an agreeable one. There is nothing in its history of particular interest, though its architecture is ancient.