I went one day outside the walls of Paris, and took dinner in a beautiful spot where the sun was almost entirely excluded by the trees and shrubs, in gardens attached to a restaurant. I had a capital dinner, too, for a small price, better than I could have had for double the money at a London hotel.
THE PEOPLE—CLIMATE—PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS—HOTEL DES INVALIDES.
The French people, so far as one may judge from Paris, are very difficult to study and understand. They are easy of access, but it is difficult to account for the many and strange anomalies in their character.
The intense love of gayety and the amount of elegant trifling which shows itself everywhere as a national characteristic, does not prepare one to believe that some of the greatest of mathematicians, philosophers, and scientific men are Frenchmen and Parisians; but such is the fact. The French are fickle, love pleasure, and one would think that these qualities would unfit men for coolness, perseverance, and prolonged research; and I am sometimes inclined to think that the proficiency of the French in philosophy, the arts, and sciences, is not so much the result of patient investigation and laborious and continued study, as a kind of intuition which amounts to genius. The French mind is quick, and does not plod slowly toward eminence; it leaps to it. Certainly, in brilliancy of talents the French surpass every other nation. I will not do them the injustice to speak of them as they are at this moment—crushed under the despotism of Louis Napoleon—but as they have been in the last few years, and indeed for centuries. Paris is a city of brilliant men and women. A French orator is one of the most eloquent speakers, one of the most impressive men, any country can furnish. The intelligence of the Paris artisans would surprise many people in America. We have only to examine the journals which before the advent of the empire were almost exclusively taken by the working-classes of Paris, to see the proof of this. Their leaders were written in the best essay-style, and were the result of careful thought and application. Such journals could never have gained a fair support from the artisans of New York. They were not mere news journals, nor filled up with love-stories. They contained articles of great worth, which required on the part of the reader a love of abstract truth and the consideration of it. Such journals sold by thousands in Paris before Napoleon III. throttled the newspapers. These very men were fond of pleasure and pursued it, and I have been told by residents, that often persons of a foppish exterior and fashionable conduct, are also celebrated for the extent of their learning. At home we rarely look for talent or learning among the devotees of fashion, or at least, among those who exalt fashion above all moral attributes.