Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of Paris and the Parisians in 1835,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. IX: Literary Criticism - part 02 (1902), 9:17-22


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[Southern Literary Messenger, May, 1836.]

WE have no patience with that atra-bilious set of hyper-patriots, who find fault with Mrs. Trollope's book of flumflummery about the good people of the Union. We can neither tolerate nor comprehend them. The work appeared to us (we speak in all candor, and in sober earnest) an unusually well-written performance, in which, upon a basis of downright and positive truth, was erected, after the fashion of a porcelain pagoda, a very brilliant, although a very brittle fabric of mingled banter, philosophy, and spleen. Her mere political opinions are, we suppose, of very little consequence to any person other than Mrs. Trollope; and being especially sure that they are of no consequence to ourselves we shall have nothing farther to do with them. We do not hesitate to say, however, that she ridiculed our innumerable moral, physical, and social absurdities with equal impartiality, true humor and discrimination, and that the old joke about her Domestic Manners of the Americans being nothing more than the Manners of the American Domestics, is like most other very good jokes, excessively untrue.

That our national soreness of feeling prevented us, in the case of her work on America, from appreciating the real merits of the book, will be rendered evident by the high praise we find no difficulty in bestowing [page 18:] upon her Paris and the Parisians — a production, in whatever light we regard it, precisely similar to the one with which we were so irreparably offended. It has every characteristic of the Domestic Manners of the Americans — from the spirit of which work, if it differs at all, the difference lies in the inferior quantity of the fine wit she has thought proper to throw away upon our Parisian friends.

The volume now issued by the Harpers, is a large octavo of 410 pages, and is embellished with eleven most admirable copperplate engravings, exclusive of the frontispiece. These designs are drawn by A. Hervieu, and engraved by S. H. Gimber. We will give a brief account of them all, as the most effectual method of imparting to our readers (those who have not seen the work and for whom this notice is especially intended) a just conception of the work itself.

Plate 1 is the “Louvre.” A picture gallery is seen crowded with a motley assemblage of all classes, in every description of French costume. The occasion is an exhibition of living artists, as the world chooses to call the exhibition of their works. Poussin, (consequently) Raphael, Titian, Correggio and Rubens, are hidden beneath the efforts of more modern pencils. In the habiliments of the company who lounge through the gallery, the result of newly acquired rights is ludicrously visible. One of the most remarkable of these, says our authoress, is the privilege enjoyed by the rabble of presenting themselves dirty instead of clean before the eyes of the magnates. Accordingly, the plate shows, among a variety of pretty toques, cauchoises, chaussures and other more imperial equipments, a sprinkling of round-eared caps, awkward casquettes, filthy blouses, and dingy and ragged jackets. [page 19:]

Plate 2 is “Morning at the Tuileries.” It represents that portion of the garden of “trim alleys” which lies in front of the group of Petus and Aria. In the distance are seen various figures. In the foreground we descry three singular-looking personages, who may be best described in the words of Mrs. Trollope herself.

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Plate 3 is “Pro patria” — and represents two uniformed soldiers in a guard-room of the National Guard.

Plate 4 is entitled “ ‘Ce soir, à la Porte St. MartinJ’y serai,’ ” and is full of humor. Two conspirator-like republicans stand in the gardens of the Luxembourg, with short staffs, conical hats, dark bushy eye-brows, fierce mustaches, and countenances full of fate. The hand of the one is clasped in the hand of the other with a vice-like impressiveness and energy, while the taller, looking furtively around him, lays his hand upon the shoulder of his associate, and is whispering some most momentous intelligence in his ear. This plate is explained thus in the words of Mrs. T.

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Plate 5 is the “Tuileries Gardens on Sunday,” in which the prominent and characteristic group is a “chère maman” in half toilet, and seated beneath a tree reading, or attempting to read, while her children, attended by their bonne, are frolicking about her knees.

Plate 6 is “Porte St. Martin,” and commemorative of one of the thousand and one little émeutes which have now become too much a matter of course at Paris to excite very serious attention, and which are frequently (so we are assured by Mrs. Trollope) quieted by no more effective artillery than that of a slight shower of rain. The prominent figures in the plate, are two [page 20:] gentlemen of the National Guard, who are vehemently struggling to secure a desperate and mustached republican, equipped cap à pie à la Robespierre, and whose countenance is indicative of deadly resolve, while a little urchin in a striped jacket, not having before his eyes the horrors of an arrestation, and being probably body squire to the republican, shoulders manfully a banner somewhat larger than himself, and, standing upon tiptoe, amuses himself with bellowing Vive la République!

Plate 7 is a “Soireé,” in which the peculiarities of Parisian sociability are humorously sketched. All the countenances are especially French. The prominent group is that of two little awkward-looking specimens of imperial noblesse who are making love upon a chaise-lougue. The options of Mrs. Trollope are quite orthodox in the matter of hereditary grace. Some of her good things upon this topic we must be allowed to quote, for the sake of their point, without being responsible for their philosophy.

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Plate 8 is “Le roi citoyen.” He is represented as a well-looking, portly, middle-aged man, of somewhat dignified appearance. His dress differs from that of any common citizen only by a small tri-colored cockade in the hat, and he walks quite at his leisure with one hand clenching a rough-looking stick, and the other thrust in his breeches-pocket. A republican, habited in full Robespierrian costume, is advancing towards him with a very deliberate air, and eyeing him nonchalantly through a lorgnon.

Plate 9 is entitled “Prétres de la Jeune France.” The flowing curls, the simple round hat, the pantaloons, &c. give them the appearance of a race of men as unlike as possible to their stiff and primitive predecessors. [page 21:] They look flourishing, and well pleased with themselves and the world about them: but little of mortification or abstinence can be traced on their countenances; and if they do fast for some portion of every week, they may certainly say with Father Philip, that “what they take prospers with them marvellously.”

Plate 10 is the “Boulevard des Italiens,” with a view of Tortoni's. The main group is “a very pretty woman and a very pretty man,” who are seated on two chairs close together and flirting much to their own satisfaction, as well as to the utter amazement and admiration of a young urchin of a Savoyard, or professor of the “gaie science,” who, forgetting the use of his mandoline, gazes with open mouth and eyes at the enamored pair. To the right is seen an exquisite of the first water promenading with an air of ineffable grace, and deliberately occupied in combing his luxuriant tresses.

Plate 11 is called “V’la les restes de notre révolution de Juillet!” and like all the other engravings in the volume is admirable in its design, and especially in its expression. In the back ground are seen the monuments erected at the Marché des Innocens over some revolutionary heroes, who fell here and were buried near the fountain, on the 29th July 1830. A mechanic leans against a rail and is haranguing with great energy a young girl and a little boy, who listen to him with profound attention. His theme is evidently the treatment of the prisoners at the Luxembourg. We cannot too highly praise the exquisite piquancy of the whole of these designs.

In conclusion, we recommend Paris and the Parisians to all lovers of fine writing, and vivacious humor. It is impossible not to be highly amused with the book [page 22:] — and there is by no means any necessity for giving a second thought to the political philosophies of Madame Trollope.





[S:1 - JAH09, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of Paris and the Parisians in 1835)