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The innocents abroad, or, The new Pilgrim's progress

being some account of the steamship Quaker City's pleasure excursion to Europe and the Holy land ; with descriptions of countries, nations, incidents and adventures, as they appeared to the author






VERSAILLES! It is wonderfully beautiful! You gaze,
and stare, and try to understand that it is real, that it
is on the earth, that it is not the Garden of Eden—but your
brain grows giddy, stupefied by the world of beauty around
you, and you half believe you are the dupe of an exquisite
dream. The scene thrills one like military music! A noble
palace, stretching its ornamented front block upon block away,
till it seemed that it would never end; a grand promenade
before it, whereon the armies of an empire might parade; all
about it rainbows of flowers, and colossal statues that were
almost numberless, and yet seemed only scattered over the
ample space; broad flights of stone steps leading down from
the promenade to lower grounds of the park—stairways that
whole regiments might stand to arms upon and have room to
spare; vast fountains whose great bronze effigies discharged
rivers of sparkling water into the air and mingled a hundred
curving jets together in forms of matchless beauty; wide grass-carpeted
avenues that branched hither and thither in every
direction and wandered to seemingly interminable distances,
walled all the way on either side with compact ranks of leafy
trees whose branches met above and formed arches as faultless
and as symmetrical as ever were carved in stone; and here
and there were glimpses of sylvan lakes with miniature ships
glassed in their surfaces. And every where—on the palace
steps, and the great promenade, around the fountains, among
the trees, and far under the arches of the endless avenues, hundreds


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[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 154. In-line Illustration. Image of a fountain in the moonlight. The caption reads, "FOUNTAIN AT VERSAILLES."] and hundreds of people in gay costumes walked or ran
or danced, and gave to the fairy picture the life and animation
which was all of perfection it could have lacked.

It was worth a pilgrimage to see. Every thing is on so
gigantic a scale. Nothing is small—nothing is cheap. The
statues are all large; the palace is grand; the park covers a
fair-sized county; the avenues are interminable. All the
distances and all the dimensions about Versailles are vast. I
used to think the pictures exaggerated these distances and
these dimensions beyond all reason, and that they made Versailles
more beautiful than it was possible for any place in the
world to be. I know now that the pictures never came up to
the subject in any respect, and that no painter could represent
Versailles on canvas as beautiful as it is in reality. I used to
abuse Louis XIV. for spending two hundred millions of dollars
in creating this marvelous park, when bread was so scarce


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with some of his subjects; but I have forgiven him now. He
took a tract of land sixty miles in circumference and set to
work to make this park and build this palace and a road to it
from Paris. He kept 36,000 men employed daily on it, and
the labor was so unhealthy that they used to die and be hauled
off by cart-loads every night. The wife of a nobleman of the
time speaks of this as an “inconvenience,” but naively remarks
that “it does not seem worthy of attention in the happy state
of tranquillity we now enjoy.”

I always thought ill of people at home, who trimmed their
shrubbery into pyramids, and squares, and spires, and all
manner of unnatural shapes, and when I saw the same thing
being practiced in this great park I began to feel dissatisfied.
But I soon saw the idea of the thing and the wisdom of it.
They seek the general effect. We distort a dozen sickly trees
into unaccustomed shapes in a little yard no bigger than a
dining-room, and then surely they look absurd enough. But
here they take two hundred thousand tall forest trees and set
them in a double row; allow no sign of leaf or branch to grow
on the trunk lower down than six feet above the ground;
from that point the boughs begin to project, and very gradually
they extend outward further and further till they meet
overhead, and a faultless tunnel of foliage is formed. The arch
is mathematically precise. The effect is then very fine. They
make trees take fifty different shapes, and so these quaint effects
are infinitely varied and picturesque. The trees in no two avenues
are shaped alike, and consequently the eye is not fatigued
with any thing in the nature of monotonous uniformity. I will
drop this subject now, leaving it to others to determine how
these people manage to make endless ranks of lofty forest
trees grow to just a certain thickness of trunk (say a foot and
two-thirds;) how they make them spring to precisely the same
height for miles; how they make them grow so close together;
how they compel one huge limb to spring from the same
identical spot on each tree and form the main sweep of the
arch; and how all these things are kept exactly in the same
condition, and in the same exquisite shapeliness and symmetry


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month after month and year after year—for I have tried to
reason out the problem, and have failed.

We walked through the great hall of sculpture and the one
hundred and fifty galleries of paintings in the palace of Versailles,
and felt that to be in such a place was useless unless
one had a whole year at his disposal. These pictures are all
battle-scenes, and only one solitary little canvas among them
all treats of anything but great French victories. We wandered,
also, through the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon,
those monuments of royal prodigality, and with histories so
mournful—filled, as it is, with souvenirs of Napoleon the First,
and three dead Kings and as many Queens. In one sumptuous
bed they had all slept in succession, but no one occupies it
now. In a large dining-room stood the table at which Louis
XIV. and his mistress, Madame Maintenon, and after them
Louis XV., and Pompadour, had sat at their meals naked and
unattended—for the table stood upon a trap-door, which descended
with it to regions below when it was necessary
to replenish its dishes. In a room of the Petit Trianon stood
the furniture, just as poor Marie Antoinette left it when the
mob came and dragged her and the King to Paris, never to
return. Near at hand, in the stables, were prodigious carriages
that showed no color but gold—carriages used by former Kings
of France on state occasions, and never used now save when a
kingly head is to be crowned, or an imperial infant christened.
And with them were some curious sleighs, whose bodies were
shaped like lions, swans, tigers, etc.—vehicles that had once
been handsome with pictured designs and fine workmanship,
but were dusty and decaying now. They had their history.
When Louis XIV. had finished the Grand Trianon, he told
Maintenon he had created a Paradise for her, and asked if she
could think of any thing now to wish for. He said he wished
the Trianon to be perfection—nothing less. She said she
could think of but one thing—it was summer, and it was
balmy France—yet she would like well to sleigh-ride in the
leafy avenues of Versailles! The next morning found miles
and miles of grassy avenues spread thick with snowy salt and


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sugar, and a procession of those quaint sleighs waiting to
receive the chief concubine of the gayest and most unprincipled
court that France has ever seen!

From sumptuous Versailles, with its palaces, its statues, its
gardens and its fountains, we journeyed back to Paris and
sought its antipodes—the Faubourg St. Antoine. Little, narrow
streets; dirty children blockading them; greasy, slovenly
women capturing and spanking them; filthy dens on first
floors, with rag stores in them (the heaviest business in the
Faubourg is the chiffonier's;) other filthy dens where whole
suits of second and third-hand clothing are sold at prices that
would ruin any proprietor who did not steal his stock; still
other filthy dens where they sold groceries—sold them by the
half-pennyworth—five dollars would buy the man out, goodwill
and all. Up these little crooked streets they will murder
a man for seven dollars and dump the body in the Seine.
And up some other of these streets—most of them, I should
say—live lorettes.

All through this Faubourg St. Antoine, misery, poverty,
vice and crime go hand in hand, and the evidences of it stare
one in the face from every side. Here the people live who
begin the revolutions. Whenever there is anything of that
kind to be done, they are always ready. They take as much
genuine pleasure in building a barricade as they do in cutting
a throat or shoving a friend into the Seine. It is these savage-looking
ruffians who storm the splendid halls of the Tuileries,
occasionally, and swarm into Versailles when a King is to be
called to account.

But they will build no more barricades, they will break no
more soldiers' heads with paving-stones. Louis Napoleon has
taken care of all that. He is annihilating the crooked streets,
and building in their stead noble boulevards as straight as an
arrow—avenues which a cannon ball could traverse from end
to end without meeting an obstruction more irresistible than
the flesh and bones of men—boulevards whose stately edifices
will never afford refuges and plotting-places for starving, discontented
revolution-breeders. Five of these great thorough


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fares radiate from one ample centre—a centre which is exceedingly
well adapted to the accommodation of heavy artillery.
The mobs used to riot there, but they must seek another rallying-place
in future. And this ingenious Napoleon paves the
streets of his great cities with a smooth, compact composition
of asphaltum and sand. No more barricades of flag-stones—
no more assaulting his Majesty's troops with cobbles. I can
not feel friendly toward my quondam fellow-American, Napoleon
III., especially at this time,[1] when in fancy I see his
credulous victim, Maximilian, lying stark and stiff in Mexico,
and his maniac widow watching eagerly from her French
asylum for the form that will never come—but I do admire
his nerve, his calm self-reliance, his shrewd good sense.


July, 1867.