Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands - Volume 2 - By Harriet Beecher Stowe


Music is a far better test, moreover, on such a point, than painting,
for just where painting is weakest, namely - Page 50
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Music Is A Far Better Test, Moreover, On Such A Point, Than Painting, For Just Where Painting Is Weakest, Namely, In The Expression Of The Highest Moral And Spiritual Ideas, There Music Is Most Sublimely Strong.

Altogether this morning in the painter's studio was one of the most agreeable we ever spent.

But what shall I say then of the evening in a _salon musicale_; with the first violoncello playing in the world, and the Princess Czartoryski at the piano? We were invited at eight, but it was nine before we entered our carriage. We arrived at the hotel of Mrs. Erskine, a sister of Lord Dundalk, and found a very select party. There were chairs and sofas enough for all without crowding.

There was Frankomm of the Conservatoire, with his Stradivarius, an instrument one hundred and fifty years old, which cost six thousand dollars. There was his son, a little lad of twelve, who played almost as well as his father. I wish F. and M. could have seen this. He was but a year older than F., and yet played with the most astonishing perfection. Among other things the little fellow performed a _morceau_ of his own composition, which was full of pathos, and gave tokens of uncommon ability. His father gave us sonatas of Mozart, Chopin, &c., and a _polonaise_. The Princess Czartoryski accompanied on the piano with extraordinary ability.

That was an evening to be remembered a lifetime. One heard, probably, the best music in the world of its kind, performed under prepared circumstances, the most perfectly adapted to give effect. There was no whispering, no noise. All felt, and heard, and enjoyed. I conversed with the princess and with Frankomm. The former speaks English, the latter none. I interpreted for H., and she had quite a little conversation with him about his son, and about music. She told him she hoped the day was coming when art would be consecrated to express the best and purest emotions of humanity. He had read Uncle Tom; and when he read it he exclaimed, "This is genuine Christianity" - "_Ceci est la vraie Christianisme!_"

The attentions shown to H. were very touching and agreeable. There is nothing said or done that wearies or oppresses her. She is made to feel perfectly free, at large, at ease; and the regard felt for her is manifested in a way so delicate, so imperceptibly fine and considerate, that she is rather strengthened by it than exhausted. This is owing, no doubt, to the fact that we came determined to be as private as possible, and with an explicit understanding with Mrs. C. to that effect. Instead of trying to defeat her purpose, and force her into publicity, the few who know of her presence seem to try to help her carry it out, and see how much they can do for her, consistently therewith.

Tuesday, June 14. To-day we dined at six P. M., and read till nine. Then drove to an evening _salon_ - quite an early little party at Mrs. Putnam's. Saw there Peter Parley and La Rochejaquelin, the only one of the old nobility that joined Louis Napoleon. Peter Parley is consul no longer, it seems. We discussed the empire a very little. "To be, or not to be, that is the question." Opinions are various as the circles. Every circle draws into itself items of information, that tend to indicate what it wishes to be about to happen. Still, Peter Parley and I, and some other equally cautious people, think that _this_ cannot always last. By _this_, of course, we mean this "thing" - this empire, so called. Sooner or later it must end in revolution; and then what? Said a gentleman the other day, "Nothing holds him up but fear of the RED." [Footnote: That is, fear of the Red Republicans.]

After chatting a while, Weston and I slipped out, and drove to the Jardin Mabille, a garden in the Champs Elysees, whither thousands go every night. We entered by an avenue of poplars and other trees and shrubs, so illuminated by jets of gas sprinkled amongst the foliage as to give it the effect of enchantment. It was neither moonlight nor daylight, but a kind of spectral aurora, that made every thing seem unearthly.

As we entered the garden, we found flower beds laid out in circles, squares, lozenges, and every conceivable form, with diminutive jets of gas so distributed as to imitate flowers of the softest tints, and the most perfect shape. This, too, seemed unearthly, weird. We seemed, in an instant, transported into some Thalaba's cave, infinitely beyond the common sights and sounds of every-day life. In the centre of these grounds there is a circle of pillars, on the top of each of which is a pot of flowers, with gas jets, and between them an arch of gas jets. This circle is very large. In the midst of it is another circle, forming a pavilion for musicians, also brilliantly illuminated, and containing a large cotillion band of the most finished performers.

Around this you find thousands of gentlemen and ladies strolling singly, in pairs, or in groups. There could not be less than three thousand persons present. While the musicians repose, they loiter, sauntering round, or recline on seats.

But now a lively waltz strikes the ear. In an instant twenty or thirty couples are whirling along, floating, like thistles in the wind, around the central pavilion. Their feet scarce touch the smooth-trodden earth. Round and round, in a vortex of life, beauty, and brilliancy they go, a whirlwind of delight. Eyes sparkling, cheeks flushing, and gauzy draperies floating by; while the crowds outside gather in a ring, and watch the giddy revel. There are countless forms of symmetry and grace, faces of wondrous beauty, both among the dancers and among the spectators.

There, too, are feats of agility and elasticity quite aerial. One lithe and active dancer grasped his fair partner by the waist.

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