[Emily Henderson, Recollections of the Public Career and Private We of the Late John Adolphus, London, 1871, pp. 118-119]
"We all went this morning to the Cimetiere of Pere la Chaise, the celebrated burial ground, where everything ancient and modern that can be laid hands on is brought together for a. show. The ground is said to contain 80 acres, and is on the ascent of a hill, so that tombs above tombs rise in ranks, and as they are mostly planted with firs, shrubs, and flowers, the effect of these mixed with mausoleums, columns, and -other memorials of death, is exceedingly pretty; and if the sole business of those who inter the dead is to make their burial place look pretty, and to allure people to it as a gazing place, the French have indeed succeeded to a miracle.
"When I walk through the aisles of Westminster Abbey, of St. Paul's, of Canterbury, and other cathedrals and ancient churches, and see the structures raised in honour of the illustrious dead; when I read their histories, recorded in an imperishable language, and see their effigies sculptured in an attitude of devotion, or surrounded by some of the host of heaven, my heart warms with the recollection of their famous acts, and melts in sympathy with those pious friends who, in commemorating their worth, have not forgotten to express the hope of their everlasting welfare in a better world. Even when in a more humble churchyard I perceive the frail memorials raised by unlettered humanity, the rhyme uncouth, the 'shapeless sculpture,' and the' many a holy text,' are so apposite to the situation that I feel as a son towards the aged 'forefathers of the hamlet,' and as a brother or parent toward the young. They are buried as a family; the almost universal description is 'of this parish,' and they all profess the hope of meeting again in a joyful resurrection. But in this strange raree-show of death the tomb of Abelard greets you here, those of Boileau, Moliere, and Racine there. Here a warrior who fought at Fontenoy, and continued fighting till 1793; there an insignificant tomb, guarded with heavy chains, denotes the resting place of a shopkeeper who died worth a great deal of money. All these concur in a general contempt of religion, for not one in a hundred condescends to say 'resurgam,' but as many as have any wit or fancy try to surprise you into a stare, or tickle you into a laugh. A lady inscribes on a tomb, 'To my best friend, my husband.' Another,' Alexander to his mother.' Alexander! What Alexander-the Great? the Coppersmith? or who? Find it out, says the tombstone. Another commemorates, ' Zenobia and Zoe.' 'Pray, sir,' said I to a French artisan, who had asked me a question about the inscription, 'were these young ladies your daughters or mine?' The man stared as if struck with a new idea. ' Why to be sure,' he said, ' they ought to have put their nom de fami1le.'
"Many of the tombs are very pretty, and some yet unfinished seemed well suited to their purpose, and to promise long duration, but the general air of the place was to me heathenish or worse. I could not help thinking that if Gobet could again be Bishop of Paris, and Hebert, Chaumette, and the rest of the Cordeliers again succeed in abolishing the belief in God, the proprietors of this cemetery would have little to do beside inscribing on the portal, ' Death is an eternal sleep,' to bring it quite to the level of the day.
"Paris is seen to great advantage from Pere la Chaise, but no distant view of it affords much pleasure. From this spot its white walls, standing in an arid plain, form a continuation of the burying-place, and so require little aid of fancy to blend the mansions of the living with the receptacles of the dead.
["PERE LA CHAISE," in Personal Sketches of His Own Times, volume II, 1827, by Sir Jonah Barrington, pp. 432-35]
The visitor of Paris will find it both curious and interesting to contrast with these another receptacle for the dead - the cemetery of Pere la Chaise. It is strange that there should exist amongst the same people, in the same city, and almost in the same vicinity - two Golgothas in their nature so utterly dissimilar and repugnant from each other.
The soft and beautiful features of landscape which characterise Pere la Chaise are scarcely describable: so harmoniously are they blended together,-so sacred does the spot appear to quiet contemplation and hopeful repose,that it seems almost profanation to attempt to submit its charms in detail before the reader's eye. All in fact that I had ever read about it fell, as in the case of the catacombs - ("alike, but ah, how different!") far short of the reality.
I have wandered whole mornings together over its winding paths and venerable avenues. Here are no "ninety steps" of descent to gloom and horror: on the contrary, a gradual ascent leads to the cemetery of Pere la Chaise, and to its enchanting summit, on every side shaded by brilliant evergreens. The straight lofty cypress and spreading cedar uplift themselves around, and the arbutus exposing all its treasure of deceptive berries. In lieu of the damp mouldering scent exhaled by three millions of human skeletons, we are presented with the fragrant perfume of jessamines and of myrtles-of violet beds or variegated flower-plats decked out by the ministering hand of love or duty; as if benignant nature had spread her most splendid carpet to cover, conceal, and render alluring even the abode of death.
Whichever way we turn, the labours of art combine with the luxuriance of vegetation to raise in the mind new reflections: marble, in all its varieties of shade and grain, is wrought by the hand of man into numerous bewitching shapes; whilst one of the most brilliant and cheerful cities in the universe seems to lie, with its wooded boulevards, gilded domes, palaces, gardens, and glittering waters, just beneath our feet. One sepulchre, alone, of a decidedly mournful character, attracted my notice :-a large and solid mausoleum, buried amidst gloomy yews and low drooping willows; and this looked only like a patch on the face of loveliness. Pere la Chaise presents a solitary instance of the abode of the dead ever interesting me in an agreeable way.
I will not remark on the well-known tomb of Abelard and Eloisa: a hundred pens have anticipated me in most of the observations I should be inclined to make respecting that celebrated couple. The most obvious circumstance in their "sad story" always struck me as being -- that he turned priest when he was good for nothing else, and she became "quite correct" when opportunities for the reverse began to slacken. They no doubt were properly qualified to make very respectable saints: but since they took care previously to have their fling, I cannot say much for their morality.
I am not sure that a burial-place similar to Pere la Chaise would be admired in England: it is almost of too picturesque and sentimental a character. The humbler orders of the English people are too coarse to appreciate the peculiar feeling such a cemetery is calculated to excite: the higher orders too licentious; the trading classes too avaricious. The plum-holder of the city would very honestly and frankly "d--n all your nonsensical sentiment!" I heard one of these gentlemen, last year, declare that what poets and such-like called sentiment was neither more nor less than deadly poison to the Protestant religion!