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Saturday, February 28, 2015

"A Woman's First Impressions of Europe," by Mrs. E. A. Forbes, 1863

["A Woman's First Impressions of Europe," by Mrs. E. A. Forbes, 1863]
 
Oct. 31. Visited Pere la Chaise, which, apart from the fact of its having been the first city cemetery beyond the churchyard burial places in the midst of the population, and its affording a noble view of Paris, possesses less interest than most cemeteries. The largest and most elaborate of the monuments is that of the Russian princess Demidoff; the one most worthy of a pilgrimage is the small temple, where lie side by side, unworthy conjunction, the effigies of Abelard and the unhappy Heloise.

Most of the monuments consist of small chapels, like boxes, in close contiguity, within which are hung garlands of immortelles, and sometimes of beads. Sometimes beautiful natural flowers stand in pots upon the little altar, and more frequently bouquets of artificial flowers supply their place. The French taste is, for many reasons, more successful in behalf of the living than of the dead, and the cemetery is a stiff one.

The most touching of all the resting places, to me, was a small plot, enclosed by an iron railing, with a hedge - without monument or inscription. By careful inspection one finds, rudely scratched upon the gate, as if by the point of a nail-Ney. It is a text for a volume of sermons.

We looked into the Jews' burial ground, which seems beautifully kept, with a quiet, un-Frenchy seclusion-the monument of Rachel is near its entrance. We saw the tombs of various French authors, and the statue of Casimir Perier, but found an hour or two in the streets of the necropolis a sufficient type of the whole.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Guyot - division 25 Pere-Lachaise

1817 Arnaud

1817 Arnaud

1817 Arnaud

1821 Jolimont

1826 Saint-Aubin

1832 Quaglia

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pere-Lachaise described by John Adolphus, 1820

[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.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Père Lachaise. Rain" by Robert Steadman

Sit back, listen to this quiet piano and imagine you're strolling the chemins of Pere-Lachaise, alone, at peace.


Alphonse Daudet in division 26


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lenoir-Dufresne - division 25 Pere-Lachaise

1821 Jolimont

1826 Saint-Aubin

1840 Marty

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pere-Lachaise described by Sir Jonah Barrington, 1827

["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!


Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Cemetery of Pere La Chaise, in The New Monthly, 1825

["The Cemetery of Pere La Chaise," 1822 The New Monthly, pp. 155-59]

I am half disposed to admit the assertion of a lively authoress, that the French are a grave people, and absolutely determined upon contradicting the received opinion in England, that in the volatility of their character their sympathies, however easily excited, are generally evanescent; and that the claims of kindred or friendship, so far from awakening any permanent sensibility, are quickly superseded by the paramount dominion of frivolity and amusement. Let any man who is laboring under this mistaken impression pay a visit to the Cemetery of Pere La Chaise; and if he do not hate France more than falsehood, he will admit that in the precincts of this beautiful and affecting spot there is not only a more striking assemblage of tasteful decoration and appropriate monumental sculpture, but more pervading evidences of deep, lingering, heart-rending affection for the dead than could be paralleled in England or any other country of Europe. The tombs elsewhere seem to be monuments of oblivion, not remembrance – they designate spots to be avoided, not visited, unless by the idle curiosity of strangers; here they seem built up with the heart as well as with the hands; -- they are hallowed by the frequent presence of sorrowing survivors, who, by various devices of ingenious and elegant offerings, still testify their grief and their respect for the departed, and keep up by these pious visitings a sort of holy communion between the living and the dead.

Never, never shall I forget the solemn, yet sweet and soothing emotions that thrilled my bosom at the first visit to Pere La Chaise. Women were in attendance as we approached the gate, offering for sale elegant crowns, crosses, and wreaths of orange blossom, xereanthemum, amaranth, and other everlasting flowers, which the mourning relatives and friends are accustomed to suspend upon the monument, or throw down upon the grave, or entwine among the shrubs with which every enclosure is decorated.

Congratulating myself that I had no such melancholy office to perform, I passed into this vast sanctuary of the dead, and found myself in a variegated and wide-spreading garden, consisting of hill and dale, redolent with flowers, and thickly planted with luxuriant shrubs and trees, from the midst of which monumental stones, columns, obelisks, pyramids, and temples shot up in such profusion that I was undecided which path to explore first, and stood some time in silent contemplation of the whole scene, which occupies a space of from sixty to eighty acres. A lofty Gothic monument on the right first claimed my attention, and on approaching it I found that it contained the tomb in which are the ashes of Abelard and Eloiosa, united at last in death, but even then denied that rest and repose to which they were strangers in their unhappy and passionate lives. Interred, after various removals, at Soissons, in the year 1120, they were transported in the year eight of the Republic from Chalons sur Saone to the Museum of French Monuments at Paris, and thence to the romantic spot which they at present occupy. We learn from the inscription, that with all his talents Abelard could not comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity, and on this account incurred the censure of [156] contemporary hierarchs. Subsequently, however, he seems to have seen the wisdom of a more accommodating faith; and having evinced his orthodoxy by the irrefutable argument of causing three figures to be sculptured upon one stone, which is still visible, being let into the side of his tomb, he was restored to confidence and protection of the church. I have seen at Paris the dilapidated house in which he is stated to have resided; and now to be standing above the very dust which once contributed to form the fine intellect and throbbing hearts of these celebrated lovers, seemed to be an annihilation of intervening centuries, throwing the mind back to that remote period when Eliosa from the “deep solitudes and awful cells” of her convent edited those love—breathing epistles which have spread through the world the fame of her unhappy attachment.

Quitting this interesting spot, a wilderness of little enclosures presented itself, almost every one profusely planted with flowers, and overshadowed by poplar, cypress, weeping willow, and arbor vitae, interspersed among the flowering shrubs and fruit trees; for the ground, before its present appropriation had been laid out as a pleasure garden. Many of the tombs were provided with a watering-pot for the refreshment of the flowers, and the majority had a stone seat for the accommodation of those who came hither to indulge in melancholy retrospection, as they stationed themselves upon the grave in which their affections were deposited. Here and there the sufferers from filial, parental, or conjugal deprivation, were seem trimming the foliage or flowers that sprung up from the remains of their kindred flesh, and as they handled the shrubs, whose roots struck down into the very grave, one could almost image that the dead stretched forth into their leafy arms from the earth to embrace once more those whom they had so fondly encircled when alive. In many instances, however, it must be confessed that this pious duty was deputed to the keepers of the ground, who for a small stipend maintained the tombs in a perpetual greenness. Some contented themselves with hanging a funeral garland on the monuments of their friends, by the number and freshness of which tributes we were enabled to judge, in some degree, of the merits of the deceased, and of the recency with which sad bosoms and glistening eyes had occupied the spot on which then stood. Some were blooming all over with these flowery offerings, while others with a single forlorn and withered chaplet, or absolutely bare, showed that their mouldering tenants had left no friends behind; or that time had wrought his usual effect, and either brought them to the same appointed house, or “steeped their senses in forgetfulness.”

In ascending the hill extensive family vaults are seen, excavated in its side in the style of the ancients, with numerous recesses for coffins, the whole enclosed by bronze gates of exquisite taste and workmanship, through which might be seen the chairs for those who wish to shut themselves up and meditate in the sepulcher which they are permanently to occupy; while the yellow wreath upon the ground, or coffin, pointed out the latest occupant of the chamber of death. Some well-known name was perpetually presenting itself to our notice. In one place we encountered the tomb of the unfortunate Laboydere, who was the first to join Napoleon when he advanced to Grenoble in 1815, and expiated his offence with his life. The spot in which the hapless Ney was deposited was shown to us, but his monument [157] has been removed. A lofty and elegant pyramid on the height bore the name of the celebrated Massena; and as we roamed about, we trod over the remains of republicans, royalists, marshals, demagogues, liberals, ultras, and many of the victors and victims of the Revolution, whose exploits and sufferings have filled our gazettes, and been familiar in our mouths for the last twenty or thirty years.

A few steps more brought us to the summit of the hill, commanding a noble view of Paris, the innumerable white buildings of which stood out with a panoramic and lucid sharpness in the deep blue of a cloudless sky, not a single wreath of smoke dimming the clearness of the view. Nothing was seen to move – a dead silence reigned around – the whole scene resembled a bright and tranquil painting.

On the highest point of the whole cemetery, under the shade of eight lime trees planted in a square, is the tomb of Frederic Mestezart, a Protestant pastor of the Church of Geneva. A French writer well observes, on the occasion of this tomb, raised in the midst of the graves of Catholics, and in the former property of one of the most cruel persecutors of Protestantism, “O the power of time, and of the revolutions which it brings in its train! A minister of Calvin reposes not far from the Charenton where the reformed religion saw its temple demolished and its preacher proscribed! He reposes in that ground where a bigoted Jesuit loved to meditate on his plans of intolerance and persecution!”

Not far from this spot is the tomb of the well-known authoress Madame Cottin, and monuments have also been lately erected to the memory of Lafontaine and Moliere. A low pyramid is the appropriate sepulcher of Volney; and at the extremity of a walk of trees, surrounded by a little garden, is the equally well adapted monument of Delille, the poet of the Gardens. Mentelle and Fourcroy repose at a little distance and in the same vicinity, beneath a square tomb of white marble, decorated with a lyre, are deposited the remains of Gretry, the celebrated composer, whose bust I had the day before seen in the garden of the Hermitage art Montmorency, once occupied by Rousseau. How refreshing to turn from the costly and luxurious memorials of many who had been the torments and scourges of their time, to these classic shades, where sleep the benefactors of the world, men who have enlightened it by their wisdom, animated it by their gaiety, or soothed it by their delightful harmonies!

Amid the tombs upon the heights a low enclosure, arched over at top to preserve it from the weather, but fenced at the sides with open wire-work, through which we observed that the whole interior surface was carefully overspread with moss, and strewed with fresh gathered white flowers, which also expanded their fragrance from vases of white porcelain, the whole arranged with exquisite neatness and care. There was no name or record but the following simple and pathetic inscription: “Fille Cherie – avec toi mes beaux jours sont passes! 5 Juin, 1819.” Above two years had elapsed since the erection of this tomb, yet whenever I subsequently visited it, which I sometimes did at an early hour, the wakeful and unwearied solicitude of maternal regret had preceded me; the moss was newly laid, the flowers appeared to be just plucked, the vases shone with unsullied whiteness, as if even the dew had been carefully wiped off. How keen and intense must have [158] been that affection which could so long survive its object, and gather fresh force even from the energy of despair!

An inscription to the memory of Eleanor MacGowan, a Scotch-woman recalled to mind the touching lines of Pope – “by foreign hands, etc.” but though we might admire the characteristic nationality, we could hardly applaud the taste which had planted this grave, as well as some others of her countrymen, with thistles. English names often startled us as we walked through the alleys of tomb-stones; and it as gratifying to find that even from these, the coarse and clumsy, though established emblems of the death’s head and marrow bones had been discarded. Obtuse, indeed must be those faculties which need such repulsive bone-writing to explain to them the perishableness of humanity.

We nowhere encountered any of the miserable doggerel which defaces our graves in England, under the abused name of poetry; and, in fact, poetic inscriptions of any sort were extremely rare. Some may assign this to the want of poetical genius in the French, but it might be certainly more charitable, and possibly more just, to attribute it to the sincerity of their regrets; for I doubt whether the lacerated bosom, in the first burst of its grief, has ever any disposition to dally with the Muses. A softened heart may seek solace in such effusions, but not an agonized one. Some rhyming epitaphs were, however visible. Under the name of the well known Regnault de St. Jean d’Angely these lines were inscribed.

Francois, de son dernier soupir Il a salue la patrie; Un meme jour a vu finir Ses maux, son exil, et sa vie.

And a very handsome monument to the memory of an artist, in bronze and gold, named Ravrio, informs us that he was the author also of numerous fugitive pieces, to prevent his following which into oblivion, his bust, well executed in bronze, surmounts his tomb; and the following verses give us a little insight into his character.

Un fils d’Anacreon a finis a carriere, Il est dans ce tombeau pour jamais endormi, Les enfans des beaux arts sont prives de leur frère, Les malheaureux ont perdu leur ami.”

The practice of affixing busts to tombs seems worthy of more general adoption – it identifies and individualizes the deceased and thus creates a more definable object for our sympathies. Perhaps the miniatures which we occasionally saw let into the tombstones and glazed over, attained this point more effectually, as the contrast between the bright eye and the blooming cheek above, and the fleshless skeleton below, was rendered doubly impressive. Not only is the doggerel of the English church-yard banished from Pere La Chaise, but it is undegraded by the bad spelling and ungrammatical construction which with us are so apt to awaken ludicrous ideas, where none but solemn impressions should be felt. The order by which all lapidary inscriptions must be submitted to previous inspection, though savouring somewhat of arbitrary regulation, is perhaps necessary in the present excited state of political feeling, and is doubtless the main cause of the general [159] propriety and decorum by which they are distinguished. The whole management of the place appears to be admirably conducted – decency and good order universally prevailed – not a stone scribbled over. It was impossible to avoid drawing painful comparisons between the state of the plainest tombs here, and the most elaborate in Westminster Abbey, defaced and desecrated as many of the latter are by the empty-headed puppies of the adjoining school, and the brutal violations of an uncivilized rabble. This sacred respect for the works of art is not peculiar to the Cemetery of Pere La Chaise, nor solely due to the vigilance of the police, for in the innumerable statues and sculptures with which Paris and its neighborhood abound many scattered about in solitary walks and gardens at the mercy of the public, I have never observed the smallest mutilation, nor nay indecorous scribbling. The lowest Frenchman has been familiarized with works of art until he has learnt to take a pride in them, and to this extent at least has verified the old adage, that such a feeling “emollit mores nec sinit esse feros.”

As I stood upon the hill, I saw a funeral procession slowly winding amid the trees and avenues below. Its distant effect was impressive, but, as it approached, it appeared to be strikingly deficient in that well-appointed and consistent solemnity by which the same ceremony is uniformly distinguished in England. The hearse was dirty and shabby, the mourning coaches as bad, the horses and harness worse; the coachmen in their rusty coats and cocked hats seemed to be a compound of paupers and old clothesmen; the dress of the priests had an appearance at once mean and ludicrous; the coffin was an unpainted deal box; the grave was hardly four feet deep, and the whole service was performed in a careless and unimpressive manner. Yet this was a funeral of a substantial tradesman, followed by a respectable train of mourners. Here was all the external observance, perhaps, that reason requires; but where our associations have been made conversant with a more scrupulous and dignified treatment, it is difficult to reconcile ourselves to such a slovenly mode of interment, although it may be the established system of the country. All the funerals here are in the hands of a company, who, for the privilege of burying the rich at fixed prices, contract to inhume all the poor for nothing. It is hardly to be supposed, that in such a multiplicity of tomb there are not some offensive to good taste. Many are gaudy and fantastical, dressed up with paltry figures of the Virgin and Child, and those tin and tinsel decorations which the rich in faith and poor pocket are apt to set up in Roman Catholic countries – but the generality are of a much nobler order, and I defy any candid traveler to spend a morning in the Cemetery of Pere La Chaise without feeling a higher respect for the French character, and forming a more pleasing estimate of human nature in general.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Parlez-vous Paris? no. 43 Caroline: Au cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Work on your French while you listen to Caroline talking about Pere-Lachaise.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Les Innocents fountain

This fountain is last remnant of the cemetery that was once beneath what would become Les Halles market. The market was torn down in the early 1970s to make way for an incredibly tacky underground shopping mall.



Sunday, February 01, 2015

Aboville - division 25 Pere-Lachaise

1821 Jolimont

1832 Quaglia