페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

deducing therefrom this and that result, developing thoughts and emotions, and clothing them in stirring words. I see them asking of the past, anxiously observing the present, and even striving to penetrate the future. I see them conversing in the salons, wrangling at the street's corner, discussing in the public gardens. I see them weighing and comparing, believing and doubting, fearing and hoping; now damning men and now measures ; ferreting out motives ; examining institutions, political, social, and industrial ; testing the elements of individual and national progress; looking into any and every sphere of Parisian life; criticising authors, criticising dramas; with equal grace denouncing, now a minister and now an opera ; at one' moment applauding France as the home of all liberty and honor, and again reviling her as the unworthy heir of whatever was worthless and inglorious in the past. Why all this intellectual agitation ? To feed the Parisian press. These are the various minds which, standing behind that press, do all its head-work. They are its intellectual purveyors. In this age they have a busy and a toilsome vocation. They are engaged to supply a press, up to which hurry each day some millions of hungry beings for their mental ali. ment. How could your Parisian live without such banqueting as this ? He must have it at all hours, and in all situations. He sits and reads, he walks and reads, he talks and reads. Not for the world would he take his morning coffee and omelette, without a newspaper.

Does he dine at a restaurant ?

The garçon

brings to him his potage à la julienne in one hand, and a journal du soir in the other. Thence retiring to the theatre, does he, like your Englishman, waste his time between the acts in leering about the house, and fingering a barren play bill? No. A half dozen voices are shouting through the boxes and the pit, 6 • Demandez l’Entr'acte '— Voila le Courrier des Théatres, trois sous.' Paying the three sous, he seats himself quietly to read not merely a score of waggish causeries, and criticisms about the amusements of his great metropolis, but likewise scraps of the latest political, literary and artistical news. How heavily would drag the intervals without a gazette or an entr'acte! The newspaper is to him as indispensable, as are the actor and the play.

Walk through the Boulevards at any hour of the evening.

Circled about this and that corner, shall you see lamps in half a dozen transparent stands, on whose outside you read the names of evening journals. In the midst of these lights is a woman.

In her highest key she screams out, “Journal des Tribunaux, Journal du Soir;' and she sells them, each and rapidly, for five sous.

Now take a turn in the garden of the Palais-Royal. At either end are little isolated boutiques, shaped not unlike a Chinese pagoda. A dame is seated in the centre of each. She is almost barri. cadoed about, by journals old and new. She loans them out to this and that news-reader. He pays one sous for looking through a single paper; if he double the sum, he may read her entire collection. Twenty

[ocr errors]

a

gentlemen are lounging leisurely about the garden, the

eyes of each fixed fast upon the sheet before him. The scene is renewed to you wandering through the gardens of the Tuileries. Thence direct your steps to the Quai Voltaire, and the Quai aux Fleurs. What quantities of reading matter, of the antique and of the new, are distributed here and there over the pavements ! Fifty volumes on all subjects, and of all sizes, and each sold for ten sous, prix fixe. But you can go through hardly one of the great streets of Paris, without seeing half a dozen times, the words, Salon de Lecture. These salons are the great central resorts of Parisian news-readers. Pausing before one of them, you perceive its windows quite covered with the names of forty or fifty journals to be found within. You enter. It is filled. Every seat is occupied, and you are compelled to add another to the dozen standing readers. Paying three francs, you may frequent this salon for a month. Would you enjoy only a single sitting, you pay therefor three sous. Nothing can equal the silent, solemn eagerness with which intelligence is here devoured. But mark that ancient gentleman: he is just entering. How graceful is the bow which he inclines to yonder lady, seated behind her desk, in neat white cap and sleek kid gloves, the gently presiding divinity of the salon. He takes off his coat and hat, hanging them each upon a peg in the vicinity of the chair, which a departing gentleman happens to leave vacant for him. He takes out his spectacles, wipes them slowly, and having placed a snuff-box at his right

But this gen

hand, begins the first column of the Quotidienne. He is an habitué of this salon. He will sit you yonder for four hours together, poring over periodicals and taking snuff. He perused three gazettes while at his breakfast ; he proposes to enjoy several evening journals at his dinner, and at the theatre he will regale himself upon the Corsair and the little Gazette de Paris. This gentleman is the type of thousands. There are other classes. There are those who read periodicals because they have nothing else to do; others because they would know the state of the age in general, and of Paris in particular; and others because they rejoice to be in the fashion. tleman reads mostly because it is his habit. From some motive or other, however, all read the journals. The time has gone by when the Parisians might be called peculiarly a talking people; they have become a community of readers; and their reading too goes beyond the periodicals. There are, at this moment, ten public libraries open in Paris. These libraries are each day thronged.

This Press is indeed mighty in revealing the opinions, the tastes, the feelings, the interests of the age. It is still mightier in shaping those sentiments and interests. Of them, it is at the same time an effect and a cause.

Its power is what it should be. It has great causes to advance, great destinies to influence. It is the press of one of the two vast European cen. tres. Each day, it heaves a new intellectual wave upon the mind of France. By it, is that mind surged about whithersoever it please. What shall we believe in politics, in philosophy, in literature ? Thousands of these unsubstantial men ask this question, and these thousands are willing to be governed by answers from the press. The Parisian Press builds up, and it pulls down. It builds up systems, and beliefs, and dynasties, and it pulls them down. Journalism is the King of Kings-Louis Philippe merely reigns; Journalism governs. The French have not passed out from their old character. Now, as in the days of Rousseau, and Voltaire, and Condillac, and Diderot, writings work strange miracles upon their opinions and their conduct. But a month since, two youthful lovers in the southern parts of the kingdom, poetically destroyed themselves, leaving a written declaration that they had so done to realize the happy fate of a hero and a heroine of whom they had lately read. The monster Fieschi deposed, “quand il-y-avait un peu solides dans un journal, Pepin me les montrait.' Alibaud had studied too deeply for himself the works of Camille Desmoulins; and Meunier, the last assailant of the life of Louis Philippe, yesterday declared that he imbibed a strong hatred of the Orleans family, from having much read Anquetil's History of France.

A movement in Paris has been a necessary prologue to movements in all the great cities and villages of the ki Paris alone achieves revolutions now. Her press is adequate to such results. The Departmental Press can count but three hundred and fifty-one journals. To this number have they increased since the

[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »