October 10, 1889

October 10th, 1889.

We went to Versailles last week and spent the day. It being 14 miles away we took the train (2nd class, 1st class being just twice as much) and reached there in time for breakfast, after which we took a cab which a young officer found for us.    I hesitated thinking it very unkind should he be poor not to give him anything as he had been so much trouble for us, I reluctantly offered it. To my chagrin he politely bowed, tipped his hat and walked off. It reminded me of Miss. Crocher’s experience when she offered a fee to a Count.    We drove about a half mileto Verseilles palace. As we drove up, the size and magnificence of the mass of stone completely appalled us.   The enormous court in front, then the main center ofthe palace with immense wings in each side projecting towards the  entrance in this way.  Louis X1V w s the originator.  He purchased 60 miles of ground and began this stupendous piece of work in 1660, which cost the French government over two hundred millions of dollars and was the direct cause of the 1st Revolution.   That is the original cost and the amount continually expended to keep it up. We went into the main hall or corridor on first floor, passed directly in the gallery of statuary.  This is filled with statues in marble of the noted kings, queens, generals, statesmen of France. A beautiful one of Joan of Arc was most pathetic.   We passed thro gh to the galleries of paintings,successively  picturing the whole history of France from Clovis and Charlemagne down.  One could almost tell the history of this nation had they never read a word, from these pictures. The Crusades under St. Louis 1X occupy a whole room and front of another. The taking of Constantinople by Horace Vernit is a magnificent picture and immense in size.   The wars of Napoleon are pictured by dozens of immense pictures perfectly magnificent.   In each one he is the same magnetic, solitary man communing with himself.   We passed on to the left wing, came to what is called “Salle del Opera” the theater of the kings decorated with chandeliers.   Near here is another gallery of busts and statues of the principal men and women of France up to the 17th century.   On the next floor we see again historical paintings of history up to the Revolutionary of 1830 and then we entered the grand apartments occupied by the various kings and queens from Louis X1V down to Napoleon 111.  We passed through one after the other, dozens it seems to me all called by their names, “Salon de Marie”, Salon de Venus” etc.   Those on the north were the kings which open into each other, and into the throne room.   The Emperor Napoleon 111 opened a brilliant ball in this room with Queen Victoria in a quadrille.   It is immense, and the marble and gilt decorations surpass all imagination, but we were to be still more amazed and delighted as we passed out of this room through the “Salo n Guerre” and “Salon de la Prex” into the gallery of Louis X1V, the most splendid room in the world, 243 ft long, 43 ft high and 35 f  broad.   The ceiling is beautifully frescoed and the walls ornamented marble, pictures, statues etc.  Near and adjoining this gallery are the private reserved apartments of the King L uis XV where he received du Barry and Pompadore.  From this we passed into the bed-room of Louis X1V, the gem of the palace. We saw the bed on which this king died.  On the ceiling is a painting by Paul Veroncu which was taken from Doges palace in Florence by Napoleon 1st.   We passed through to the rooms occupied successively by the queens of all the Louis’.   The room where Marie Antoinette was asleep when the mob came out from Paris, where one of her children were born, through to the queens state apartments, coming round the left wing down stairs we came into the gallery del Empire containing pictures, busts and statues of the Napoleon family.  The “Gallery des Bastiles” is 400 ft long and has pictures of all the great battles of France from the V to X1X century, out of this is “Salle de 1830” illustrating the Revolution, out of this is a room filled with t e historical portraits , among them Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk.  Then follows a room devoted to pictures of royal residences, then a series of 14 rooms filled with portraits of warriors of Frances; then follows the gallery of the kings if France, containg all the kings from Pharomond down to Louis Phillipi.  We then went to the top story and found busts of modern prominent people, George Sand, Rasseau, Voltaire etc. A life sized picture of du Barry and his [corrected to “her” in pencil] children tucked off in one corner.   The French are anything but proud of these second wives of the Louis’, and no mention is made of them in all this display.

We went out into the gardens and Jennie and I nearly went wild All we could say was Oh Lord; Oh Lord;Sixty miles of ground laid out in the most artistic manner.   We walked instead of riding wh which we now regret, and over the space we went we counted twelve fountains.  The largest of these is called Neptune and cost $300000 and is only played on great occasions at an expense of $2000 on each occasion.  The walks the groves, the statuary and flowers surpass all description and I will only say that we were more and more wild with delight with every step.  Walks and drives radiate in every direction from the fountains and one wide avenue leads to theTrianon” two miles away, but we had not time to visit it. It was the country palace of the kings, where Marie Antoinette dressed like a dairy maid and made butter, idling and trifling away the time when the French people were groaning under the awful oppression and taxes which exasperated them into the Revolution of 1789. I have just finished reading it and a new interest is added to everything.  I see and read.

[The typewriter was having some problems in this entry and there are a number of words where a letter is missing. The original typist also made a number of errors.]

[Versailles’ English-language site is here. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site; their page on Versailles includes a lovely photo gallery. Google Cultural Institute has a fairly extensive page on the Palace and Park of Versailles, including old photos, online exhibitions, and the ability to virtually drop into Google Maps’ “street view.”]

[This lengthy entry took me so long to fully transcribe, proof, and research that over the course of this time I went to Peabody Essex Museum, wherein I saw one of the ornamental butter churns that Marie Antoinette used when she and her courtiers pretended to be dairy maids as per this entry. As far as I can determine, the ornamental churn does not appear to be on the museum’s site.]


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Sunday, October 13, 1889 | Addie's Sojourn

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