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The Herald changed tack promptly and gracefully, and Wikoff was ever after a welcome visitor at the White House. The Presidential mind was set at ease, until the Kansas war broke out, when The Herald faithfully represented public opinion, and warned the Administration of the folly of its course.
Count d'Orsay was evidently Wikoff's ideal, and the two men were much alike. It was d'Orsay that effected the interview between Louis Napoleon and Wikoff in 1845. The following extract from the opening pages of Wikoff's book, describing this visit, is interesting, as it is a fair specimen of the style of the Chevalier, and a fair portrait of the titled exquisite he tries to imitate. This passage is not less curious because Wikoff is just now the courteous intermediary between Louis Napoleon, ex-Emperor, and such Americans as desire to pay him their respects in his retreat at Chiselhurst:
“In passing from Philadelphia to New York, in the summer of 1845, just previous to my departure for Europe, I stopped at the princely residence of the late Joseph Bonaparte (near Bordentown), ex-King of Spain, to make mes adieux to its present owner, the young Prince de Musignano, who, having inherited
, this, along with other valuable property in this country, from his grandfather, had just arrived from Italy to take possession.
“The few brief hours to which I was limited sped rapidly in the gay society of my affable host and his intelligent companion, M. Maillard, and we had barely time to glance at the numberless and splendid objects of art and curiosity which embellished this luxurious mansion, when a servant announced the approach of the New York train.
“As I was hurrying away the Prince remarked, “You are going to France; why not make an effort to see my unfortunate cousin, Prince Louis? He will be glad, I am sure, to meet an old acquaintance, and I should be delighted, on your return, to receive personal tidings of his health, which, I am distressed to learn, is sadly deranged by his imprisonment. If you should
369 succeed, tell him * * *
And say, also, that my best wishes are with him.'
“I relate this simple circumstance because it explains in a word why I formed a resolution on the instant to get an interior view of the Citadel of Ham, if such an enterprise should prove at all compatible with the very rigid notions of political seclusion entertained by Louis Philippe and his Ministers. During my stay in London I mentioned my project to several friends of Prince Louis, who thought the idea rather quixotic, as the Government suffered no relations of any sort to be kept up with the lone captive of Ham. The late well-known refusal to allow one of his family, sojourning by permission for a few days at Paris, to visit him, was suggested as a proof of the impracticability, if not absurdity, of my hopes. There was one individual, however, whose views were more sanguine, and I was naturally more inclined to coincide with him. But there were better reasons still to rely on, whatever advice he gave. I am speaking of the far-famed Count Alfred d'Orsay, whose reputation is spread over the fashionable world of Europe and America, but whose real merits soar much beyond the frivolous accomplishments which have given him such wide celebrity. To be celebrated at all, no matter by what means, be they high or low, elevated or vulgar, talent I consider is indispensable; and to obtain the social position held at one epoch by a Beau Brummel, and, at a later, by a Count d'Orsay, nothing short of mental superiority of a high cast is requisite. This idea is fully supported, at all events, in the present instance, for I have seldom, in any rank of life, or among the higher grades of employment, encountered intellectual qualities of rarer excellence than those which distinguish a man chiefly known in the light of a vain 'carpet knight.' An elegant and fascinating man of the world he undoubtedly is. An adept in dress, easy in manners, accomplished in the conventions of the drawing-room-a science apart, made up of the dictates of good-breeding and the require
ments of etiquette-fertile in conversation, and of brilliant wit, the Count d'Orsay is certainly well-qualified to realize our visionary ideas of that paragon of whom the poet dscribes as the glass of fashion and the mould of form.' Those, however, are rather the endowments which would secure him pre-eminence in the land of his birth; for France is par excellence the land of society, and to succeed there, grace of manner and charms of mind are indispensable. But in England the case is very different; and Count d'Orsay, with all his savoir faire, would never have reached the position he has held for so many years unrivaled, without an equal skill and proficiency in those ruder but still manly accomplishments which constitute the basis of his English popularity. The best rider, the most daring sportsman, the skillful bettor, the inimitable shot, the unrivaled sparrer, these are the merits towering in English eyes, and which have made his name in England so long familiar as a household word. Of later years, abandoning these grosser occupations, he has, with that well-poised effort which never falls short of its mark, and which explains his marvelous success in all he has undertaken, given himself wholly up to art, and his productions in painting and statuary have already thrown the world of taste in commotion, and are building him a reputation which, if less sounding than that he has hitherto enjoyed, is infinitely more enviable. But to me the attractive feature of Count d'Orsay's character has always been what the promiscuous world he lives in knows nothing about, and that is, his cultivated and aspiring intellect, which, in depth and keenness, is adequate to the comprehension of the grandest questions, and capable of estimating them accurately in their nicest details. His knowledge of men and things is extensive and rare, and his criticisms overflow with point and finesse. It is little imagined by the giddy crowd around him, whose dullness is enlivened by his wit, that the showy man of fashion is a studious thinker and a careful writer, and that the moments of leisure, stolen from the gay dissipa
tions of the London world, have been devoted to the record of his impressions on life, numbering some seven volumes of manuscript. Their merit may be inferred from the glowing praise bestowed by Lord Byron on his traveling journal, written when only twenty years of age. In a word, Count d'Orsay may be
a esteemed beyond comparison the Admirable Crichton of the day, and I have cheerfully allowed myself to run into this digression concerning this remarkable person, as so enviable a chance may never offer to give the result of many years' observation of a character variously interpreted and little understood.””
Men have different tastes. Some aspire to wealth, some to high office, some to scientific fame, and others to excellence in works of charity ; but Wikoff is only happy in the society of the cultivated and the powerful. He is the Boswell of our day, who prefers to bask in the fame of others rather than in the milder radiance of his own. He must not be called mercenary. Unlike the favorites that were sunned and ripened in the smiles of Louis Napoleon, he sticks to the unfortunate Emperor. He clung to General Sickles in his darkest hour, and though he sturdily stood by James Gordon Bennett, the rich man, he was also one of his most industrious correspondents. But he never quarrels with power if he can get on peacefully. Politics make no difference with him. He was just as friendly with Lincoln as with Buchanan, and did Mr. Seward's work as faithfully as that of Louis Napoleon. One of his mottoes is never to adopt the enmities of others, but to make life pleasant, and to cultivate kindly relations with “all the world and the rest of mankind,” as President Taylor said with awkward benevolence in his first and last message to Congress.
[October 27, 1872.]
WHAT a mine of incident is such a life as that of William H. Seward! He dies at a time when at least one of his theories is practicalized. He has been pleading for reconciliation for a long time, and he dies in the midst of reconciliation. The advanced anti-slavery leader, he has always been one of the most moderate and conciliatory of men. In 1860-61, after Mr. Lincoln's election, Mr. Seward was distinguished for his efforts to keep the peace between the sections. The Southern men were violent. Wigfall thundered his anathemas; Slidell was satirical ; Toombs was threatening; Mason was dictatorialbut, obedient to Mr. Seward's counsel, the Republicans, having won the administration of the Government, were generally silent. Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, broke the bonds in December of 1860, and again in February of 1861, and bold Ben Wade, of Ohio, answered the South in the fiercest rhetoric. Mr. Lincoln surprised every body by a visit to the Hall of Congress on the 23d or 24th of February, 1861, in company with Mr. Seward, then known to be his Secretary of State, and the exceeding mildness of his inaugural address the succeeding inauguration speech of March 4-was undoubtedly inspired by Mr. Seward's counsel. He knew at an early date that Mr. Lincoln's life was threatened; he had a full foretaste of the conspiracy which, four years after, in April of 1865, killed Mr. Lincoln and came near killing himself; and his effort was to ward off the blow that finally and fatally fell. It is a curious comment on the times that the most generous and magnanimous men of the first real Republican administration of the Government should have been the first official victims of the pro-slavery fanatics. Had Lincoln lived, the whole current of legislation would have been different. I am disposed to believe that his death did not force more vigorous measures, though Andrew