Mark Twain at the Hotel Louvre Paris

So....what was the Hotel Louvre Paris like when Mark Twain stayed there?

To close our first day in Paris cheerfully and pleasantly, we now sought our grand room in the Grand Hotel Louvre Paris and climbed into our sumptuous bed to read and smoke--but alas! It was pitiful, In a whole city-full, Gas we had none. No gas to read by--nothing but dismal candles.

Pont Royal and the Louvre Museum, Paris, France
Pont Royal and the Louvre Museum, Paris, FrancePhotographic Print
Engelbrecht, Lisa
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It was a shame. We tried to map out excursions for the morrow; we puzzled over French "guides to Paris"; we talked disjointedly in a vain endeavor to make head or tail of the wild chaos of the day's sights and experiences; we subsided to indolent smoking; we gaped and yawned and stretched--then feebly wondered if we were really and truly in renowned Hotel Louvre Paris, and drifted drowsily away into that vast mysterious void which men call sleep.

Garden Outside the Louvre Paris, France
Garden Outside the Louvre Paris, FrancePhotographic Print
Hay, John
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The next morning we were up and dressed at ten o'clock. We went to the 'commissionaire' of the Hotel Louvre Paris--I don't know what a 'commissionaire' is, but that is the man we went to--and told him we wanted a guide.

He said the national Exposition had drawn such multitudes of Englishmen and Americans to Paris that it would be next to impossible to find a good guide unemployed. He said he usually kept a dozen or two on hand, but he only had three now. He called them.

One looked so like a very pirate that we let him go at once. The next one spoke with a simpering precision of pronunciation that was irritating and said: "If ze zhentlemans will to me make ze grande honneur to me rattain in hees serveece, I shall show to him every sing zat is magnifique to look upon in ze beautiful Parree. I speaky ze Angleesh pairfaitemaw." He would have done well to have stopped there, because he had that much by heart and said it right off without making a mistake. But his self-complacency seduced him into attempting a flight into regions of unexplored English, and the reckless experiment was his ruin. Within ten seconds he was so tangled up in a maze of mutilated verbs and torn and bleeding forms of speech that no human ingenuity could ever have gotten him out of it with credit.

It was plain enough that he could not "speaky" the English quite as "pairfaitemaw" as he had pretended he could. The third man captured us. He was plainly dressed, but he had a noticeable air of neatness about him. He wore a high silk hat which was a little old, but had been carefully brushed. He wore second-hand kid gloves, in good repair, and carried a small rattan cane with a curved handle--a female leg--of ivory. He stepped as gently and as daintily as a cat crossing a muddy street; and oh, he was urbanity; he was quiet, unobtrusive self-possession; he was deference itself! He spoke softly and guardedly; and when he was about to make a statement on his sole responsibility or offer a suggestion, he weighed it by drachms and scruples first, with the crook of his little stick placed meditatively to his teeth. His opening speech was perfect. It was perfect in construction, in phraseology, in grammar, in emphasis, in pronunciation --everything. He spoke little and guardedly after that. We were charmed. We were more than charmed--we were overjoyed. We hired him at once. We never even asked him his price.

This man--our lackey, our servant, our unquestioning slave though he was--was still a gentleman--we could see that--while of the other two one was coarse and awkward and the other was a born pirate. We asked our man Friday's name. He drew from his pocketbook a snowy little card and passed it to us with a profound bow: A. BILLFINGER, Guide to Paris, France, Germany, Spain, &c., &c. Grand Hotel Louvre Paris.

Louvre, Paris, France
Louvre, Paris, FrancePhotographic Print
Barnes, David
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"Billfinger! Oh, carry me home to die!"

That was an "aside" from Dan. The atrocious name grated harshly on myear, too. The most of us can learn to forgive, and even to like, acountenance that strikes us unpleasantly at first, but few of us, Ifancy, become reconciled to a jarring name so easily. I was almost sorrywe had hired this man, his name was so unbearable. However, no matter.We were impatient to start. Billfinger stepped to the door to call acarriage, and then the doctor said:

"Well, the guide goes with the barbershop, with the billiard-table, withthe gasless room, and may be with many another pretty romance of Paris.I expected to have a guide named Henri de Montmorency, or Armand de laChartreuse, or something that would sound grand in letters to thevillagers at home, but to think of a Frenchman by the name of Billfinger!Oh! This is absurd, you know. This will never do. We can't sayBillfinger; it is nauseating. Name him over again; what had we bettercall him? Alexis du Caulaincourt?"

"Alphonse Henri Gustave de Hauteville," I suggested.

"Call him Ferguson," said Dan.

That was practical, unromantic good sense. Without debate, we expungedBillfinger as Billfinger, and called him Ferguson.

Fishermen on Banks of River Seine with the Louvre in Background, Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Fishermen on Banks of River Seine with the Louvre in Background, Paris, Ile-De-France, FrancePhotographic Print
Mayfield, Diana
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The carriage--an open barouche--was ready.

Ferguson mounted beside thedriver, and we whirled away to breakfast. As was proper, Mr. Fergusonstood by to transmit our orders and answer questions. By and by, hementioned casually--the artful adventurer--that he would go and get hisbreakfast as soon as we had finished ours.

He knew we could not getalong without him and that we would not want to loiter about and wait forhim. We asked him to sit down and eat with us. He begged, with many abow, to be excused. It was not proper, he said; he would sit at anothertable. We ordered him peremptorily to sit down with us.

Here endeth the first lesson. It was a mistake.

As long as we had that fellow after that, he was always hungry; he wasalways thirsty. He came early; he stayed late; he could not pass arestaurant; he looked with a lecherous eye upon every wine shop.Suggestions to stop, excuses to eat and to drink, were forever on hislips. We tried all we could to fill him so full that he would have noroom to spare for a fortnight, but it was a failure. He did not holdenough to smother the cravings of his superhuman appetite.

LouvreArt Print
Mandolf, Judy
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He had another "discrepancy" about him. He was always wanting us to buythings. On the shallowest pretenses he would inveigle us into shirtstores, boot stores, tailor shops, glove shops--anywhere under the broadsweep of the heavens that there seemed a chance of our buying anything.Anyone could have guessed that the shopkeepers paid him a percentage onthe sales, but in our blessed innocence we didn't until this feature ofhis conduct grew unbearably prominent. One day Dan happened to mentionthat he thought of buying three or four silk dress patterns for presents.Ferguson's hungry eye was upon him in an instant. In the course oftwenty minutes the carriage stopped.

"What's this?"

"Zis is ze finest silk magazin in Paris--ze most celebrate."

"What did you come here for? We told you to take us to the Hotel Louvre Paris."

"I suppose ze gentleman say he wish to buy some silk."

"You are not required to 'suppose' things for the party, Ferguson. We donot wish to tax your energies too much. We will bear some of the burdenand heat of the day ourselves. We will endeavor to do such 'supposing'as is really necessary to be done. Drive on." So spake the doctor.

Within fifteen minutes the carriage halted again, and before another silkstore. The doctor said:

"Ah, the Hotel Louvre Paris--beautiful, beautiful edifice! Does theEmperor Napoleon live here now, Ferguson?"

LIFE® - Aerial of the Louvre Museum and the Seine River, 1950
LIFE® - Aerial of the Louvre Museum and the Seine River, 1950Photographic Print
Kessel, Dmitri
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"Ah, Doctor! You do jest; zis is not ze palace; we come there directly.But since we pass right by zis store, where is such beautiful silk--"

"Ah! I see, I see. I meant to have told you that we did not wish topurchase any silks to-day, but in my absent-mindedness I forgot it. Ialso meant to tell you we wished to go directly to the Hotel Louvre Paris, but Iforgot that also. However, we will go there now. Pardon my seemingcarelessness, Ferguson. Drive on."

Within the half hour we stopped again--not at the Hotel Louvre Paris, but--in front of another silk store.We were angry; but the doctor was always serene, always smooth-voiced.He said:

"At last! How imposing the Hotel Louvre Paris is, and yet how small! Howexquisitely fashioned! How charmingly situated!--Venerable, venerablepile--the Hotel Louvre Paris"

View over the Louvre, Paris
View over the Louvre, ParisArt Print
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"Pairdon, Doctor, zis is not ze Hotel Louvre Paris--it is--"

"What is it?"

"I have ze idea--it come to me in a moment--zat ze silk in zis magazin--"

"Ferguson, how heedless I am. I fully intended to tell you that we didnot wish to buy any silks to-day, and I also intended to tell you that weyearned to go immediately to the Hotel Louvre Paris, but enjoying thehappiness of seeing you devour four breakfasts this morning has so filledme with pleasurable emotions that I neglect the commonest interests ofthe time. However, we will proceed now to the Hotel Louvre Paris, Ferguson."

And that was Mark Twain's experience with the Hotel Louvre Paris.

Go to main Mark Twain page after Hotel Louvre Paris.

See photos Kari has taken of the Louvre Museum.

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