Mission in France an Anecdote

Pioneer collections, Volume 5

Title: Anecdote of the Late Anson Burlingame
By Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan

OCRed text:

I recently noticed in a French journal the account of a pleasant affair at Paris, in which the tall Auson Burlingame was a principal actor, which will have a peculiar interest in Detroit and vicinity, where Mr. Burlingame spent many years of his youth, where he acquired the principal part of his education, and where he had many acquaintances and friends. I have made a free translation of the principal incidents, as related, for this society. The story is told, in the original, with inimitable grace and manner, much of which it necessarily loses in the translation.
When Mr. Burlingame was at Paris with the celebrated Chinese embassy, having become quite fatigued with public ceremony, he concluded one day to take a little private recreation in the country. With this view he went down to the sea shore, near Dieppe, where an intimate acquaintance of his by the name of Gudin, a celebrated painter, had a cottage residence. The next thing, as a matter of course, in such a locality, was to go out a fishing, in which amusement the painter and the great ambassador were almost miraculously successful, taking in a short time, a large quantity of various kinds of most excellent fish. The question then arose to determine what they should do with the fish. To eat or preserve them they could not, and they did not wish to throw them away; and the happy and humorous idea occurred to them —an idea which could have found a place only in great minds—to take the fish to Paris, and, as a capital piece of pleasantry, to sell them in the public market.
They accordingly purchased several baskets, which they filled, obtained transportation for them to the nearest railroad depot, loaded them on a car, and started for Paris on a freight train, about as well pleased as a couple of jolly fishermen would be, in going up to the great metropolis with a quantity of fresh fish from the coast of Normandy. They arrived at Paris about four o’clock in the morning, when the break of day began first to illuminate the heights of Mont Martel and the lofty towers of Notre Dame. This was au admirable time to be the first on the market, in order to get the first sales of fish; and determined still to carry out their adventure, they hired a horse and cart, loaded on their fish, and started for the grand Halle, near the Place Saint Gustache, being the principal fish market of Paris. In their walk through the streets, beside their cart of fish, many were the hearty laughs they had, and which were had at their expense, in view of their ridiculous exhibition; and they could not resist the temptation of indulging in all sorts of speculations, like the maid and the milk pail, of Esop, as to the amount they should realize for their fish, all fresh and scarcely done floundering from the English Channel. Buk although their fish were very fine, they concluded, on the whole, not to be too avaricious in this their first speculation, and to sell at moderate rates, so as to let the whole affair pass off with the utmost good humor. They arrived soon at the market, where they proceeded to unload their fish on the sidewalk, and to prepare for the sales.
Here began the troubles of our gay adventurers. It is a very easy and pleasant thing for great men to fish, but to sell fish is a very different affair. In laying their plans they had entirely overlooked the legal regulations of the market, which all the fish dealers well understood, and which they were interested to see enforced ; and they had also encumbered the sidewalk with their baskets of fish, in violation of the city ordinances. Thus situated they found themselves all at once surrounded, much to their surprise, with an excited crowd of market men and women. They were hissed and hooted; the women poured on them their choicest Billingsgate; they were jostled, pushed, and pulled about in the rudest manner; and they were even threatened with more violent treatment, with every appearance that the threats would be executed on the spot.
Totally dumbfounded, and even quite alarmed, the celebrated painter and the distinguished embassador of China to all the rest of the world, took to their heels and ran, amid derisive shouts from the multitude which had been attracted by the tumult, and made their escape to a neighboring street. This afforded the market people a’rare opportunity to take their vengeance on the fish, which had been brought all the way from Dieppe, and which had been thus incontinently abandoned. And this they proceeded at once to do as the legitimate spoils of the victors, carrying away in a few moments everything, even to the baskets. All this while the painter and embassador stood afar off, lifting up their eyes on the scene of devastation, but not daring to interpose Bo much as a gentle remonstrance, even diplomatically, in defense of their rights and privileges. They were, however, glad to notice that the cart which they had hired, was still left, though completely empty, with not a sardine left in it; and as for the horse, he stood feeding on cabbage leaves, with most profound and provoking philosophy, as if nothing of an extraordinary character had taken place.
“Very well,” said Gudin, when he had recovered himself sufficiently to speak, “I am very glad we have escaped as well as we have.” “Very well,” said Mr. Burlingame, with his accustomed coolness, ” dllons maintenant dejuner; “ that is to say, “let us now go and take breakfast.”
Thus ended a fishing excursion which began most happily in Dieppe, and ended most lamentably, as well as most ludicrously at Paris. It is not stated whether on the whole, the principal actors felt like relating their adventures to their friends, or not.

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