by Bro. The Rev. J. G. Wood, M.A., F.L.S.
First published in Freemasons’ Monthly Magazine, March & April 1855
We often hear the non-Masonic world declare that the benefits of Freemasonry
are imaginary, or, at all events, that they are restricted to the social
enjoyment which may be equally found in any other society. But, although the
Brethren of the Order may treat such a libel with the contempt which it deserves
at their hands, and be better acquainted with the real benefits of their Craft,
yet even they cannot appreciate the full beauties of Freemasonry, unless they
have made trial of its virtues among strange men, or in strange countries. It is
for two reasons that the following account is written; — firstly, to show that a
Brother is received with as fraternal a welcome in another land as in his own;
and secondly, to give some idea of Continental Freemasonry to those Brethren who
have not enjoyed opportunities of witnessing for themselves the working of the
Craft in that nation with whom we have recently fraternised in another manner.
At the commencement of the last summer I had determined to pay a visit to
Paris, in company with a friend, and as he happened to be a Brother Mason, we
decided upon giving our visit as much of a Masonic character as possible; so, in
addition to our ordinary baggage, we each took a small box exclusively devoted
to Masonic clothing. This consisted of a full dress Provincial Grand suit, a
Royal Arch, and a Knight Templar's costume, together with appropriate jewels.
The Templar's suit we found to be useless, because the Royal Arch ranks
considerably above that Order. But the Provincial Grand full dress clothing was
exceedingly useful, and struck the Parisian Brethren with awe, giving them
singularly exalted ideas of our dignity. The mystic powers of the Craft began
their work immediately on our landing on French ground. My Masonic companion
carried with him a huge carpet- bag, which was instantly seized upon by the
searchers at the Custom House, and its contents reduced to a state of direful
confusion in an instant. My big box, however, was not destined to suffer quite
such rough handling, for the chief douanier happened to be a Brother Mason, and
being struck with a very decidedly Masonic jewel lying at the top of my box, he
made a few rapid inquiries, and having ascertained our rank, welcomed us to
France, much to the surprise of a lad who was with me, and who, not being a
Mason, was quite astonished at the excellent terms on which we were then with
the officials, and all without having spoken a word. I may mention, that our
boxes were not delayed by the rencontre.
We saw no more of Freemasonry until we arrived in Paris, although we
signified several times that we were Brothers of the Craft. The most probable
reason for this circumstance is, that our companions on the journey to Paris
were nearly all soldiers, and I noticed very few soldiers indeed attending the
meetings of the various Lodges, and those who did so were almost invariably
officers of the Lodge. But although there was no actual Masonry until we arrived
in Paris, an episode occurred in Amiens, which, although hardly Masonic, yet
partook somewhat of the Masonic character, and therefore will find a place in
There is a certain inn at Amiens, distinguished by the title of
Hotel de Londres et du Nord, and in this
inn there is a certain chambermaid of a lively disposition, rejoicing in the
name of Marie Blau. On arriving at Amiens, we chose the
Hotel de Londres et du Nord for our
temporary residence, and engaged, at a very low price, capital rooms and
excellent beds. To the merits of the latter article of furniture my young
companion was rather blind, for he had heaped upon himself all the voluminous
clothes that were laid for choice, and upon these had piled the soft feather
bed, imagining it to be the custom of the country, and urged by a pardonable
zeal to comply therewith. As the month was July, and the thermometer at ninety
degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, the consequences may be imagined. Next morning,
I wished to change a bank-note, and accordingly rang for the waiter, while I
extracted the sum in question from the box which held the Masonic clothing.
Instead of the waiter, Marie Blau made her appearance, and being struck with the
purple satin and gold embroidery that was lying on the table, uttered a cry of
amazement, and commenced an eager inspection.
Not satisfied with a mere examination, she insisted on putting everything on,
but was delayed by a slight check caused by a wicked scheme of my companion, who
deluded her into the idea that the apron was to be worn after the fashion of a
modern coat-tail. However, our irrepressible merriment soon undeceived her, and
after another trifling delay occasioned by fastening the apron round her neck,
she succeeded in arranging everything in its right place and having indulged in
a quaint dance before a large mirror, exclaimed,'
À present, je vais les montrer à Madame. Voyons!
Off she went, accordingly, and in a few minutes a shriek, followed by uproarious
merriment, told us that she had seen “Madame.”
As there were no symptoms of her return, we took a walk round the triangular
square, if such a collocation of terms may be permitted, and passed away the
time luxuriously in listening to a
cornet-à-piston, magnificently played, until the apron, &c. might make
their appearance again. That circumstance did not take place until the evening
was far spent, and then each article was delivered up with a manifest pang. But
the Templar’s star cost the severest struggle of all.
Might she not wear it
as a brooch — it was so very beautiful. Would I keep up the English character,
and make her a present of it (pour un cadeau
n’est ce pas?) Would monsieur intercede with me for her? Might she wear
it until I came back from Paris? But entreaties were vain, and with longing
eyes she beheld the coveted star deposited in its case.
This is not strictly Masonic matter, I know; but the recollection of the
funny rotund little figure, hidden in purple and gold and jingling medals, and
dancing before the glass, is so powerful that I cannot resist the pleasure of
recording it. I will try to compensate for it by some real Masonry.
On arriving in Paris, and after passing the nominal examination at the Octroi
(which circumstance caused my pupil to wonder which official was the Freemason),
we encountered a placard, which stated for the benefit of perfidious Albion that
the omnibus carries twelve and fourteen persons when it pleases.
The Parisians have a great notion of translating their placards into English.
It is a very good idea, and shows exceeding consideration, only it would be
often advantageous to ask an Englishman to revise the translation. I remember
two very comical specimens of Gallic English; one was on a linen warehouse,
whose windows bore the inscription:
SPECIALITY OF BLANK.
The other was on the placard fixed upon an optical instrument in the
Exhibition of 1851, and rather remarkable, as no one word in it could be said to
explain any one part of the instrument, which was a large box, with a peep-hole
at one side, like that of the penny showmen, and a number of objects, round and
square, scattered over the floor.
THIS SCIENCE TELLS THAT ONE CAN MAKE AN OBJECT INVISIBLE BY
TAKING A PROSPECT WILLINGLY GIVEN
I do not know whether the author of the inscription intended any reference to
a well-known performance, that bears a close resemblance to “taking a prospect.”
There is some shadow of probability in this interpretation, for the offender
generally becomes invisible when a policeman becomes visible, and in the box
exhibited, everything was made rather more visible than before.
There was, however, a glimpse of meaning in the omnibus advertisement, so we
entrusted ourselves to the good-nature of the omnibus, and were soon deposited
at Collot’s, Rue Caumartin, No. 27, a very clean
and very cheap place, which we cordially recommend to all Brethren visiting
Paris. Any Brother is welcome to make use of my name, and I can promise that he
will meet with every attention. Towards the same afternoon, we set off to pay a
visit to one of the Lodge-rooms of Paris, and after passing the door several
times, at last found it.
Freemasonry in France is divided into two great bodies, one working under the
auspices of the Grand Orient, or Grand Lodge, and the other deriving its
authority from the Supreme Council. Although the members mutually visit each
other, yet they hold their meetings in different parts of Paris; the Grand
Orient having a house in a street that runs into the east end of the Rue St.
Lazare, and the Supreme Council meeting in the Rue de Grenelle, St. Honore, No.
35. The latter building, by the way, is not easy to find by night, as the
archway leading to it is very dark, and the lamps in the street exactly throw a
shade instead of a light on the number. It is on the same side of the street as
the passage of the Vero-Dodats, and one very simple way of discovering it, is to
commence at the Vero-Dodats, and to go into every archway until you get the
right one, which will be found nearly opposite to, and at no great distance
from, the sign of “Les deux Sappeurs”, who grace the first floor of their
residence in all the glories of tall shako, white apron, and large hatchet.
I would recommend every brother to visit the house some morning, as it is
large and well worth seeing, and especially not to neglect certain chambers in
the upper story, which are decorated in a very cheerful manner, and appear
eminently calculated to raise the spirits of any nervous individual who might
happen to find himself alone in them. More I cannot say, except that as is
generally the ease with the continental ceremonies, there are many things which
we might advantageously copy, while there are too many which are decidedly
puerile, and which we have very rightly discarded as unnecessary accompaniments;
I purposely avoid any detailed description of these rooms, because, although
they cannot be ranked among truly Masonic objects, yet I was permitted to see
them as a Brother of the Craft, and therefore the Masonic seal is on my lips.
For the same reason I pass over in silence many objects which are to be seen
there. There is a very obliging concierge always at his post, and he will show
everything to any one who can prove himself a Member of the Craft; that is, he
will show everything up to the rank which the visitor holds, on which subject he
takes care to inform himself before he mounts the stairs. The best plan is to
show the Grand Lodge certificates, together with those of any of the high
degrees that may have been taken. The Royal Arch is perhaps the most
efficacious, unless the visitor happens to be a Member of the High Grades Union,
in which case he will meet with wonderful deference.
The clothing worn by the French Freemasons is very different from that in use
among ourselves. Very few aprons are to be seen at all, except in the two first
Degrees, and in one or two of the highest. The Entered Apprentices wear a white
apron like ours, and they have to do the manual labour requisite in the
ceremonies, which is rather heavy work, and, in hot weather, very fatiguing. The
flap is turned up in just the manner practised in England. After an interval of
a year, the Entered Apprentices are passed to the second Degree, when they turn
down the flap of the apron, but add no ornament. At the expiration of another
year, they are raised to the Degree of Master Mason, and then discard the apron
entirely, substituting a broad blue sash, passing across the breast, and
decorated with sundry appropriate emblems in silver. I never saw any Master
Mason apron, but there were many samples of Entered Aprentice and Fellow Craft,
while there was a moderate sprinkling of K.T. The K.T. aprons are very small, of
the same colour as our own, but of a triangular shape, one angle pointing
downwards. The crimson cross is placed in the centre, but the silver emblem is
not in use. The Rose Croix was plentiful in every Lodge, and the scarlet collar,
embroidered with gold, had a very good effect. There were several Brethren who
had taken the Thirtieth Degree, and they wore a most resplendent collar, heavy
with gold, and glittering with sparkling spangles, arranged to represent the
well-known double- headed eagle grasping its two-edged sword, and surrounded
with various devices, while the letters C.K.H. were conspicuously embroidered on
the centre. I do not give the whole of the words represented by the initials,
but any member of that Degree will know what they mean, remembering that they
must be taken to represent the initials of French synonyms of the words. From
the Thirtieth Degree and upwards, the Brethren wore simply white watered-silk
collars, with the number of the Degree embroidered in frost, and surrounded by
rays. I saw but one member of the Thirty-third Degree during the whole of my
Masonic experience in Paris.
I insert opposite a copy of one of the circulars of the Jerusalem Ecossaise
Lodge, No 99, meeting under the Supreme Council.
At the top of the original copy there is an engraving of Jerusalem, and
immediately beneath it the Square and Compasses, encircled with acacia, bearing
in the centre the initials of the Lodge, I.E. A short explanation of the terms
and letters used in the circular will, perhaps, be useful.
The letters are the initials of the words “À la Glorie du Grand Architect de
l’Univers,” and correspond to our “I.T.N.O.T.G.A.O.T.U.” The triangular
arrangement of the periods separating the letters, signifies Freemasonry. The
mark . . . signifies a Lodge. T.C.F.
corresponds to our V.D.B., being the initials of “Tres Cher Frère.” The circular
is signed not only with the name of the Secretary, but of the Worshipful Master,
or, as he is called, “Le Venerable,” of the two Wardens, or “Surveillants,” and
of the Orator, of whose office I shall speak afterwards.
The circular appears to me to be a remarkably excellent one, and well worthy
of imitation, as it partakes, in no slight degree, of that perfect arrangement
which is so remarkable in Paris.
In my next paper on this subject, I shall introduce the Brethren into the
walls of the Lodge.
I have had the pleasure of seeing performances of all three degrees in Paris,
together with that of the Royal Arch, and have found much instruction in
comparing them with the mode of working which is used at present in England. As
I observed in my last paper on this subject, there is much that we may
advantageously copy, while there is more that we should scrupulously avoid.
How can I tell the things which I saw there? I cannot describe them, as so
doing would violate every principle of honour, although the greater part of the
ceremonies might be put on paper without the slightest fear of disclosing any
Masonic secret. Perhaps Brethren may understand me when I say that everything
which we symbolize is there enacted in reality. I have often felt most thankful
that I was an Englishman, but I never felt more inclined to do so than when
witnessing the introduction of a French candidate into Freemasonry. The ordeal
through which that persecuted individual went was trying in the extreme, while
every sense was in its turn subjected to proof. By the way, the candidate whom I
first saw initiated was an American, and the difficulty of the matter was much
increased by his imperfect acquaintance with the French language. But, before I
commence my description of proceedings within the Lodge, I will first tell our
Brethren how we got there.
On the evening appointed, we made our way there, and stumbled into the
gateway of No. 35, Rue Grenelle, St. Honore, with surprisingly few mistakes,
and, being stopped by the concierge, now
in all the glory of blue and silver collar, were conducted by him into his
private apartment, where we were instructed to robe. Here the
concierge and another T.C.F., whom
curiosity had led there, were overwhelmed with awe and amazement at our full
dress Provincial Grand clothing. How they held up their wondering hands,
shrugged their eloquent shoulders, and evoked showers of guttural r r r r’s,
cannot be adequately described. Even their feminine relatives timidly peeped
round the corner, and at last came boldly into the room, to have a good look at
the wonderful frères étrangers, with
their superb ornaments. Apron, collar, jewels, each elicited marks of
approbation as they were withdrawn from their box; but the crowning hit of all
was achieved by the resplendent gauntlets, with their glittering circle, acacia
branch, ear of wheat, and emblem in the centre. The spectators evidently thought
that the white gloves were the termination of our toilet, so that when the
gauntlets were superinduced, their politeness could restrain them no longer, and
they broke out into an ebullition of rapid exclamations that amused us
exceedingly. We could hear the burring of the r r’s after we had mounted to the
first floor, and had been ushered into a square room, in which we were
instructed to wait until we could be admitted into the Lodge-room itself.
Being left there to our own devices, we were slightly embarrassed as to our
future proceedings, and waited in some perplexity. Presently a scarlet gentleman
made his appearance, and a glance convinced us that he wa a Brother Mason. We
responded, and he asked if we had brought our Grand Lodge certificates. We gave
these documents, with which he retired and vanished from our sight. A very long
half hour elapsed without any further proceedings, and we became rather tired,
and felt disposed to leave the house. but our invaluable certificates were in
custody, and we could not leave them. However, patience worked its usual
wonders, and the looked-for relief came in the person of our former friend, who
beckoned us to follow him to a door. Here two highly-decorated Brethren took
possession of us, and conducted us in grand style to the center of the room. All
the Brethren were standing, the Master included, and we were forced to remain in
the center of the room while we listened to an exceedingly complimentary
Le Venerable was charmed to be able to speak for that respectable lodge over
which he had the pleasure to preside. The Lodge was honoured in welcoming
les frères visiteurs, who had given
themselves the trouble to gratify that assembly by their presence. The Ancient
Order was a bond that united Brethren in every portion of the habitable globe,
and he felt in his bosom that the English and French nations were Brethren, who
were allied together not more by Freemasonry than by the national alliance of
our armies. He felt honoured to be able to welcome to his Lodge any visiting
Brethren, and he therefore felt more honoured when he had the pleasure of
introducing into that assembly Brethren, English Brethren, Brethren so eminent,
so distinguished, so acceptable. He called on the members of the Lodge to salute
the English visiting Brethren with proper honour.
This ceremony performed, we acknowledged our gratitude at so kind a
reception, and were advanced to the Master, who after shaking hands most
cordially, conducted us to seats at his right hand. Being thus placed, we bowed
to the chair, to the Brethren on the right, and the Brethren on the left, after
which we seated ourselves, and the Lodge followed our example.
The visiting Brethren having been thus introduced, the arrears of
subscriptions were hunted up and paid, the passes relative to a certain profane,
or candidate for initiation on that evening, were examined and approved, and
finally, the candidate was summoned. Of the actual initiation I can say nothing,
except that I felt very thankful that I was initiated in England and not in
France. The candidate is very strictly examined, and here the office of Orator
comes into play. The Orator is a Brother of much experience, who is supposed to
make himself acquainted with the laws of Freemasonry, and to whom in consequence
all difficult questions are referred. If, for example, an answer of the
candidate is not satisfactory to the Master, the Orator is called upon for his
opinion, which he always delivers in the form of a speech, sometimes of
considerable length. He is also frequently requested to elucidate a troublesome
point, or to perform similar services. It is a very useful office, and might
with much benefit be restored to our own list. It has existed in many Lodges,
and in the secretary’s book of one Lodge the office of Orator is still printed,
although no officer has been appointed to it for many years. There are so many
occasions on which it would be useful to have the power of instant reference to
an accredited authority, without being forced to look through the constitutions
or the bye-laws, that most Masters of Lodges would feel themselves materially
assisted by the presence of such an officer.
The candidate on this evening went through the ceremony with great coolness,
but was sadly puzzled by the questions, the drift of which he did not always
comprehend, and he therefore several times answered wide of the mark. At the
request of the Master, my friend officiated as interpreter, and thereby set
matters right again, to the infinite relief of officers and candidate. The
ceremony lasted nearly double the time which is occupied in an English
initiation, the length of time being partly occasioned by the difficulty of
candidate and Master understanding each other, for the Master spoke no English,
and the candidate spoke very imperfect French. In all important respects, the
ceremony was identical with ours, only it was overlaid, as it were, with sundry
additions and excrescences, some of which are rather distressing to the
spectator. The room was very well filled, as the seats were occupied by nearly
one hundred and fifty Brethren, the variety of whose costumes was extremely
The arrangement of officers is that which was formerly adopted by our own
Lodges, both the warders, or surveillants
as they are called, taking their seats in the portion of the room occupied by
the Senior Warden in the English Lodges. There are no deacons, but their place
is supplied by two Masters of Ceremonies, who are distinguished by a scarf round
their left arms.
The care that is taken before a candidate is permitted to enter the Craft is
very great, and might be advantageously copied by ourselves. When a candidate,
or profane as he is termed, wishes to become a member of Freemasonry, he is
proposed and seconded as usual, and gives certain references besides. To each of
these individuals, who must be Freemasons, the following circular is sent
L. . .
DE LA JÉRUSALEM ÉCOSSAISE.
. . de Paris, le 18 (E…… V……)
RAPPORTEUR, LE F…
T. . . C. . .
F. . .
Je vous invite a prendre les plus scrupuleuses informations sur le profane
demeurant rue ……………….no……., et de me faire remettre votre rapport le …… de ce
mois, au plus tard.
La mission que je vous confie, mon T. . .
C. . . F. . .,
est de la plus grande importance, car nous ne saurions prendre trop de
precautions quand il s’agit d’admettre un nouveau member dans la grande
famille; je compte à cet egard sur votre zele maçonnique.
J’ai la faveur de vous saluer,
Le Ven . . .
- Quel age a le profane ?
- Est-il marie?
- A-t-il des enfans?
- Est-il de bonnes moeurs?
- Quelle profession exerce-t-il?
- Depuis combien de temps habite-t-il son quartier?
- Y jonit-il d’une bonne reputation?
- Sait-il lire et ecrire?
On the opposite side of this paper is printed
A large blank is then left, at the bottom of which are the following words:-
Paris, le … 18…
SIGNATURE du RAPPORTEUR.
Enumerer dans le rapport particulier tous les renseignements que l’on a pu
se procurer sur le profane propose.
Satisfactory answers are required to each of these questions, and particular
stress is laid on the eighth.
The Second Degree I have seen in two forms. If there is sufficient time, it
is given in full, when it is a very pretty ceremony, introducing much graceful
symbolism. In such a case, considerable alterations are made in the adornment of
the room, with especial regard to those arts and sciences more particularly
inculcated in this degree. The degree thus given is much fuller than the
ceremony which is practised in England, and occupies rather more than two hours.
At all events, it did so when I saw it; but perhaps that might have been
occasioned by the number of the candidates who were admitted into it. Seven were
passed to the Second Degree that evening, which was dedicated expressly to that
object. Many portions of the ceremony were exceedingly striking, and several
very effective tableaux were presented.
As in the former degree, the candidates were closely questioned, and some very
curious answers resulted. Indeed, the responses of one individual were quite
startling. This degree in its compressed form is short and rather uninteresting,
as all the imagery is cut off, and only the bare facts given. I may here
observe, that in each degree, the candidate is asked at its close whether he has
any objection to repeat the O.B. This is never refused, and the last portion of
the ceremony consists in the repetition of the O.B.
I have already mentioned that the usual time that must elapse between each
degree is one year. If, however, the candidate has any particular wish to take
the degree before the prescribed time, he addresses a form of petition to the
Supreme Council; of which I give a copy.
A few days after witnessing these degrees, I learned that the Third Degree
would be given under the auspices of the Grand Orient of Paris. I went there
accordingly, and was admitted with the usual ceremonies. Of the room I cannot
say too much in its praise. It is the most perfect room that can be conceived,
and being built and decorated exclusively for the third degree, the effect may
be imagined. Everything is appropriate. The room is a very large one, as may be
judged from the fact that nearly two hundred Brethren assisted in the ceremony,
exclusive of those who sat as spectators. The ceremony was magnificently
performed, and I never witnessed anything more striking. It was a most perfect
dramatic performance, and a tremendous effect was produced by a blow on an
unseen gong, at the culminating point of the ceremony. There were only two
detrimental circumstances. One was, that a woman had taken up a station just
under the front, with a horrible hand-organ, very loud in tone, and terribly out
of tune. There was a young child with her, about four years old, who turned the
handle during several parts of the day, and at night was accommodated with a bed
on the top of the organ. What will not habit do? When I left the house the
mother was grinding away perseveringly, and the child was lying in its little
bed fast asleep, in spite of the horrible sounds that were calculated to force a
human being to die of them, let alone a cow.
The second drawback was that very unpleasant habit of spitting, which is so
general in France. People spit everywhere, even in their churches, where it is
found necessary to affix placards, entreating the people not to spit on the
floor, but where they do spit nevertheless. Even the priest at the altar spits.
Moreover, a Frenchman performs this operation with so hearty a zeal, that it is
impossible to close the ears to it, even if the eyes can be guarded. Truth
compels me to say, that I lost a considerable portion of the Third Degree simply
through annoyance at this habit, which at times for it had periodical
pianos, like an Eolian harp, nearly
rendered it impossible to hear a word that was said. I several times felt as if
it would be a relief to be opposed to a volley of musketry, or anything which
would drown the sounds that floated before, behind, at the right, and at the
left. My serenity of temper was quite discomposed, for I was always either
suffering affliction by hearing my right-hand neighbour indulging noisily and
voluminously, or waiting in agony until my left-hand neighbour was going to
begin. Habit works wonders; and those who are accustomed to the practice may not
feel disturbed by it. There is no need for us to cross the Atlantic in order to
laugh at our American friends for this custom—two hours will take us from Dover
I went once to a chapter of Royal Arch Masons, but found that it was a
different degree bearing the same name. It was rather a good ceremony, although
partaking too much of the active nature of the First Degree.
If I could publish the things that I have seen in Continental Lodges, my
paper would be much more worth the trouble of perusing than it is at present;
but I have necessarily been forced to omit everything which took place within
the doors of the Lodge. I hope, however, that at the forthcoming Exhibition in
Paris English Brethren will visit the Parisian Lodges. From conversations held
with some of the Parisian Masons, I gather that they are making preparations for
the reception of English Brethren. To such I give my advice to visit the Lodges,
and to those who determine to do so I say, “Go, and be sure that a most cordial
welcome awaits you”.
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