I had heard people talk of the wondrous Eiffel Tower, I can only say that all that heart can desire for grace of line and beauty of construction, seemed here to be realised. One did not know whether to marvel most at the simplicity of the construction, or the boldness of the conception, or the lightness in effect of the whole fabric. (p. 174)
As to its construction, imagine a quadrangle 102 yards square with a magnificent fountain and basin of water in the centre of it. That first huge holes have been dug at the corners of this quadrangle to the depth of 46 feet, that iron caissons have been sunk, and their interior filled with solid concrete and iron, that on this bedding, masonry measuring 86 feet thick has been laid to form foundation piers. That within these foundation piers are hid huge hydraulic rams of 800 ton power for the purpose of lifting, if ever required, one or other of the four gigantic legs of the huge tower. (pp. 174-175)
Now imagine that the four legs or uprights, consisting of hollow squares of iron network, begin to grow upwards from these solid masonry supports at the four corners, curving inwards at an angle of 54, after the fashion of the shape of the Eddystone lighthouse. That when they have gone upward to a height higher than the Nelson Column, 134 feet, in fact, the legs are, as it were, tied together by a vast platform of iron, capable of accommodating 5,000 people, with an area of 5,800 square yards, surrounded with restaurants capable of giving 600 people dinner at once. That partly to support this platform and partly to keep the huge legs in place, great arches of iron, seeming to spring from the base and within the legs, leaning, all of them with their curves inwards, meet, with glorious spans, and give all the appearance of being triumphal arches for the world to pass under on its way to the Exhibition. (p. 175)
Now remember that these four legs are going upward for double this height, before they eventually meet and make a single shaft, roughly, at about 590 feet from the ground. That all the while, as they ascend, they approach each other, until a second tying of them together seems needed at the height of 376 feet from the ground; that there, in a glass-covered hall, a daily paper is being printed, and we can write letters, send telegrams or do a little quiet shopping, at a height equal to the height of the ball on the top of the dome of the Cathedral at Florence, higher than the golden cross of our St. Paul’s Cathedral, and within 90 feet of the top of the great Pyramid. (p. 175)
And then believe that you have apparently only reached the base proper of the Tower itself, for it is only from this platform that the Tower appears as a Tower, and the legs and supports are merged into a single up-springing structure. (p. 175)
Then imagine that thence the Tower goes on springing upward towards its ultimate gaol, higher, by 100 feet, than the highest building in the world, the Washington monument, which is 555 feet; that, as it springs, it is tied together again by a third platform, and thence it goes up still to a fourth platform, the top platform, at a height of 899 feet from the ground, which is a platform of 8,000 square feet, capable of accommodating 800 persons. (pp. 175-176)
That here, hardly visible from the ground, is a balcony 23 feet wide; that running round here are laboratories, and a drawing-room, and dining-room, and bedroom, reserved for M. Eiffel, the builder. And that from this climbs up, for nearly 100 feet, a central spiral stair to a fifth platform and balcony 16½ feet in diameter, the Lantern platform, which is perched daintily on convex iron supports that curve together to give the shape of a conical terminal to the Tower. (p. 176)
Imagine that above this balcony is the electric lighting apparatus and a lighting conductor whose apex is 984 feet above the ground, and that the great tri-colour of France waves over all, and you have a dim idea of the size and beauty of the Tower. (p. 176)….
But the thing that most astonishes one is the accuracy of the work; no girder, in all the 12,000 separate girders, but was sketched out in far away workshops in working drawings, and there punched for its rivet ready to be fitted together. The rivets employed were hammered home red-hot in situ, and it is calculated that if the two millions and a half of rivet-holes were put side by side, a tunnel of 40 miles would be the result, yet so marvellously skilled was the work, that it was not discovered till the builders and rivetters of this vast four-legged tower had got up as high as the second platform, 380 feet in the air, that is, higher than the cross of the dome of St. Paul’s, that there was any inaccuracy in the vast pyramidal four-cornered mass. And then what was that? Simply that one-fifth of an inch had been gained by the two western piles over the eastern, and this was rectified at once. (pp. 176-177)….
But a reader may ask, of what colour is the Tower? I rejoin, of a colour that seems remarkably well adapted to set off the proportions without emphasising particulars—a dark, rich, chocolate brown oxide paint has been used, and around the first great platform, as in olden times men hung their shields of gold round their temple sides, so round the sides of this great Temple Tower of Vulcan have been hung, by careful painting, shields of gold, for that is really the effect, in strong sunlight, of the yellow paint outside the platform gallery. (p. 178)
But it was not till the night time came, and the stars in the Paris streets began to flicker into being, that the huge Tower became most marvellous and most wonderful. Then, as by magic, bright gaslight jewels burned round the first and second platforms, and a magic arch of pearly light gleamed round the vast triumphal arches, beneath which the people moved towards the illuminations and the coloured fountains. (p. 178)….
Yes, the Exhibition buildings empty would be worth the trouble of a visit. How much more were they worthy of such a visit, filled with art and industry from all the great republics of the world, and thronged with all the Nations of the earth. A word about these people. (p. 181)
I was present on one day, a fête day, when it was stated that 355,000 passed the turnstiles, on another day when 240,000 passed them. The walks were densely crowded, the cafés were crammed, the Tower was unattemptable, the Colonial villages were choke-full; only in the great sculpture gallery, or the avenue centrale, of the Palace of Industries, did it seem that there was room enough and to spare. But not one unkind word, not one oath was heard, not one drunken person was seen, nor, indeed, during all the week I was present, did a single case of drunkenness appear on the great thoroughfares that led to the Exhibition. Of all the sights most touching and most remarkable, I can think of none more beautiful in its heavenliness, than the two old people, wrinkled with age and tanned with many summers’ suns, who sat down on the grass by the side of the Fountain of Progress, and unwrapped their handkerchiefs and took therefrom their hard crust of brown bread, their little bit of sausage, their flask of thin wine, and calling their grandchildren round them, bade them fold hands and give thanks to the good God, then gave each a bite and each a sup—smiled and patted them, partook of the slender meal that was left, and gazed up at the white-winged goddess, and murmured, “Merveilleux.” Ah! thought I, this simplicity, this home love, this content, this tender piety is the purest Progress after all! This is a French Exhibition worth coming far to see! (pp. 181-182)
(Belgravia, (February 1890), 169-82)