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The Ancient Regime The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 1 by Hippolyte A. Taine

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jest, or he was in a playful humor, or deigned to tell a story, it was
ever with infinite grace, and a noble refined air which I have found
only in him." "Never was man so naturally polite,[5] nor of such
circumspect politeness, so powerful by degrees, nor who better
discriminated age, worth, and rank, both in his replies and in his
deportment. . . . His salutations, more or less marked, but always
slight, were of incomparable grace and majesty. . . . He was admirable
in the different acknowledgments of salutes at the head of the army
and at reviews. . . . But especially toward women , there was nothing
like it. . . . Never did he pass the most insignificant woman without
taking off his hat to her; and I mean chambermaids whom he knew to be
such. . . Never did he chance to say anything disobliging to anybody.
. . . Never before company anything mistimed or venturesome, but even
to the smallest gesture, his walk, his bearing, his features, all were
proper, respectful, noble, grand, majestic, and thoroughly natural."

Such is the model, and, nearly or remotely, it is imitated up to
the end of the ancient régime. If it undergoes any change, it is only
to become more sociable. In the eighteenth century, except on great
ceremonial occasions, it is seen descending step by step from its
pedestal. It no longer imposes "that stillness around it which lets
one hear a fly walk." "Sire," said the Marshal de Richelieu, who had
seen three reigns, addressing Louis XVI, "under Louis XIV no one dared
utter a word; under Louis XV people whispered; under your Majesty they
talk aloud." If authority is a loser, society is the gainer;
etiquette, insensibly relaxed, allows the introduction of ease and
cheerfulness. Henceforth the great, less concerned in overawing than
in pleasing, cast off stateliness like an uncomfortable and ridiculous
garment, "seeking respect less than applause. It no longer suffices to
be affable; one has to appear amiable at any cost with one's inferiors
as with one's equals."[6] The French princes, says again a
contemporary lady, "are dying with fear of being deficient in
favors."[7] Even around the throne "the style is free and playful."
The grave and disciplined court of Louis XIV became at the end of the
century, under the smiles of the youthful queen, the most seductive
and gayest of drawing-rooms. Through this universal relaxation, a
worldly existence gets to be perfect. "He who has not lived before
1789," says Talleyrand at a later period, "knows nothing of the charm
of living." It was too great; no other way of living was appreciated;
it engrossed man wholly. When society becomes so attractive, people
live for it alone.


Subordination of it to other interests and duties. - Indifference
to public affairs. - They are merely a subject of jest. - Neglect of
private affairs. - Disorder in the household and abuse of money.

There is neither leisure nor taste for other matters, even for
things which are of most concern to man, such as public affairs, the
household, and the family. - With respect to the first, I have
already stated that people abstain from them, and are indifferent; the
administration of things, whether local or general, is out of their
hands and no longer interests them. They only allude to it in jest;
events of the most serious consequence form the subject of witticisms.
After the edict of the Abbé Terray, which half ruined the state
creditors, a spectator, too much crowded in the theater, cried out,
"Ah, how unfortunate that our good Abbé Terray is not here to cut us
down one-half I" Everybody laughs and applauds. All Paris the
following day, is consoled for public ruin by repeating the phrase. -
Alliances, battles, taxation, treaties, ministries, coups d'état, the
entire history of the country, is put into epigrams and songs. One
day,[8] in an assembly of young people belonging to the court, one of
them, as the current witticism was passing around, raised his hands in
delight and exclaimed, "How can one help being pleased with great
events, even with disturbances, when they provide us with such amusing
witticisms!" Thereupon the sarcasms circulate, and every disaster in
France is turned into nonsense. A song on the battle of Hochstaedt was
pronounced poor, and some one in this connection said "I am sorry that
battle was lost - the song is so worthless."[9] - Even when
eliminating from this trait all that belongs to the sway of impulse
and the license of paradox, there remains the stamp of an age in which
the State is almost nothing and society almost everything. We may on
this principle divine what order of talent was required in the
ministers. M. Necker, having given a magnificent supper with serious
and comic opera, "finds that this festivity is worth more to him in
credit, favor, and stability than all his financial schemes put
together. . . . His last arrangement concerning the vingtième was only
talked about for one day, while everybody is still talking about his
fête; at Paris, as well as in Versailles, its attractions are dwelt on
in detail, people emphatically declaring that Monsieur and Mme. Necker
are a grace to society."[10] Good society devoted to pleasure imposes
on those in office the obligation of providing pleasures for it. It
might also say, in a half-serious, half-ironical tone, with Voltaire,
"that the gods created kings only to give fêtes every day, provided
they varied; that life is too short to make any other use of it; that
lawsuits, intrigues, warfare, and the quarrels of priests, which
consume human life, are absurd and horrible things; that man is born
only to enjoy himself;" and that among the essential things we must
put the "superfluous" in the first rank.

According to this, we can easily foresee that they will be as
little concerned with their private affairs as with public affairs.
Housekeeping, the management of property, domestic economy, are in
their eyes vulgar, insipid in the highest degree, and only suited to
an intendant or a butler. Of what use are such persons if we must have
such cares? Life is no longer a festival if one has to provide the
ways and means. Comforts, luxuries, the agreeable must flow naturally
and greet our lips of their own accord. As a matter of course and
without his intervention, a man belonging to this world should find
gold always in his pocket, a handsome coat on his toilet table,
powdered valets in his antechamber, a gilded coach at his door, a fine
dinner on his table, so that he may reserve all his attention to be
expended in favors on the guests in his drawing-room. Such a mode of
living is not to be maintained without waste, and the domestics, left
to themselves, make the most of it. What matter is it, so long as they
perform their duties? Moreover, everybody must live, and it is
pleasant to have contented and obsequious faces around one. - Hence
the first houses in the kingdom are given up to pillage. Louis XV, on
a hunting expedition one day, accompanied by the Duc de Choiseul,[11]
inquired of him how much he thought the carriage in which they were
seated had cost. M. de Choiseul replied that he should consider
himself fortunate to get one like it for 5,000 or 6,000 francs; but,
"His Majesty paying for it as a king, and not always paying cash,
might have paid 8,000 francs for it." - "You are wide of the mark,"
rejoined the king, "for this vehicle, as you see it, cost me 30,000
francs. . . . The robberies in my household are enormous, but it is
impossible to put a stop to them." - So the great help themselves as
well as the little, either in money, or in kind, or in services. There
are in the king's household fifty-four horses for the grand equerry,
thirty-eight of them being for Mme. de Brionne, the administratrix of
the office of the stables during her son's minority; there are two
hundred and fifteen grooms on duty, and about as many horses kept at
the king's expense for various other persons, entire strangers to the
department.[12] What a nest of parasites on this one branch of the
royal tree! Elsewhere I find Madame Elisabeth, so moderate, consuming
fish amounting to 30,000 francs per annum; meat and game to 70,000
francs; candles to 60,000 francs; Mesdames burn white and yellow
candles to the amount of 215,068 francs; the light for the queen comes
to 157,109 francs. The street at Versailles is still shown, formerly
lined with stalls, to which the king's valets resorted to nourish
Versailles by the sale of his dessert. There is no article from which
the domestic insects do not manage to scrape and glean something. The
king is supposed to drink orgeat and lemonade to the value of 2,190
francs. "The grand broth, day and night," which Mme. Royale, aged six
years, sometimes drinks, costs 5,201 francs per annum. Towards the end
of the preceding reign[13] the femmes-de-chambre enumerate in the
Dauphine's outlay "four pairs of shoes per week; three ells of ribbon
per diem, to tie her dressing-gown; two ells of taffeta per diem, to
cover the basket in which she keeps her gloves and fan." A few years
earlier the king paid 200,000 francs for coffee, lemonade, chocolate,
barley-water, and water-ices; several persons were inscribed on the
list for ten or twelve cups a day, while it was estimated that the
coffee, milk and bread each morning for each lady of the bed-chamber
cost 2,000 francs per annum.[14] We can readily understand how, in
households thus managed, the purveyors are willing to wait. They wait
so well that often under Louis XV they refuse to provide and "hide
themselves." Even the delay is so regular that, at last; they are
obliged to pay them five per cent. interest on their advances; at this
rate, in 1778, after all Turgot's economic reforms, the king still
owes nearly 800,000 livres to his wine merchant, and nearly three
millions and a half to his purveyor.[15] The same disorder exists in
the houses which surround the throne. "Mme. de Guéménée owes 60,000
livres to her shoe-maker, 16,000 livres to her paper-hanger, and the
rest in proportion." Another lady, whom the Marquis de Mirabeau sees
with hired horses, replies at his look of astonishment, "It is not
because there are not seventy horses in our stables, but none of them
are able to walk to day."[16] Mme. de Montmorin, on ascertaining that
her husband's debts are greater than his property, thinks she can save
her dowry of 200,000 livres, but is informed that she had given
security for a tailor's bill, which, "incredible and ridiculous to
say, amounts to the sum of 180,000 livres."[17] "One of the decided
manias of these days," says Mme. d'Oberkirk, "is to be ruined in
everything and by everything." "The two brothers Villemer build
country cottages at from 500,000 to 600,000 livres; one of them keeps
forty horses to ride occasionally in the Bois de Boulogne on
horseback."[18] In one night M. de Chenonceaux, son of M. et Mme.
Dupin, loses at play 700,000 livres. "M. de Chenonceaux and M. de
Francueil ran through seven or eight millions at this epoch. "[19]
"The Duc de Lauzun, at the age of twenty-six, after having run through
the capital of 100,000 crowns revenue, is prosecuted by his creditors
for nearly two millions of indebtedness."[20] "M. le Prince de Conti
lacks bread and wood, although with an income of 600,000 livres," for
the reason that "he buys and builds wildly on all sides."[21] Where
would be the pleasure if these people were reasonable? What kind of a
seignior is he who studies the price of things? And how can the
exquisite be reached if one grudges money? Money, accordingly, must
flow and flow on until it is exhausted, first by the innumerable
secret or tolerated bleedings through domestic abuses, and next in
broad streams of the master's own prodigality, through structures,
furniture, toilets, hospitality, gallantry, and pleasures. The Comte
d'Artois, that he may give the queen a fête, demolishes, rebuilds,
arranges, and furnishes Bagatelle from top to bottom, employing nine
hundred workmen, day and night, and, as there is no time to go any
distance for lime, plaster, and cut stone, he sends patrols of the
Swiss guards on the highways to seize, pay for, and immediately bring
in all carts thus loaded.[22] The Marshal de Soubise, entertaining the
king one day at dinner and over night, in his country house, expends
200,000 livres.[23] Mme. de Matignon makes a contract to be furnished
every day with a new head-dress at 24,000 livres per annum. Cardinal
de Rohan has an alb bordered with point lace, which is valued at more
than 100,000 livres, while his kitchen utensils are of massive
silver.[24] - Nothing is more natural, considering their ideas of
money; hoarded and piled up, instead of being a fertilizing stream, it
is a useless marsh exhaling bad odors. The queen, having presented the
Dauphin with a carriage whose silver-gilt trappings are decked with
rubies and sapphires, naively exclaims, "Has not the king added
200,000 livres to my treasury? That is no reason for keeping
them!"[25] They would rather throw it out of the window. Which was
actually done by the Marshal de Richelieu with a purse he had given to
his grandson, and which the lad, not knowing how to use, brought back
intact. Money, on this occasion, was at least of service to the
passing street-sweeper that picked it up. But had there been no
passer-by to pick it up, it would have been thrown into the river. One
day Mme. de B - , being with the Prince de Conti, hinted that she
would like a miniature of her canary bird set in a ring. The Prince
offers to have it made. His offer is accepted, but on condition that
the miniature be set plain and without jewels. Accordingly the
miniature is placed in a simple rim of gold. But, to cover over the
painting, a large diamond, made very thin, serves as a glass. Mme. de
B - , having returned the diamond, "M. le Prince de Conti had it
ground to powder which he used to dry the ink of the note he wrote to
Mme. de B - on the subject." This pinch of powder cost 4 or 5,000
livres, but we may divine the turn and tone of the note. The extreme
of profusion must accompany the height of gallantry, the man of the
world being so much the more important according to his contempt for


Moral divorce of husband and wife. - Gallantry. - Separation of
parents and children. - Education, its object and omissions. - The
tone of servants and purveyors. - Pleasure seeking universal.

In a drawing room the woman who receives the least attention from a
man is his own wife, and she returns the compliment. Hence at a time
like this, when people live for society and in society, there is no
place for conjugal intimacy. - Moreover, when a married couple
occupy an exalted position they are separated by custom and decorum.
Each party has his or her own household, or at least their own
apartments, servants, equipage, receptions and distinct society, and,
as entertainment entails ceremony, they stand towards each other in
deference to their rank on the footing of polite strangers. They are
each announced in each other's apartment; they address each other
"Madame, Monsieur," and not alone in public, but in private; they
shrug their shoulders when, sixty leagues out from Paris, they
encounter in some old chateau a provincial wife ignorant enough to say
"my dear " to her husband before company.[26] - Already separated at
the fireside, the two lives diverge beyond it at an ever increasing
radius. The husband has a government of his own: his private command,
his private regiment, his post at court, which keeps him absent from
home; only in his declining years does his wife consent to follow him
into garrison or into the provinces.[27] And rather is this the case
because she is herself occupied, and as seriously as himself; often
with a position near a princess, and always with an important circle
of company which she must maintain. At this epoch woman is as active
as man,[28] following the same career, and with the same resources,
consisting of the flexible voice, the winning grace, the insinuating
manner, the tact, the quick perception of the right moment, and the
art of pleasing, demanding, and obtaining; there is not a lady at
court who does not bestow regiments and benefices. Through this right
the wife has her personal retinue of solicitors and protégés, also,
like her husband, her friends, her enemies, her own ambitions,
disappointments, and rancorous feeling; nothing could be more
effectual in the disruption of a household than this similarity of
occupation and this division of interests. - The tie thus loosened
ends by being sundered under the ascendancy of opinion. "It looks well
not to live together," to grant each other every species of tolerance,
and to devote oneself to society. Society, indeed, then fashions
opinion, and through opinion it creates the morals which it requires.

Toward the middle of the century the husband and wife lodged under
the same roof, but that was all. "They never saw each other, one never
met them in the same carriage; they are never met in the same house;
nor, with very good reason, are they ever together in public." Strong
emotions would have seemed odd and even "ridiculous;" in any event
unbecoming; it would have been as unacceptable as an earnest remark
"aside" in the general current of light conversation. Each has a duty
to all, and for a couple to entertain each other is isolation; in
company there is no right to the tête-à-tête.[29] It was hardly
allowed for a few days to lovers.[30] And even then it was regarded
unfavorably; they were found too much occupied with each other. Their
preoccupation spread around them an atmosphere of "constraint and
ennui; one had to be upon one's guard and to check oneself." They were
"dreaded." The exigencies of society are those of an absolute king,
and admit of no partition. "If morals lost by this, society was
infinitely the gainer," says M. de Bezenval, a contemporary; "having
got rid of the annoyances and dullness caused by the husbands'
presence, the freedom was extreme; the coquetry both of men and women
kept up social vivacity and daily provided piquant adventures." Nobody
is jealous, not even when in love. "People are mutually pleased and
become attached; if one grows weary of the other, they part with as
little concern as they came together. Should the sentiment revive they
take to each other with as much vivacity as if it were the first time
they had been engaged. They may again separate, but they never
quarrel. As they have become enamored without love, they part without
hate, deriving from the feeble desire they have inspired the advantage
of being always ready to oblige."[31] Appearances, moreover, are
respected. An uninformed stranger would detect nothing to excite
suspicion. An extreme curiosity, says Horace Walpole,[32] or a great
familiarity with things, is necessary to detect the slightest intimacy
between the two sexes. No familiarity is allowed except under the
guise of friendship, while the vocabulary of love is as much
prohibited as its rites apparently are. Even with Crébillon fils, even
with Laclos, at the most exciting moments, the terms their characters
employ are circumspect and irreproachable. Whatever indecency there
may be, it is never expressed in words, the sense of propriety in
language imposing itself not only on the outbursts of passion, but
again on the grossness of instincts. Thus do the sentiments which are
naturally the strongest lose their point and sharpness; their rich and
polished remains are converted into playthings for the drawing room,
and, thus cast to and fro by the whitest hands, fall on the floor like
a shuttlecock. We must, on this point, listen to the heroes of the
epoch; their free and easy tone is inimitable, and it depicts both
them and their actions. "I conducted myself," says the Duc de Lauzun,
"very prudently, and even deferentially with Mme. de Lauzun; I knew
Mme. de Cambis very openly, for whom I concerned myself very little; I
kept the little Eugénie whom I loved a great deal; I played high, I
paid my court to the king, and I hunted with him with great
punctuality."[33] He had for others, withal, that indulgence of which
he himself stood in need. "He was asked what he would say if his wife
(whom he had not seen for ten years) should write to him that she had
just discovered that she was enceinte. He reflected a moment and then
replied, 'I would write, and tell her that I was delighted that heaven
had blessed our union; be careful of your health; I will call and pay
my respects this evening.' " There are countless replies of the same
sort, and I venture to say that, without having read them, one could
not imagine to what a degree social art had overcome natural

"Here at Paris," writes Mme. d'Oberkirk, "I am no longer my own
mistress. I scarcely have time to talk with my husband and to answer
my letters. I do not know what women do that are accustomed to lead
this life; they certainly have no families to look after, nor children
to educate." At all events they act as if they had none, and the men
likewise. Married people not living together live but rarely with
their children, and the causes that disintegrate wedlock also
disintegrate the family. In the first place there is the aristocratic
tradition, which interposes a barrier between parents and children
with a view to maintain a respectful distance. Although enfeebled and
about to disappear,[34] this tradition still subsists. The son says "
Monsieur" to his father; the daughter comes "respectfully" to kiss her
mother's hand at her toilet. A caress is rare and seems a favor;
children generally, when with their parents, are silent, the sentiment
that usually animates them being that of deferential timidity. At one
time they were regarded as so many subjects, and up to a certain point
they are so still; while the new exigencies of worldly life place them
or keep them effectually aside. M. de Talleyrand stated that he had
never slept under the same roof with his father and mother. And if
they do sleep there, they are not the less neglected. "I was
entrusted," says the Count de Tilly, "to valets; and to a kind of
preceptor resembling these in more respects than one." During this
time his father ran after women. "I have known him," adds the young
man, "to have mistresses up to an advanced age; he was always adoring
them and constantly abandoning them." The Duc de Lauzun finds it
difficult to obtain a good tutor for his son; for this reason the
latter writes, "he conferred the duty on one of my late mother's
lackeys who could read and write tolerably well, and to whom the title
of valet-de-chambre was given to insure greater consideration. They
gave me the most fashionable teachers besides; but M. Roch (which was
my mentor's name) was not qualified to arrange their lessons, or to
qualify me to benefit by them. I was, moreover, like all the children
of my age and of my station, dressed in the handsomest clothes to go
out, and naked and dying with hunger in the house,"[35] and not
through unkindness, but through household oversight, dissipation, and
disorder, attention being given to things elsewhere. One might easily
count the fathers who, like the Marshal de Belle-Isle, brought up
their sons under their own eyes, and themselves attended to their
education methodically, strictly, and with tenderness. As to the
girls, they were placed in convents; relieved from this care, their
parents only enjoy the greater freedom. Even when they retain charge
of them they are scarcely more of a burden to them. Little Fé1icité de
Saint-Aubin[36] sees her parents "only on their waking up and at meal
times." Their day is wholly taken up; the mother is making or
receiving visits; the father is in his laboratory or engaged in
hunting. Up to seven years of age the child passes her time with
chambermaids who teach her only a little catechism, "with an infinite
number of ghost stories." About this time she is taken care of; but in
a way which well portrays the epoch. The Marquise, her mother, the
author of mythological and pastoral operas, has a theater built in the
chateau; a great crowd of company resorts to it from Bourbon-Lancy and
Moulins; after rehearsing twelve weeks the little girl, with a quiver
of arrows and blue wings, plays the part of Cupid, and the costume is
so becoming she is allowed to wear it in common during the entire day
for nine months. To finish the business they send for a dancing-
fencing master, and, still wearing the Cupid costume, she takes
lessons in fencing and in deportment. "The entire winter is devoted to
playing comedy and tragedy." Sent out of the room after dinner, she is
brought in again only to play on the harpsichord or to declaim the
monologue of Alzire before a numerous assembly. Undoubtedly such
extravagances are not customary; but the spirit of education is
everywhere the same; that is to say, in the eyes of parents there is
but one intelligible and rational existence, that of society, even for
children, and the attentions bestowed on these are solely with a view
to introduce them into it or to prepare them for it. Even in the last
years of the ancient régime[37] little boys have their hair powdered,
"a pomatumed chignon (bourse), ringlets, and curls"; they wear the
sword, the chapeau under the arm, a frill, and a coat with gilded
cuffs; they kiss young ladies' hands with the air of little dandies. A
lass of six years is bound up in a whalebone waist; her large hoop-
petticoat supports a skirt covered with wreaths; she wears on her head
a skillful combination of false curls, puffs, and knots, fastened with
pins, and crowned with plumes, and so high that frequently "the chin
is half way down to her feet"; sometimes they put rouge on her face.
She is a miniature lady, and she knows it; she is fully up in her
part, without effort or inconvenience, by force of habit; the unique,
the perpetual instruction she gets is that on her deportment; it may
be said with truth that the fulcrum of education in this country is
the dancing-master.[38] They could get along with him without any
others; without him the others were of no use. For, without him, how
could people go through easily, suitably, and gracefully the thousand
and one actions of daily life, walking, sitting down, standing up,
offering the arm, using the fan, listening and smiling, before eyes so
experienced and before such a refined public? This is to be the great
thing for them when they become men and women, and for this reason it
is the thing of chief importance for them as children. Along with
graces of attitude and of gesture, they already have those of the mind
and of expression. Scarcely is their tongue loosened when they speak
the polished language of their parents. The latter amuse themselves
with them and use them as pretty dolls; the preaching of Rousseau,
which, during the last third of the last century, brought children
into fashion, produces no other effect. They are made to recite their
lessons in public, to perform in proverbs, to take parts in pastorals.
Their sallies are encouraged. They know how to turn a compliment, to
invent a clever or affecting repartee, to be gallant, sensitive, and
even spirituelle. The little Duc d'Angoulême, holding a book in his
hand, receives Suffren, whom he addresses thus: "I was reading
Plutarch and his illustrious men. You could not have entered more
apropos."[39] The children of M. de Sabran, a boy and a girl, one
eight and the other nine, having taken lessons from the comedians
Sainval and Larive, come to Versailles to play before the king and
queen in Voltaire's "Oreste," and on the little fellow being
interrogated about the classic authors, he replies to a lady, the
mother of three charming girls, "Madame, Anacreon is the only poet I
can think of here!" Another, of the same age, replies to a question of
Prince Henry of Prussia with an agreeable impromptu in verse.[40] To
cause witticisms, trivialities, and mediocre verse to germinate in a
brain eight years old, what a triumph for the culture of the day! It
is the last characteristic of the régime which, after having stolen
man away from public affairs, from his own affairs, from marriage,
from the family, hands him over, with all his sentiments and all his
faculties, to social worldliness, him and all that belong to him.
Below him fine ways and forced politeness prevail, even with his
servants and tradesmen. A Frontin has a gallant unconstrained air, and
he turns a compliment.[41] An Abigail needs only to be a kept mistress
to become a lady. A shoemaker is a "monsieur in black," who says to a
mother on saluting the daughter, "Madame, a charming young person, and
I am more sensible than ever of the value of your kindness," on which
the young girl, just out of a convent, takes him for a suitor and
blushes scarlet. Undoubtedly less unsophisticated eyes would
distinguish the difference between this pinchbeck louis d'or and a
genuine one; but their resemblance suffices to show the universal
action of the central mint-machinery which stamps both with the same
effigy, the base metal and the refined gold.


The charm of this life. - Etiquette in the 18th Century. - Its
perfection and its resources. -Taught and prescribed under feminine

A society which obtains such ascendancy must possess some charm; in
no country, indeed, and in no age has so perfect a social art rendered
life so agreeable. Paris is the school-house of Europe, a school of
urbanity to which the youth of Russia, Germany, and England resort to
become civilized. Lord Chesterfield in his letters never tires of
reminding his son of this, and of urging him into these drawing-rooms,
which will remove "his Cambridge rust." Once familiar with them they
are never abandoned, or if one is obliged to leave them, one always
sighs for them. "Nothing is comparable," says Voltaire,[42] "to the
genial life one leads there in the bosom of the arts and of a calm and
refined voluptuousness; strangers and monarchs have preferred this
repose, so agreeably occupied in it and so enchanting to their own
countries and thrones. The heart there softens and melts away like
aromatics slowly dissolving in moderate heat, evaporating in
delightful perfumes." Gustavus III, beaten by the Russians, declares
that he will pass his last days in Paris in a house on the boulevards;
and this is not merely complimentary, for he sends for plans and an
estimate.[43] A supper or an evening entertainment brings people two
hundred leagues away. Some friends of the Prince de Ligne "leave
Brussels after breakfast, reach the opera in Paris just in time to see
the curtain rise, and, after the spectacle is over, return immediately
to Brussels, traveling all night." - Of this delight, so eagerly
sought, we have only imperfect copies, and we are obliged to revive it
intellectually. It consists, in the first place, in the pleasure of
living with perfectly polite people; there is no enjoyment more
subtle, more lasting, more inexhaustible. Man's self-esteem or vanity
being infinite, intelligent people are always able to produce some
refinement of attention to gratify it. Worldly sensibility being
infinite there is no imperceptible shade of it permitting
indifference. After all, Man is still the greatest source of happiness
or of misery to Man, and in those days this everflowing fountain
brought to him sweetness instead of bitterness. Not only was it
essential not to offend, but it was essential to please; one was
expected to lose sight of oneself in others, to be always cordial and
good-humored, to keep one's own vexations and grievances in one's own
breast, to spare others melancholy ideas and to supply them with
cheerful ideas.

"Was any one old in those days? It is the Revolution which brought
old age into the world, Your grandfather, my child,[44] was handsome,
elegant, neat, gracious, perfumed, playful, amiable, affectionate, and
good-tempered to the day of his death. People then knew how to live
and how to die; there was no such thing as troublesome infirmities. If
any one had the gout, 'he walked along all the same and made no faces;
people well brought up concealed their sufferings. There was none of
that absorption in business which spoils a man inwardly and dulls his
brain. People knew how to ruin themselves without letting it appear,
like good gamblers who lose their money without showing uneasiness or
spite. A man would be carried half dead to a hunt. It was thought
better to die at a ball or at the play than in one's bed, between four
wax candles and horrid men in black. People were philosophers; they
did not assume to be austere, but often were so without making a
display of it. If one was discreet, it was through inclination and
without pedantry or prudishness. People enjoyed this life, and when
the hour of departure came they did not try to disgust others with
living. The last request of my old husband was that I would survive
him as long as possible and live as happily as I could."

When, especially, women are concerned it is not sufficient to be
polite; it is important to be gallant. Each lady invited by the Prince
de Conti to Ile-Adam "finds a carriage and horses at her disposal; she
is free to give dinners every day in her own rooms to her own
friends."[45] Mme. de Civrac having to go to the springs, her friends
undertake to divert her on the journey; they keep ahead of her a few
posts, and, at every place where she rests for the night, they give
her a little féte champêtre disguised as villagers and in bourgeois
attire, with bailiff and scrivener, and other masks all singing and
reciting verses. A lady on the eve of Longchamp, knowing that the
Vicomte de V - possesses two calèches, makes a request for one of
them; it is disposed of; but he is careful not to decline, and
immediately has one of the greatest elegance purchased to lend it for
three hours; he is only too happy that anybody should wish to borrow
from him, his prodigality appearing amiable but not astonishing.[46]
The reason is that women then were queens in the drawing-room; it is
their right; this is the reason why, in the eighteenth century, they
prescribe the law and the fashion in all things.[47] Having formed the
code of usages, it is quite natural that they should profit by it, and
see that all its prescriptions are carried out. In this respect any
circle "of the best company " is a superior tribunal, serving as a
court of last appeal.[48] The Maréchale de Luxembourg is an authority;
there is no point of manners which she does not justify with an
ingenious argument. Any expression, any neglect of the standard, the
slightest sign of pretension or of vanity incurs her disapprobation,
from which there is no appeal, and the delinquent is for ever banished
from refined society. Any subtle observation, any well-timed silence,
an " oh" uttered in an appropriate place instead of an " Ah," secures
from her, as from M. Talleyrand, a diploma of good breeding which is
the commencement of fame and the promise of a fortune. Under such an
"instructress" it is evident that deportment, gesture, language, every
act or omission in this mundane sphere, becomes, like a picture or
poem, a veritable work of art; that is to say, infinite in refinement,
at once studied and easy, and so harmonious in its details that its
perfection conceals the difficulty of combining them.

A great lady "receives ten persons with one courtesy, bestowing on
each, through the head or by a glance, all that he is entitled
to;"[49] meaning by this the shade of regard due to each phase of
position, consideration, and birth. "She has always to deal with
easily irritated amour-propres; consequently the slightest deficiency
in proportion would be promptly detected,"[50] But she is never
mistaken, and never hesitates in these subtle distinctions; with
incomparable tact, dexterity, and flexibility of tone, she regulates
the degrees of her welcome. She has one "for women of condition, one
for women of quality, one for women of the court, one for titled
women, one for women of historic names, another for women of high
birth personally, but married to men beneath them; another for women
who by marriage have changed a common into a distinguished name;
another still for women of reputable names in the law; and, finally,
another for those whose relief consists chiefly of expensive houses
and good suppers." A stranger would be amazed on seeing with what
certain and adroit steps she circulates among so many watchful
vanities without ever hurting or being hurt. "She knows how to express
all through the style of her salutations; a varied style, extending
through imperceptible gradations, from the accessory of a single shrug
of the shoulder, almost an impertinence, to that noble and deferential
reverence which so few women, even of the court, know how to do well;
that slow bending forward, with lowered eyes and straightened figure,
gradually recovering and modestly glancing at the person while
gracefully raising the body up, altogether much more refined and more
delicate than words, but very expressive as the means of manifesting
respect." - This is but a single action, and very common; there are
a hundred others, and of importance. Imagine, if it is possible, the
degree of elegance and perfection to which they attained through good
breeding. I select one at random, a duel between two princes of the
blood, the Comte d'Artois and the Duc de Bourbon; the latter being the
offended party, the former, his superior, had to offer him a
meeting[51], "As soon as the Comte d'Artois saw him he leaped to the
ground, and walking directly up to him, said to him smiling:
'Monsieur, the public pretends that we are seeking each other.' The
Duc de Bourbon, removing his hat, replied, 'Monsieur, I am here to
receive your orders.' - 'To execute your own,' returned the Comte
d'Artois, 'but you must allow me to return to my carriage.' He comes
back with a sword, and the duel begins. After a certain time they are
separated, the seconds deciding that honor is satisfied, 'It is not
for me to express an opinion,' says the Comte d'Artois, 'Monsieur le
Duc de Bourbon is to express his wishes; I am here only to receive his
orders.' - 'Monsieur,' responds the Duc de Bourbon, addressing the
Comte d'Artois, meanwhile lowering the point of his sword, 'I am
overcome with gratitude for your kindness, and shall never be
insensible to the honor you have done me.' " - Could there be a more
just and delicate sentiment of rank, position, and circumstance, and
could a duel be surrounded with more graces? There is no situation,
however thorny, which is not saved by politeness. Through habit, and a
suitable expression, even in the face of the king, they conciliate
resistance and respect. When Louis XV, having exiled the Parliament,
caused it to be proclaimed through Mme. Du Barry that his mind was
made up and that it would not be changed, "Ah, Madame," replied the
Duc de Nivernais, "when the king said that he was looking at
yourself." - "My dear Fontenelle," said one of his lady friends to
him, placing her hand on his heart, "the brain is there likewise."
Fontenelle smiled and made no reply. We see here, even with an
academician, how truths are forced down, a drop of acid in a sugar-
plum; the whole so thoroughly intermingled that the piquancy of the
flavor only enhances its sweetness. Night after night, in each
drawing-room, sugar-plums of this description are served up, two or
three along with the drop of acidity, all the rest not less exquisite,
but possessing only the sweetness and the perfume. Such is the art of
social worldliness, an ingenious and delightful art, which, entering
into all the details of speech and of action, transforms them into
graces; which imposes on man not servility and falsehood, but civility
and concern for others, and which, in exchange, extracts for him out
of human society all the pleasure it can afford.


What constitutes happiness in the 18th Century. - The fascination
of display. - Indolence, recreation, light conversation.

One can very well understand this kind of pleasure in a summary
way, but how is it to be made apparent? Taken by themselves the
pastimes of society are not to be described; they are too ephemeral;
their charm arises from their accompaniments. A narrative of them
would be but tasteless dregs, does the libretto of an opera give any
idea of the opera itself? - If the reader would revive for himself
this vanished world let him seek for it in those works that have
preserved its externals or its accent, and first in the pictures and
engravings of Watteau, Fragonard and the Saint-Aubins, and then in the
novels and dramas of Voltaire and Marivaux, and even in Collé and
Crébillon fils;[52] then do we see the breathing figures and hear
their voices, What bright, winning, intelligent faces beaming with
pleasure and with the desire to please! What ease in bearing and in
gesture! What piquant grace in the toilet, in the smile, in
vivaciousness of expression, in the control of the fluted voice, in
the coquetry of hidden meanings! How involuntarily we stop to look and
listen! Attractiveness is everywhere, in the small spirituelle heads,
in the slender hands, in the rumpled attire, in the pretty features,
in the demeanor. The slightest gesture, a pouting or mutinous turn of
the head, a plump little wrist peering from its nest of lace, a
yielding waist bent over an embroidery frame, the rapid rustling of an
opening fan, is a feast for the eyes and the intellect. It is indeed
all daintiness, a delicate caress for delicate senses, extending to
the external decoration of life, to the sinuous outlines, the showy
drapery, and the refinements of comfort in the furniture and
architecture. Fill your imagination with these accessories and with
these figures and you will take as much interest in their amusements
as they did. In such a place and in such company it suffices to be
together to be content. Their indolence is no burden to them for they
sport with existence. - At Chanteloup, the Duc de Choiseul, in
disgrace, finds the fashionable world flocking to see him; nothing is
done and yet no hours of the day are unoccupied.[53] "The Duchess has
only two hours' time to herself and these two hours are devoted to her
toilet and her letters; the calculation is a simple one: she gets up
at eleven; breakfasts at noon, and this is followed by conversation,
which lasts three or four hours; dinner comes at six, after which
there is play and the reading of the memoirs of Mme. de Maintenon."
Ordinarily "the company remains together until two o'clock in the
morning." Intellectual freedom is complete. There is no confusion, no
anxiety. They play whist and tric-trac in the afternoon and faro in
the evening. "They do to day what they did yesterday and what they
will do to-morrow; the dinner-supper is to them the most important
affair in life, and their only complaint in the world is of their
digestion. Time goes so fast I always fancy that I arrived only the
evening before." Sometimes they get up a little race and the ladies
are disposed to take part in it, "for they are all very agile and able
to run around the drawing room five or six times every day." But they
prefer indoors to the open air; in these days true sunshine consists
of candle-light and the finest sky is a painted ceiling; is there any
other less subject to inclemencies or better adapted to conversation
and merriment? - They accordingly chat and jest, in words with
present friends, and by letters with absent friends. They lecture old
Mme. du Deffant, who is too lively and whom they style the "little
girl"; the young Duchesse, tender and sensible, is "her grandmamma."
As for "grandpapa," M. de Choiseul, "a slight cold keeping him in bed
he has fairy stories read to him all day long, a species of reading to
which we are all given; we find them as probable as modern history. Do
not imagine that he is unoccupied. He has had a tapestry frame put up
in the drawing room at which he works, I cannot say with the greatest
skill, but at least with the greatest assiduity. . . . Now, our
delight is in flying a kite; grandpapa has never seen this sight and
he is enraptured with it." The pastime, in itself, is nothing; it is
resorted to according to opportunity or the taste of the hour, now
taken up and now let alone, and the abbé soon writes: "I do not speak
about our races because we race no more, nor of our readings because
we do not read, nor of our promenades because we do not go out. What,
then, do we do? Some play billiards, others dominoes, and others
backgammon. We weave, we ravel and we unravel. Time pushes us on and
we pay him back."

Other circles present the same spectacle. Every occupation being an
amusement, a caprice or an impulse of fashion brings one into favor.
At present, it is unraveling, every white hand at Paris, and in the
chateaux, being busy in undoing trimmings, epaulettes and old stuffs,
to pick out the gold and silver threads. They find in this employment
the semblance of economy, an appearance of occupation, in any event
something to keep them in countenance. On a circle of ladies being
formed, a big unraveling bag in green taffeta is placed on the table,
which belongs to the lady of the house; immediately all the ladies
call for their bags and "voilà les laquais en l'air"[54] It is all the
rage. They unravel every day and several hours in the day; some
derive from it a hundred louis d'or per annum. The gentlemen are
expected to provide the materials for the work; the Duc de Lauzun,
accordingly, gives to Madame de V - a harp of natural size covered
with gold thread; an enormous golden fleece, brought as a present from
the Comte de Lowenthal, and which cost 2 or 3,000 francs, brings,
picked to pieces, 5 or 600 francs. But they do not look into matters
so closely. Some employment is essential for idle hands, some manual
outlet for nervous activity; a humorous petulance breaks out in the
middle of the pretended work. One day, when about going out, Madame de
R - observes that the gold fringe on her dress would be capital for
unraveling, whereupon, with a dash, she cuts one of the fringes off.
Ten women suddenly surround a man wearing fringes, pull off his coat
and put his fringes and laces into their bags, just as if a bold flock
of tomtits, fluttering and chattering in the air, should suddenly dart
on a jay to pluck out its feathers; thenceforth a man who enters a
circle of women stands in danger of being stripped alive. All this
pretty world has the same pastimes, the men as well as the women.
Scarcely a man can be found without some drawing room accomplishment,
some trifling way of keeping his mind and hands busy, and of filling
up the vacant hour; almost all make rhymes, or act in private
theatricals; many of them are musicians and painters of still-life
subjects. M. de Choiseul, as we have just seen, works at tapestry;
others embroider or make sword-knots. M. de Francueil is a good
violinist and makes violins himself; and besides this he is
"watchmaker, architect, turner, painter, locksmith, decorator, cook,
poet, music-composer and he embroiders remarkably well."[55] In this
general state of inactivity it is essential "to know how to be
pleasantly occupied in behalf of others as well as in one's own
behalf." Madame de Pompadour is a musician, an actress, a painter and
an engraver. Madame Adelaide learns watchmaking and plays on all
instruments from a horn to the jew's-harp; not very well, it is true,
but as well as a queen can sing, whose fine voice is ever only half in
tune. But they make no pretensions. The thing is to amuse oneself and
nothing more; high spirits and the amenities of the hour cover all.
Rather read this capital fact of Madame de Lauzun at Chanteloup: "Do
you know," writes the abbé, "that nobody possesses in a higher degree
one quality you would never suspect of her, that of preparing
scrambled eggs? This talent has been buried in the ground, she cannot
recall the time she acquired it; I believe that she had it at her
birth. Accident made it known, and immediately it was put to test.
Yesterday morning, an hour for ever memorable in the history of eggs,
the implements necessary for this great operation were all brought
out, a heater, some gravy, some pepper and eggs. Behold Madame de
Lauzun, at first blushing and in a tremor, soon with intrepid courage,
breaking the eggs, beating them up in the pan, turning them over, now
to the right, now to the left, now up and now down, with unexampled
precision and success! Never was a more excellent dish eaten." What
laughter and gaiety in the group comprised in this little scene. And,
not long after, what madrigals and allusions! Gaiety here resembles a
dancing ray of sunlight; it flickers over all things and reflects its
grace on every object.


Gaiety in the 18th Century. - Its causes and effects. - Toleration
and license. - Balls, fêtes, hunts, banquets, pleasures. - Freedom of
the magistrates and prelates.

The Frenchman's characteristic," says an English traveler in 1785,
"is to be always gay;"[56] and he remarks that he must be so because,
in France, such is the tone of society and the only mode of pleasing
the ladies, the sovereigns of society and the arbiters of good taste.
Add to this the absence of the causes which produce modern dreariness,
and which convert the sky above our heads into one of leaden gloom.
There was no laborious, forced work in those days, no furious
competition, no uncertain careers, no infinite perspectives. Ranks
were clearly defined, ambitions limited, there was less envy. Man was
not habitually dissatisfied, soured and preoccupied as he is nowadays.
Few free passes were allowed where there was no right to pass; we
think of nothing but advancement; they thought only of amusing
themselves. An officer, instead of raging and storming over the army
lists, busies himself in inventing some new disguise for a masked
ball; a magistrate, instead of counting the convictions he has
secured, provides a magnificent supper. At Paris, every afternoon in
the left avenue of the Palais-Royal, "fine company, very richly
dressed, gather under the large trees;" and in the evening "on leaving
the opera at half-past eight, they go back there and remain until two
o'clock in the morning." They have music in the open air by moonlight,
Gavat singing, and the chevalier de Saint-George playing on the
violin.[57] At Moffontaine, "the Comte de Vaudreuil, Lebrun the poet,
the chevalier de Coigny, so amiable and so gay, Brongniart, Robert,
compose charades every night and wake each other up to repeat them."
At Maupertuis in M. de Montesquiou's house, at Saint-Ouen with the
Marshal de Noailles, at Genevilliers with the Comte de Vandreuil, at
Rainay with the Duc d'Orléans, at Chantilly with the Prince de Condé,
there is nothing but festivity. We read no biography of the day, no
provincial document, no inventory, without hearing the tinkling of the
universal carnival. At Monchoix,[58] the residence of the Comte de
Bédé, Châteaubriand's uncle, "they had music, dancing and hunting,
rollicking from morning to night, eating up both capital and income."
At Aix and Marseilles, throughout the fashionable world, with the
Comte de Valbelle, I find nothing but concerts, entertainment, balls,
gallantries, and private theatricals with the Comtesse de Mirabeau for
the leading performer. At Chateauroux, M. Dupin de Francueil
entertains "a troop of musicians, lackeys, cooks, parasites, horses
and dogs, bestowing everything lavishly, in amusements and in charity,
wishing to be happy himself and everybody else around him," never
casting up accounts, and going to ruin in the most delightful manner
possible. Nothing arrests this gaiety, neither old age, exile, nor
misfortune ; in 1793 it still subsists in the prisons of the Republic.
A man in place is not then made uncomfortable by his official coat,
puffed up by his situation, obliged to maintain a dignified and
important air, constrained under that assumed gravity which democratic
envy imposes on us as if a ransom. In 1753,[59] the parliamentarians,
just exiled to Bourges, get up three companies of private theatricals
and perform comedies, while one of them, M. Dupré de Saint-Maur,
fights a rival with the sword. In 1787,[60] when the entire parliament
is banished to Troyes the bishop, M. de Barral, returns from his
chateau de Saint-Lye expressly to receive it, presiding every evening
at a dinner of forty persons. "There was no end to the fêtes and
dinners in the town; the president kept open house," a triple quantity
of food being consumed in the eating-houses and so much wood burned in
the kitchens, that the town came near being put on short allowance.
Feasting and jollity is but little less in ordinary times. A
parliamentarian, like a seignior, must do credit to his fortune. See
the letters of the President des Brosses concerning society in Dijon;
it reminds us of the abbey of Thélème; then contrast this with the
same town today.[61] In 1744, Monseigneur de Montigny, brother of the
President de Bourbonne, apropos of the king's recovery, entertains the
workmen, tradesmen and artisans in his employ to the number of eighty,
another table being for his musicians and comedians, and a third for
his clerks, secretaries, physicians, surgeons, attorneys and notaries;
the crowd collects around a triumphal car covered with shepherdesses,
shepherds and rustic divinities in theatrical costume; fountains flow
with wine "as if it were water," and after supper the confectionery is
thrown out of the windows. Each parliamentarian around him has his
"little Versailles, a grand hotel between court and garden," This
town, now so silent, then rang with the clatter of fine equipages. The
profusion of the table is astonishing, "not only on gala days, but at
the suppers of each week, and I could almost say, of each day." -
Amidst all these fête-givers, the most illustrious of all, the
President des Brosses, so grave on the magisterial bench, so intrepid
in his remonstrances, so laborious,[62] so learned, is an
extraordinary stimulator of fun (boute-entrain), a genuine Gaul, with
a sparkling, inexhaustible fund of salacious humor: with his friends
he throws off his perruque, his gown, and even something more. Nobody
dreams of being offended by it; nobody conceives that dress is an
extinguisher, which is true of every species of dress, and of the gown
in particular. "When I entered society, in 1785," writes a
parliamentarian, "I found myself introduced in a certain way, alike to
the wives and the mistresses of the friends of my family, passing
Monday evening with one, and Tuesday evening with the other. And I was
only eighteen, and I belonged to a family of magistrates."[63] At
Basville, at the residence of M. de Lamoignon, during the autumnal
vacation and the Whitsuntide holidays, there are thirty persons at the
table daily; there are three or four hunts a week, and the most
prominent magistrates, M. de Lamoignon, M. Pasquier, M. de Rosambo, M.
and Mme. d'Aguesseau, perform the "Barber of Seville " in the chateau

As for the cassock, it enjoys the same freedom as the robe. At
Saverne, at Clairvaux, at Le Mans and at other places, the prelates
wear it as freely as a court dress. The revolutionary upheaval was
necessary to make it a fixture on their bodies, and, afterwards, the
hostile supervision of an organized party and the fear of constant
danger. Up to 1789 the sky is too serene and the atmosphere too balmy
to lead them to button it up to the neck. "Freedom, facilities,
Monsieur l'Abbé," said the Cardinal de Rohan to his secretary,
"without these this life would be a desert."[64] This is what the good
cardinal took care to avoid; on the contrary he had made Saverne an
enchanting world according to Watteau, almost "a landing-place for
Cythera." Six hundred peasants and keepers, ranged in a line a league
long, form in the morning and beat up the surrounding country, while
hunters, men and women, are posted at their stations. "For fear that
the ladies might be frightened if left alone by themselves, the man
whom they hated least was always left with them to make them feel at
ease," and as nobody was allowed to leave his post before the signal
"it was impossible to be surprised." - About one p.m. "the company
gathered under a beautiful tent, on the bank of a stream or in some
delightful place, where an exquisite dinner was served up, and, as
everybody had to be made happy, each peasant received a pound of meat,
two of bread and half a bottle of wine, they, as well as the ladies,
only asking to begin it all over again." The accommodating prelate
might certainly have replied to scrupulous people along with Voltaire,
that "nothing wrong can happen in good society." In fact, so he did
and in appropriate terms. One day, a lady accompanied by a young
officer, having come on a visit, and being obliged to keep them over
night, his valet comes and whispers to him that there is no more room.
- " 'Is the bath-room occupied?' - 'No, Monseigneur!' - 'Are
there not two beds there?' - 'Yes, Monseigneur, but they are both in
the same chamber, and that officer. . . ' - 'Very well, didn't they
come together? Narrow people like you always see something wrong. You
will find that they will get along well together; there is not the
slightest reason to consider the matter.' " And really nobody did
object, either the officer or the lady. - At Granselve, in the Gard,
the Bernardines are still more hospitable.[65] People resort to the
fête of St. Bernard which lasts a couple of weeks; during this time
they dance, and hunt, and act comedies, "the tables being ready at all
hours." The quarters of the ladies are provided with every requisite
for the toilet; they lack nothing, and it is even said that it was not
necessary for any of them to bring their officer. - I might cite
twenty prelates not less gallant, the second Cardinal de Rohan, the
hero of the necklace, M. de Jarente, bishop of Orleans, who keeps the
record of benefices, the young M. de Grimaldi, bishop of Le Mans, M.
de Breteuil, bishop of Montauban, M. de Cicé, archbishop of Bordeaux,
the Cardinal de Montmorency, grand-almoner, M. de Talleyrand, bishop
of Autun, M. de Conzié, bishop of Arras,[66] and, in the first rank,
the Abbé de Saint-Germain des Prés, Comte de Clermont, prince of the
blood, who, with an income of 370,000 francs succeeds in ruining
himself twice, who performs in comedies in his town and country
residences, who writes to Collé in a pompous style and, who, in his
abbatial mansion at Berny, installs Mademoiselle Leduc, a dancer, to
do the honors of his table. - There is no hypocrisy. In the house of
M. Trudaine, four bishops attend the performance of a piece by Collé
entitled "Les accidents ou les Abbés," the substance of which, says
Collé himself, is so free that he did not dare print it along with his
other pieces. A little later, Beaumarchais, on reading his "Marriage
of Figaro" at the Maréchal de Richelieu's domicile, not expurgated,
much more crude and coarse than it is today, has bishops and
archbishops for his auditors, and these, he says, "after being
infinitely amused by it, did me the honor to assure me that they would
state that there was not a single word in it offensive to good
morals"[67] : thus was the piece accepted against reasons of State,
against the king's will, and through the connivance of all those most
interested in suppressing it. "There is something more irrational than
my piece, and that is its success," said its author. The attraction
was too strong. People devoted to pleasure could not dispense with the
liveliest comedy of the age. They came to applaud a satire on
themselves; and better still, they themselves acted in it. - When a
prevalent taste is in fashion, it leads, like a powerful passion, to
extreme extravagance; the offered pleasure must, at any price, be had.
Faced with a momentary pleasure gratification, it is as a child
tempted by fruit; nothing arrests it, neither the danger to which it
is insensible, nor the social norms as these are established by


The principal diversion, elegant comedy. - Parades and

To divert oneself is to turn aside from oneself, to break loose and
to forget oneself; and to forget oneself fully one must be transported
into another, put himself in the place of another, take his mask and
play his part. Hence the liveliest of diversions is the comedy in
which one is an actor. It is that of children who, as authors, actors
and audience, improvise and perform small scenes. It is that of a
people whose political régime excludes exacting manly tasks (soucis
virile) and who sport with life just like children. At Venice, in the
eighteenth century, the carnival lasts six months; in France, under
another form, it lasts the entire year. Less familiar and less
picturesque, more refined and more elegant, it abandons the public
square where it lacks sunshine, to shut itself up in drawing-rooms
where chandeliers are the most suitable for it. It has retained of the
vast popular masquerade only a fragment, the opera ball, certainly
very splendid and frequented by princes, princesses and the queen; but
this fragment, brilliant as it is, does not suffice; consequently, in
every chateau, in every mansion, at Paris and in the provinces, it
sets up travesties on society and domestic comedies. - On welcoming
a great personage, on celebrating the birthday of the master or
mistress of the house, its guests or invited persons perform in an
improvised operetta, in an ingenious, laudatory pastoral, sometimes
dressed as gods, as Virtues, as mythological abstractions, as operatic
Turks, Laplanders and Poles, similar to the figures then gracing the
frontispieces of books, sometimes in the dress of peasants,
pedagogues, peddlers, milkmaids and flower-girls like the fanciful
villagers with which the current taste then fills the stage. They
sing, they dance, and come forward in turn to recite petty verses
composed for the occasion consisting of so many well-turned
compliments.[68] - At Chantilly "the young and charming Duchesse de
Bourbon, attired as a voluptuous Naiad, guides the Comte du Nord, in a
gilded gondola, across the grand canal to the island of Love;" the
Prince de Conti, in his part, serves as pilot to the Grand Duchesse;
other seigniors and ladies "each in allegorical guise," form the
escort,[69] and on these limpid waters, in this new garden of
Alcinous, the smiling and gallant retinue seems a fairy scene in
Tasso. - At Vaudreuil, the ladies, advised that they are to be
carried off to seraglios, attire themselves as vestals, while the
high-priest welcomes them with pretty couplets into his temple in the
park; meanwhile over three hundred Turks arrive who force the
enclosure to the sound of music, and bear away the ladies in
palanquins along the illuminated gardens. At the little Trianon, the
park is arranged as a fair, and the ladies of the court are the
saleswomen, "the queen keeping a café," while, here and there, are
processions and theatricals; this festival costs, it is said, 100,000
livres, and a repetition of it is designed at Choisy attended with a
larger outlay.

Alongside of these masquerades which stop at costume and require
only an hour, there is a more important diversion, the private
theatrical performance, which completely transforms the man, and which
for six weeks, and even for three months, absorbs him entirely at
rehearsals. Towards 1770,[70] "the rage for it is incredible; there is
not an attorney in his cottage who does not wish to have a stage and
his company of actors." A Bernardine living in Bresse, in the middle
of a wood, writes to Collé that he and his brethren are about to
perform "La Partie de Chasse de Henri IV," and that they are having a
small theater constructed "without the knowledge of bigots and small
minds." Reformers and moralists introduce theatrical art into the
education of children; Mme. de Genlis composes comedies for them,
considering these excellent for the securing of a good pronunciation,
proper self-confidence and the graces of deportment. The theater,
indeed, then prepares man for society as society prepares him for the
theater; in either case he is on display, composing his attitude and
tone of voice, and playing a part; the stage and the drawing room are
on an equal footing. Towards the end of the century everybody becomes
an actor, everybody having been one before.[71] "We hear of nothing
but little theaters set up in the country around Paris." For a long
time those of highest rank set the example. Under Louis XV. the Ducs
d'Orléans, de Nivernais, d'Ayen, de Coigny, the Marquises de
Courtenvaux, and d'Entraigues, the Comte de Maillebois, the Duchesse
de Brancas, the Comtesse d'Estrades form, with Madame de Pompadour,
the company of the "small cabinets;" the Due de la Vallière is the
director of them; when the piece contains a ballet the Marquis de
Courtenvaux, the Duc de Beuvron, the Comtes de Melfort and de Langeron
are the titular dancers.[72] "Those who are accustomed to such
spectacles," writes the sedate and pious Duc de Luynes, "agree in the
opinion that it would be difficult for professional comedians to play
better and more intelligently." The passion reaches at last still
higher, even to the royal family. At Trianon, the queen, at first
before forty persons and then before a more numerous audience,
performs Colette in "Le Devin de Village," Gotte, in "La Gageure
imprévue," Rosine in "Le Barbier de Seville," Pierette in "Le Chasseur
et la Laitière,"[73] while the other comedians consist of the
principal men of the court, the Comte d'Artois, the Comtes d'Adhémar
and de Vaudreuil, the Comtesse de Guiche, and the Canoness de
Polignac. A theater is formed in Monsieur's domicile; there are two in
the Comte d'Artois's house, two in that of the Duc d'Orléans, two in
the Comte de Clermont's, and one in the Prince de Condé's. The Comte
de Clermont performs serious characters; the Duc d'Orléans represents,
with completeness and naturalness, peasants and financiers; M. de
Miromesnil, keeper of the seals, is the smartest and most finished of
Scapins; M. de Vaudreuil seems to rival Molé; the Comte de Pons plays
the "Misanthrope" with rare perfection.[74] "More than ten of our
ladies of high rank," writes the Prince de Ligne, "play and sing
better than the best of those I have seen in our theaters." By their
talent judge of their study, assiduity and zeal. It is evident that
for many of them it is the principal occupation. In a certain chateau,
that of Saint-Aubin, the lady of the house, to secure a large enough
troupe, enrolls her four chambermaids in it, making her little
daughter, ten years old, play the part of Zaire, and for over twenty
months she has no vacation. After her bankruptcy, and in her exile,
the first thing done by the Princess de Guéménée was to send for
upholsterers to arrange a theater. In short, as nobody went out in
Venice without a mask so here nobody comprehended life without the
masqueradings, metamorphoses, representations and triumphs of the

The last trait I have to mention, yet more significant, is the
afterpiece. Really, in this fashionable circle, life is a carnival as
free and almost as rakish as that of Venice. The play commonly
terminates with a parade borrowed from La Fontaine's tales or from the
farces of the Italian drama, which are not only pointed but more than
free, and sometimes so broad that they cant be played only before
princes and courtesans;"[75] a morbid palate, indeed, having no taste
for orgeat, instead demanding a dram. The Duc d'Orléans sings on the
stage the most spicy songs, playing Bartholin in "Nicaise," and Blaise
in "Joconde." "Le Marriage sans Curé," "Leandre grosse," "L'amant
poussif," "Leandre Etalon," are the showy titles of the pieces
composed by Collé "for the amusement of His Highness and the Court."
For one which contains salt there are ten stuffed with strong pepper.
At Brunoy, at the residence of Monsieur, so gross are they[76] the
king regrets having attended; "nobody had any idea of such license;
two women in the auditorium had to go out, and, what is most
extraordinary, they had dared to invite the queen." - Gaiety is a
sort of intoxication which draws the cask down to the dregs, and when
the wine is gone it draws on the lees. Not only at their little
suppers, and with courtesans, but in the best society and with ladies,
they commit the follies of a bagnio. Let us use the right word, they
are blackguards, and the word is no more offensive to them than the
action. "For five or six months," writes a lady in 1782,"[77] "the
suppers are followed by a blind man's buff or by a draw-dance, and
they end in general mischievousness, (une polissonnerie générale)."
Guests are invited a fortnight in advance. "On this occasion they
upset the tables and the furniture; they scattered twenty caraffes of
water about the room; I finally got away at half-past one, wearied
out, pelted with handkerchiefs, and leaving Madame de Clarence hoarse,
with her dress torn to shreds, a scratch on her arm, and a bruise on
her forehead, but delighted that she had given such a gay supper and
flattered with the idea of its being the talk the next day." - This
is the result of a craving for amusement. Under its pressure, as under
the sculptor's thumb, the face of the century becomes transformed and
insensibly loses its seriousness; the formal expression of the
courtier at first becomes the cheerful physiognomy of the worldling,
and then, on these smiling lips, their contours changed, we see the
bold, unbridled grin of the scamp.[78]


[1]. "LA VIE DE SALON" is Taine's title. In Le Robert & Collins'
Dictionary salon is translated as "lounge" (Brit.) sitting room,
living room, or (cercle littéraire) salon.

[2]. De Loménie, "Beaumarchais et son temps," I. 403. Letter of
Beaumarchais, (Dec. 24, 1764.) - The travels of Mme. d'Aulnoy and
the letters of Mme. de Villars. - As to Italy see Stendhal, "Rome,
Naples et Florence." - For Germany see the "Mémoires" of the Margrave
of Bareith, also of the Chevalier Lang. - For England see my
"Histoire de la litérature Anglaise," vols. III. IV.

[3]. Volney, "Tableau du climat et du sol des Etats-Unis
d'Amérique." The leading trait of the French Colonist when compared
with the colonists of other nations, is, according to this writer, the
craving for neighbors and conversation

[4]. Mme. de Caylus, "Souvenirs," p. 108.

[5]. St. Simon, 461.

[6]. Duc de Lévis, p. 321.

[7]. Mme. de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Félicie," p. 160. - It is
important, however, to call attention to the old-fashioned royal
attitude under Louis XV and even Louis XVI. "Although I was advised,"
says Alfieri, "that the king never addressed ordinary strangers, I
could not digest the Olympian-Jupiter look with which Louis XV
measured the person presented to him, from head to foot, with such an
impassible air; if a fly should be introduced to a giant, the giant,
after looking at him, would smile, or perhaps remark. - 'What a
little mite!' In any event, if he said nothing, his face would express
it for him." Alfieri, Mémoires," I.138, 1768. (Alfieri, Vittorio, born
in Asti in 1749 - † Florence 1803. Italian poet and playwright. (SR.)
- See in Mme. d'Oberkirk's "Mémoires." (II. 349), the lesson
administered by Mme. Royale, aged seven and a half years, to a lady
introduced to her.

[8]. Champfort, 26, 55; Bachaumont, I. 136 (Sept 7,1762). One month
after the Parliament had passed a law against the Jesuits, little
Jesuits in wax appeared, with a snail for a base. "By means of a
thread the Jesuit was made to pop in and out from the shell. It is all
the rage - here is no house without its Jesuit."

[9]. On the other hand, the song on the battle of Rosbach is

[10]. "Correspondance secrète," by Métra, Imbert, etc., V. 277
(Nov. 17, 1777). - Voltaire, "Princesse de Babylone."

[11]. Baron de Bezenval, "Mémoires," II. 206. An anecdote related
by the Duke.

[12]. Archives nationales, a report by M. Texier (1780). A report
by M. Mesnard de Chousy (01, 738).

[13]. "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, I. 277 (February
29. 1772).

[14]. De Luynes, XVII. 37 (August, 1758). - D'Argenson, February
11, 1753.

[15]. Archives nationales, 01, 738. Various sums of interest are
paid: 12,969 francs to the baker, 39,631 francs to the wine merchant,
and 173,899 francs to the purveyor.

[16]. Marquis de Mirabeau, "Traité de Population," 60. - "Le
Gouvemement de Normandie," by Hippeau, II. 204 (Sept. 30, 1780).

[17]. Mme. de Larochejacquelein, "Mémoires," p. 30. - Mme.
d'Oberkirk, II. 66.

[18]. D'Argenson, January 26, 1753.

[19]. George Sand, "Histoire de ma vie," I.78.

[20]. "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, I. 61 (March 18,

21. D'Argenson, January 26, 1753.

[22]. "Marie Antoinette," III. 135, November 19, 1777.

[23]. Barbier, IV., 155. The Marshal de Soubise had a hunting lodge
to which the king came from time to time to eat an omelet of
pheasants' eggs, costing 157 livres, 10 sous. (Mercier, XII 192;
according to the statement of the cook who made it.)

[24]. Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 129, II. 257.

[25]. Mme. de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Félicie," 80; and "Théâtre de
l'Education," II. 367. A virtuous young woman in ten months runs into
debt to the amount of 70,000 francs: "Ten louis for a small table, 15
louis for another, 800 francs for a bureau, 200 francs for a small
writing desk, 300 francs for a large one. Hair rings, hair glass, hair
chain, hair bracelets, hair clasps, hair necklace, hair box, 9,900
francs," etc.

[26]. Mme. de Genlis, "Adèle et Théodore," III. 14.

[27]. Mme. d'Avray, sister of Mme. de Genlis, sets the example, for
which she is at first much criticized.

[28]. "When I arrived in France M. de Choiseul's reign was just
over. The woman who seemed nice to him, or could only please his
sister-in-law the Duchesse de Gramont, was sure of being able to
secure the promotion to colonel and lieutenant general of any man they
proposed. Women were of consequence even in the eyes of the old and of
the clergy; they were thoroughly familiar, to an extraordinary degree,
with the march of events; they knew by heart the characters and habits
of the king's friends and ministers. One of these, on returning to his
château from Versailles, informed his wife about every thing with
which he had been occupied; at home he says one or two words to her
about his water-color sketches, or remains silent and thoughtful,
pondering over what he has just heard in Parliament. Our poor ladies
are abandoned to the Society of those frivolous men who, for want of
intellect, have no ambition, and of course no employment (dandies)."
(Stendhal, "Rome, Naples, and Florence," 377. A narrative by Colonel

[29]. De Bezenval, 49, 60. - "Out of twenty seigniors at the court
there are fifteen not living with their wives, and keeping mistresses.
Nothing is so common at Paris among certain people." (Barbier, IV.

[30]. Ne soyez point époux, ne soyez point amant,
Soyez l'homme du jour et vous serez charmant.

[31]. Crébillon, fills. "La nuit et le moment," IX, 14.

[32]. Horace Walpole's letters (January 15, 1766). - The Duke de
Brissac, at Louveciennes, the lover of Mme. du Barry, and passionately
fond of her, always in her society assumed the attitude of a polite
stranger. (Mme. Vigée-Lebrun, "Souvenirs," I. 165.)

[33]. De Lauzun, 51. - Champfort, 39. - "The Duc de - whose wife
had just been the subject of scandal, complained to his mother-in-law:
the latter replied with the greatest coolness, 'Eh, Monsieur, you make
a good deal of talk about nothing. Your father was much better
company.' " (Mme. d'Oberkirk, II. 135, 241). - "A husband said to
his wife, I allow you everything except princes and lackeys.' He had
it right since these two extremes brought dishonor on account of the
scandal attached to them." (Sénac de Meilhan, "Considérations sur les
moeurs.) - On a wife being discovered by a husband, he simply
exclaims, "Madame, what imprudence! Suppose that I was any other man."
(La femme au dix-huitième siècle," 201.)

[34]. See in this relation the somewhat ancient types, especially
in the provinces. "My mother, my sister, and myself, transformed into
statues by my father's presence, only recover ourselves after he
leaves the room." (Châteaubriand, "Mémoires," I. 17, 28, 130). -
"Mémoires de Mirabeau," I. 53.) The Marquis said of his father
Antoine: "I never had the honor of kissing the cheek of that venerable
man. . . At the Academy, being two hundred leagues away from him, the
mere thought of him made me dread every youthful amusement which could
be followed by the least unfavorable results." - Paternal authority
seems almost as rigid among the middle and lower classes.
("Beaumarchais et son temps," by De Loménie, I. 23. - "Vie de mon
père," by Restif de la Bretonne, passim.)

[35]. Sainte-Beuve, "Nouveaux lundis," XII, 13; - Comte de Tilly,
"Mémoires," I. 12; Duc de Lauzun, 5. - "Beaumarchais," by de
Loménie, II. 299.

[36]. Madame de Genlis, "Mémoires," ch 2 and 3.

[37]. Mme. d'Oberkirk. II. 35. - This fashion lasts until 1783.
- De Goncourt, "La femme au dix-huitième siècle, 415, - "Les petits
parrains," engraving by Moreau. - Berquin, "L'ami des
enfants,"passim. - Mme. de Genlis, "Théâtre de l'Education," passim.

[38]. Lesage, "Gil Blas de Santillane": the discourse of the
dancing-master charged with the education of the son of Count

[39]. "Correspondance." by Métra, XIV. 212; XVI. 109. - Mme.
d'Oberkirk. II, 302.

[40]. De Ségur, I. 297:

Ma naissance n'a rien de neuf,
J'ai suivi la commune régle,
Mais c'est vous qui sortez d'un oeuf,
Car vous êtes un aigle.

Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," ch. IV. Mme. de Genlis wrote verses of
this kind at twelve years of age.

[41]. Already in the Précieuses of Molière, the Marquis de
Mascarille and the Vicomte de Jodelet. - And the same in Marivaux,
"L'épreuve, les jeux de l'amour et du hasard," ete. - Lesage,
"Crispin rival de son maître." - Laclos, "Les liaisons dangéreuses,"
first letter.

[42]. Voltaire, "Princesse de Babylone."

[43]. "Gustave III," by Geffroy, II. 37. - Mme. Vigée-Lebrun, I.

[44]. George Sand, I. 58-60. A narration by her grandmother, who,
at thirty years of age, married M. Dupin de Francuiel, aged sixty-two.

[45]. Mme. de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Félicie," 77. - Mme. Campan,
III. 74. - Mme. de Genlis, "Dict. des Etiquettes," I. 348.

[46]. See an anecdote concerning this species of royalty in "Adèle
et Théodore, I. 69" by Mme. de Genlis. - Mme. Vigée-Lebrun, I. 156:
"Women ruled then; the Revolution has dethroned them. . . This
gallantry I speak of has entirely disappeared."

[47]. "Women in France to some extent dictate whatever is to be
said and prescribe whatever is to be done in the fashionable world."
("A comparative view," by John Andrews, 1785.)

[48]. Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 299. - Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," ch.

[49]. De Tilly, I. 24.

[50]. Necker, "Oeuvres complètes," XV, 259.

[51]. Narrated by M. de Bezenval, a witness of the duel.

[52]. See especially: Saint-Aubin, "Le bal paré," "Le Concert;" -
Moreau, "Les Elégants," "La Vie d'un Seigneur à la mode," the
vignettes of "La nouvelle Héloise;" Beaudouin, "La Toilette," "Le
Coucher de la Mariée;" Lawreince, "Qu'en dit l'abbé? " - Watteau,
the first in date and in talent, transposes these customs and depicts
them the better by making them more poetic. - Of the rest, reread
"Marianne," by Marivaux; "La Vérité dans le vin," by Collé; "Le coin
du feu," "La nuit et le moment," by Crébillon fils; and two letters in
the "Correspondance inédite" of Mme. du Deffant, one by the Abbé
Barthélemy and the other by the Chevalier de Boufflers, (I. 258,

[53]. "Correspondence inédite de Mme. du Deffant," published by M.
de Saint-Aulaire, I. 235, 258, 296, 302, 363.

[54]. Mme. de Genlis, "Dict. des Etiquettes," II. 38. "Adèle et
Théodore, I, 312, II, 350, - George Sand, "Histoire de ma vie," I.
228. - De Goncourt, p. 111.

[55]. George Sand, I. 59.

[56]. "A comparative view," etc., by John Andrews.

[57]. Mme. Vigée-Lebrun, I. 15, 154.

[58]. Châteaubriand, I. 34. - "Mémoires de Mirabeau," passim. -
George Sand, I. 59, 76.

[59]. Comptes rendus de la société de Berry (1863-1864).

[60]. "Histoire de Troyes pendant la Révolution," by Albert Babeau,
I. 46.

[61]. Foissets, "Le Président des Brosses," 65, 69, 70, 346. -
"Lettres du Président des Brosses," (ed. Coulomb), passim. - Piron
being uneasy concerning his "Ode à Priape," President Bouhier, a man
of great and fine erudition, and the least starched of learned ones,
sent for the young man and said to him, "You are a foolish fellow. If
any one presses you to know the author of the offence tell him that I
am." (Sainte-Beuve, "Nouveaux Lundis," VII. 414.)

[62]. Foisset, ibid.. 185. Six audiences a week and often two a day
besides his labors as antiquarian, historian, linguist, geographer,
editor and academician.

[63]. "Souvenirs", by PASQUIER (Etienne-Dennis, duc), chancelier de
France. in VI volumes, Librarie Plon, Paris 1893.

[64]. De Valfons, "Souvenirs," 60.

[65]. Montgaillard (an eye-witness). "Histoire de France," II. 246.

[66]. M. de Conzié is surprised at four o'clock in the morning by
his rival, an officer in the guards. "Make no noise," he said to him,
"a dress like yours will be brought to me and I will have a cock made
then we shall be on the same level." A valet brings him his weapons.
He descends into the garden of the mansion, fights with the officer
and disarms him. ("Correspondance," by Métra, XIV. May 20, 1783.) -
"Le Comte de Clermont," by Jules Cousin, passim. - "Journal de
Collé," III. 232 (July, 1769).

[67]. De Loménie, "Beaumarchais et son temps, II. 304.

[68]. De Luynes, XVL 161 (September, 1757). The village festival
given to King Stanislas, by Mme. de Mauconseil at Bagatelle. -
Bachaumont, III. 247 (September 7, 1767). Festival given by the Prince
de Condé.

[69]. "Correspondance," by Métra, XIII. 97 (June 15, 1782), and V.
232 (June 24 and 25, 1777). - Mme. de Genlis "Mémoires," chap. XIV.

[70]. Bachaumont, November 17, 1770. - "Journal de Collé," III.
136 (April 29, 1767). - De Montlosier, "Mémoires," I. 43. "At the
residence of the Commandant (at Clermont) they would have been glad to
enlist me in private theatricals."

[71]. "Correspondance." by Métra, II. 245 (Nov. 18. 1775).

[72]. Julien. "Histoire du Théâtre de Madame de Pompadour." These
representations last seven years and cost during the winter alone of
1749, 300,000 livres. - De Luynes, X. 45. - Mme. de Hausset, 230.

[73]. Mme. Campan, I. 130. - Cf. with caution, the Mémoires, are
suspect, as they have been greatly modified and arranged by Fleury. -
De Goncourt, 114.

74. Jules Cousin, " Le Comte de Clermont," p.21. - Mme. de
Genlis, "Mémoires," chap. 3 and 11. - De Goncourt, 114.

[75]. Bachaumont, III. 343 (February 23, 1768) and IV. 174, III.
232. - "Journal d Collé," passim. - Collé, Laujon and Poisinet are
the principal purveyors for these displays; the only one of merit is
"La Verité dans le Vin." In this piece instead of "Mylord." there was
at first the "bishop of Avranches," and the piece was thus performed
at Villers-Cotterets in the house of the Duc d'Orléans.

[76]. Mme. d'Oberkirk, II. 82. - On the tone of the best society
see "Correspondance" by Métra, I. 50, III. 68, and Bezenval (Ed.
Barrière) 387 to 394.

[77]. Mme. de Genlis, "Adèle et Théodore," II. 362.

[78]. George Sand, I. 85. "At my grandmother's I have found boxes
full of couplets, madrigals and biting satires.... I burned some of
them so obscene that I would not dare read them through, and these
written by abbés I had known to my infancy and by a marquis of the
best blood." Among other examples, toned down, the songs on the Bird
and the Shepherdess, may be read in "Correspondance," by Métra.



Its Barrenness and Artificiality. - Return to Nature and sentiment.

MERE pleasure, in the long run, ceases to gratify, and however
agreeable this drawing room life may be, it ends in a certain
hollowness. Something is lacking without any one being able to say
precisely what that something is; the soul becomes restless, and
slowly, aided by authors and artists, it sets about investigating the
cause of its uneasiness and the object of its secret longings.
Barrenness and artificiality are the two traits of this society, the
more marked because it is more complete, and, in this one, pushed to
extreme, because it has attained to supreme refinement. In the first
place naturalness is excluded from it; everything is arranged and
adjusted, - decoration, dress, attitude, tone of voice, words, ideas
and even sentiments. "A genuine sentiment is so rare," said M. de V--
, "that, when I leave Versailles, I sometimes stand still in the
street to see a dog gnaw a bone."[1] Man, in abandoning himself wholly
to society, had withheld no portion of his personality for himself
while decorum, clinging to him like so much ivy, had abstracted from
him the substance of his being and subverted every principle of

"There was then," says one who was educated in this style,[2] "a
certain way of walking, of sitting down, of saluting, of picking up a
glove, of holding a fork, of tendering any article, in short, a
complete set of gestures and facial expressions, which children had to
be taught at a very early age in order that habit might become a
second nature, and this conventionality formed so important an item in
the life of men and women in aristocratic circles that the actors of
the present day, with all their study, are scarcely able to give us an
idea of it."

Not only was the outward factitious but, again, the inward; there
was a certain prescribed mode of feeling and of thinking, of living
and of dying. It was impossible to address a man without placing
oneself at his orders, or a woman without casting oneself at her feet,
Fashion, 'le bon ton,' regulated every important or petty proceeding,
the manner of making a declaration to a woman and of breaking an
engagement, of entering upon and managing a duel, of treating an
equal, an inferior and a superior. If any one failed in the slightest
degree to conform to this code of universal custom, he is called "a
specimen." A man of heart or of talent, D'Argenson, for example, bore
a surname of "simpleton," because his originality transcended the
conventional standard. "That has no name, there is nothing like it!"
embodies the strongest censure. In conduct as in literature, whatever
departs from a certain type is rejected. The quantity of authorized
actions is as great as the number of authorized words. The same super-
refined taste impoverishes the initiatory act as well as the
initiatory expression, people acting as they write, according to
acquired formulas and within a circumscribed circle. Under no
consideration can the eccentric, the unforeseen, the spontaneous,
vivid inspiration be accepted. Among twenty instances I select the
least striking since it merely relates to a simple gesture, and is a
measure of other things. Mademoiselle de - obtains, through family
influence, a pension for Marcel, a famous dancing-master, and runs
off, delighted, to his domicile to convey him the patent. Marcel
receives it and at once flings it on the floor: "Mademoiselle, did I
teach you to offer an object in that manner? Pick up that paper and
hand it to me as you ought to." She picks up the patent and presents
it to him with all suitable grace. "That's very well, Mademoiselle, I
accept it, although your elbow was not quite sufficiently rounded, and
I thank you."[3] So many graces end in becoming tiresome; after having
eaten rich food for years, a little milk and dry bread becomes

Among all these social flavorings one is especially abused; one
which, unremittingly employed, communicates to all dishes its frigid
and piquant relish, I mean insincerity (badinage). Society does not
tolerate passion, and in this it exercises its right. One does not
enter company to be either vehement or somber; a strained air or one
of concentration would appear inconsistent. The mistress of a house is
always right in reminding a man that his emotional constraint brings
on silence. "Monsieur Such-a-one, you are not amiable to day." To be
always amiable is, accordingly, an obligation, and, through this
training, a sensibility that is diffused through innumerable little
channels never produces a broad current. "One has a hundred friends,
and out of these hundred friends two or three may have some chagrin
every day; but one could not award them sympathy for any length of
time as, in that event, one would be wanting in consideration for the
remaining ninety-seven;"[4] one might sigh for an instant with some
one of the ninety-seven, and that would be all. Madame du Deffant,
having lost her oldest friend, the President Hénault, that very day
goes to sup in a large assemblage: "Alas," she exclaimed, "he died at
six o'clock this evening; otherwise you would not see me here." Under
this constant régime of distractions and diversions there are no
longer any profound sentiments; we have nothing but an epidermic
exterior; love itself is reduced to "the exchange of two fantasies." -
And, as one always falls on the side to which one inclines, levity
becomes deliberate and a matter of elegance.[5] Indifference of the
heart is in fashion; one would be ashamed to show any genuine emotion.
One takes pride in playing with love, in treating woman as a
mechanical puppet, in touching one inward spring, and then another, to
force out, at will, her anger or her pity. Whatever she may do, there
is no deviation from the most insulting politeness; the very
exaggeration of false respect which is lavished on her is a mockery by
which indifference for her is fully manifested. - But they go still
further, and in souls naturally unfeeling, gallantry turns into
wickedness. Through ennui and the demand for excitement, through
vanity, and as a proof of dexterity, delight is found in tormenting,
in exciting tears, in dishonoring and in killing women by slow
torture. At last, as vanity is a bottomless pit, there is no species
of blackness of which these polished executioners are not capable; the
personages of Laclos are derived from these originals.[6] - Monsters
of this kind are, undoubtedly, rare; but there is no need of reverting
to them to ascertain how much egotism is harbored in the gallantry of
society. The women who erected it into an obligation are the first to
realize its deceptiveness, and, amidst so much homage without heat, to
pine for the communicative warmth of a powerful sentiment. - The
character of the century obtains its last trait and "the man of
feeling comes on the stage.


Final trait of the century, an increased sensitivity in the best
circles. - Date of its advent. - Its symptoms in art and in
literature. - Its dominion in private. - Its affectations. - Its
sincerity. - Its delicacy.

It is not that the groundwork of habits becomes different, for
these remain equally worldly and dissipated up the last. But fashion
authorizes a new affectation, consisting of effusions, reveries, and
sensibilities as yet unknown. The point is to return to nature, to
admire the country, to delight in the simplicity of rustic manners, to
be interested in village people, to be human, to have a heart, to find
pleasure in the sweetness and tenderness of natural affections, to be
a husband and a father, and still more, to possess a soul, virtues,
and religious emotions, to believe in Providence and immortality, to
be capable of enthusiasm. One wants to be all this, or at least show
an inclination that way. In any event, if the desire does exist it is
one the implied condition, that one shall not be too much disturbed in
his ordinary pursuits, and that the sensations belonging to the new
order of life shall in no respect interfere with the enjoyments of the
old one. Accordingly the exaltation which arises is little more than
cerebral fermentation, and the idyll is to be almost entirely
performed in the drawing-rooms. Behold, then, literature, the drama,
painting and all the arts pursuing the same sentimental road to supply
heated imaginations with factitious nourishment.[7] Rousseau, in
labored periods, preaches the charms of an uncivilized existence,
while other masters, between two madrigals, fancy the delight of
sleeping naked in the primeval forest. The lovers in "La Nouvelle
Héloise" interchange passages of fine style through four volumes,
whereupon a person "not merely methodical but prudent," the Comtesse
de Blot, exclaims, at a social gathering at the Duchesse de
Chartres', "a woman truly sensitive, unless of extraordinary virtue,
could refuse nothing to the passion of Rousseau."[8] People collect in
a dense crowd in the Exhibition around "L'Accordée de Village," "La
Cruche Cassée," and the "Retour de nourrice," with other rural and
domestic idylls by Greuze; the voluptuous element, the tempting
undercurrent of sensuality made perceptible in the fragile simplicity
of his artless maidens, is a dainty bit for the libertine tastes which
are kept alive beneath moral aspirations.[9] After these, Ducis,
Thomas, Parny, Colardeau, Boucher, Delille, Bernardin de St. Pierre,
Marmontel, Florian, the mass of orators, authors and politicians, the
misanthrope Champfort, the logician La Harpe, the minister Necker, the
versifiers and the imitators of Gessner and Young, the Berquins, the
Bitaubés, nicely combed and bedizened, holding embroidered
handkerchiefs to wipe away tears, are to marshal forth the universal
eclogue down to the acme of the Revolution. Marmontel's "Moral Tales"
appear in the columns of the "Mercure" for 1791 and 1792,[10] while
the number following the massacres of September opens with verses "to
the manes of my canary-bird. "

Consequently, in all the details of private life, sensibility
displays its magniloquence. A small temple to Friendship is erected in
a park. A little altar to Benevolence is set up in a private closet.
Dresses à la Jean-Jacques-Rousseau are worn "analogous to the
principles of that author." Head-dresses are selected with "puffs au
sentiment" in which one may place the portrait of one's daughter,
mother, canary or dog, the whole "garnished with the hair of one's
father or intimate friend."[11] People keep intimate friends for whom
"they experience something so warm and so tender that it nearly
amounts to a passion" and whom they cannot go three hours a day
without seeing. "Every time female companions interchange tender ideas
the voice suddenly changes into a pure and languishing tone, each
fondly regarding the other with approaching heads and frequently
embracing," and suppressing a yawn a quarter of an hour after, with a
nap in concert, because they have no more to say. Enthusiasm becomes
an obligation. On the revival of "Le père de famille" there are as
many handkerchiefs counted as spectators, and ladies faint away. "It
is customary, especially for young women, to be excited, to turn pale,
to melt into tears and, generally, to be seriously affected on
encountering M. de Voltaire; they rush into his arms, stammer and
weep, their agitation resembling that of the most passionate
love."[12] - When a society-author reads his work in a drawing-room,
fashion requires that the company should utter exclamations and sob,
and that some pretty fainting subject should be unlaced. Mme. de
Genlis, who laughs at these affectations, is no less affected than the
rest. Suddenly some one in the company is heard to say to the young
orphan whom she is exhibiting: "Pamela, show us Héloise," whereupon
Pamela, loosening her hair, falls on her knees and turns her eyes up
to heaven with an air of inspiration, to the great applause of the
assembly.[13] Sensibility becomes an institution. The same Madame de
Genlis founds an order of Perseverance which soon includes "as many as
ninety chevaliers in the very best society." To become a member it is
necessary to solve some riddle, to answer a moral question and
pronounce a discourse on virtue. Every lady or chevalier who discovers
and publishes "three well-verified virtuous actions" obtains a gold
medal. Each chevalier has his "brother in arms," each lady has her
bosom friend and each member has a device, and each device, framed in
a little picture, figures in the "Temple of Honor," a sort of tent
gallantly decorated, and which M. de Lauzun causes to be erected in
the middle of a garden.[14] - The sentimental parade is complete, a
drawing room masquerade being visible even in this revival of

The froth of enthusiasm and of fine words nevertheless leaves in
the heart a residuum of active benevolence, trustfulness, and even
happiness, or, at least, expansiveness and freedom. Wives, for the
first time, are seen accompanying their husbands into garrison;
mothers desire to nurse their infants, and fathers begin to interest
themselves in the education of their children. Simplicity again forms
an element of manners. Hair-powder is no longer put on little boys'
heads; many of the seigniors abandon laces, embroideries, red heels
and the sword, except when in full dress. People appear in the streets
"dressed à la Franklin, in coarse cloth, with a knotty cane and thick
shoes."[15] The taste no longer runs on cascades, statues and stiff
and pompous decorations; the preference is for the English garden. The
queen arranges a village for herself at the Trianon, where, "dressed
in a frock of white cambric muslin and a gauze neck-handkerchief, and
with a straw hat," she fishes in the lake and sees her cows milked.
Etiquette falls away like the paint scaling off from the skin,
disclosing the bright hue of natural emotions. Madame Adelaide takes
up a violin and replaces an absent musician to let the peasant girls
dance16 The Duchesse de Bourbon goes out early in the morning
incognito to bestow alms, and "to see the poor in their garrets." The
Dauphine jumps out of her carriage to assist a wounded post-boy, a
peasant knocked down by a stag. The king and the Comte d'Artois help a
carter to extract his cart from the mud. People no longer think about
self-constraint, and self-adjustment, and of keeping up their dignity
under all circumstances, and of subjecting the weaknesses of human
nature to the exigencies of rank. On the death of the first
Dauphin,[17] whilst the people in the room place themselves before the
king to prevent him from entering it, the queen falls at his knees,
and he says to her, weeping, "Ah, my wife, our dear child is dead,
since they do not wish me to see him." And the narrator adds with
admiration; "I always seem to see a good farmer and his excellent wife
a prey to the deepest despair at the loss of their beloved child."
Tears are no longer concealed, as it is a point of honor to be a human
being. One becomes human and familiar with one's inferiors. A prince,
on a review, says to the soldiers on presenting the princess to them,
"My boys, here is my wife." There is a disposition to make people
happy and to take great delight in their gratitude. To be kind, to be
loved is the object of the head of a government, of a man in place.
This goes so far that God is prefigured according to this model. The
"harmonies of nature" are construed into the delicate attentions of
Providence; on instituting filial affection the Creator "deigned to
choose for our best virtue our sweetest pleasure."[18] - The idyll
which is imagined to take place in heaven corresponds with the idyll
practiced on earth. From the public up to the princes, and from the
princes down to the public, in prose, in verse, in compliments at
festivities, in official replies, in the style of royal edicts down to
the songs of the market-women, there is a constant interchange of
graces and of sympathies. Applause bursts out in the theater at any
verse containing an allusion to princes, and, a moment after, at the
speech which exalts the merits of the people, the princes return the
compliment by applauding in their turn.[19] - On all sides, just as
this society is vanishing, a mutual deference, a spirit of kindliness
arises, like a soft and balmy autumnal breeze, to dissipate whatever
harshness remains of its aridity and to mingle with the radiance of
its last hours the perfume of dying roses. We now encounter acts and
words of infinite grace, unique of their kind, like a lovely,
exquisite little figure on old Sèvres porcelain. One day, on the
Comtesse Amélie de Boufflers speaking somewhat flippantly of her
husband, her mother-in-law interposes, "You forget that you are
speaking of my son." - "True, mamma, I thought I was only speaking of
your son-in-law." It is she again who, on playing "the boat," and
obliged to decide between this beloved mother-in-law and her own
mother, whom she scarcely knew, replies, "I would save my mother and
drown with my mother-in-law."[20] The Duchesse de Choiseul, the
Duchesse de Lauzun, and others besides, are equally charming
miniatures. When the heart and the mind combine their considerations
they produce masterpieces, and these, like the art, the refinements
and the society which surrounds them, possess a charm unsurpassed by
anything except their own fragility.

III. Personality Defects.

The failings of character thus formed. - Adapted to one situation
but not to a contrary situation. - Defects of intelligence. - Defects
of disposition. - Such a character is disarmed by good-breeding.

The reason is that, the better people have become adapted to a
certain situation the less prepared are they for the opposite
situation. The habits and faculties that serve them in the previous
condition become prejudicial to them in the new one. In acquiring
talents adapted to tranquil times they lose those suited to times of
agitation, reaching the extreme of feebleness at the same time with
the extreme of urbanity. The more polished an aristocracy becomes the
weaker it becomes, and when no longer possessing the power to please
it not longer possesses the strength to struggle. And yet, in this
world, we must struggle if we would live. In humanity, as in nature,
empire belongs to force. Every creature that loses the art and energy
of self-defense becomes so much more certainly a prey according as its
brilliancy, imprudence and even gentleness deliver it over in advance
to the gross appetites roaming around it. Where find resistance in
characters formed by the habits we have just described? To defend
ourselves we must, first of all, look carefully around us, see and
foresee, and provide for danger. How could they do this living as they
did? Their circle is too narrow and too carefully enclosed. Confined
to their castles and mansions they see only those of their own sphere,
they hear only the echo of their own ideas, they imagine that there is
nothing beyond the public seems to consist of two hundred persons.
Moreover, disagreeable truths are not admitted into a drawing-room,
especially when of personal import, an idle fancy there becoming a
dogma because it becomes conventional. Here, accordingly, we find
those who, already deceived by the limitations of their accustomed
horizon, fortify their delusion still more by delusions about their
fellow men. They comprehend nothing of the vast world, which envelops
their little world; they are incapable of entering into the sentiments
of a bourgeois, of a villager; they have no conception of the peasant
as he is but as they would like him to be. The idyll is in fashion,
and no one dares dispute it; any other supposition would be false
because it would be disagreeable, and as the drawing rooms have
decided that all will go well, all must go well. Never was a delusion
more complete and more voluntary. The Duc d'Orléans offers to wager a
hundred louis that the States-General will dissolve without
accomplishing anything, not even abolishing the lettre-de-cachet..
After the demolition has begun, and yet again after it is finished,
they will form opinions no more accurate. They have no idea of social
architecture; they know nothing about its materials, its proportions,
or its harmonious balance; they have had no hand in it, they have
never worked at it. They are entirely ignorant of the old building[21]
in which they occupy the first story. They are not qualified to
calculate either its pressure or its resistance.[[22]] They conclude,
finally, that it is better to let the thing tumble in, and that the
restoration of the edifice in their behalf will follow its own course,
and that they will return to their drawing-room, expressly rebuilt for
them, and freshly gilded, to begin over again the pleasant
conversation which an accident, some tumult in the street, had
interrupted.[23] Clear-sighted in society, they are obtuse in
politics. They examine everything by the artificial light of candles;
they are disturbed and bewildered in the powerful light of open day.
The eyelid has grown stiff through age. The organ so long bent on the
petty details of one refined life no longer takes in the popular life
of the masses, and, in the new sphere into which it is suddenly
plunged, its refinement becomes the source of its blindness.

Nevertheless action is necessary, for danger is seizing them by the
throat. But the danger is of an ignoble species, while their education
has provided them with no arms suitable for warding it off. They have
learned how to fence, but not how to box. They are still the sons of
those at Fontenoy, who, instead of being the first to fire,
courteously raised their hats and addressed their English antagonists,
"No, gentlemen, fire yourselves." Being the slaves of good-breeding
they are not free in their movements. Numerous acts, and those the
most important, those of a sudden, vigorous and rude stamp, are
opposed to the respect a well-bred man entertains for others, or at
least to the respect which he owes to himself. They do not consider
these allowable among themselves; they do not dream of their being
allowed, and, the higher their position the more their rank fetters
them. When the royal family sets out for Varennes the accumulated
delays by which they are lost are the result of etiquette. Madame de
Touzel insists on her place in the carriage to which she is entitled
as governess of the Children of France. The king, on arriving, is
desirous of conferring the marshal's baton on M. de Bouillé, and after
running to and fro to obtain a baton he is obliged to borrow that of
the Duc de Choiseul. The queen cannot dispense with a traveling
dressing-case and one has to be made large enough to contain every
imaginable implement from a warming-pan to a silver porridge-dish,
with other dishes besides; and, as if there were no shifts to be had
in Brussels, there had to be a complete outfit in this line for
herself and her children.[24] - A fervent devotion, even humanness,
the frivolity of the small literary spirit, graceful urbanity,
profound ignorance,[25] the lack or rigidity of the comprehension and
determination are still greater with the princes than with the nobles.
- All are impotent against the wild and roaring outbreak. They have
not the physical superiority that can master it, the vulgar
charlatanism which can charm it away, the tricks of a Scapin to throw
it off the scent, the bull's neck, the mountebank's gestures, the
stentor's lungs, in short, the resources of the energetic temperament
and of animal cunning, alone capable of diverting the rage of the
unchained brute. To find such fighters, they seek three or four men of
a different race and education, men having suffered and roamed about,
a brutal commoner like the abbé Maury, a colossal and dirty satyr like
Mirabeau, a bold and prompt adventurer like that Dumouriez who, at
Cherbourg, when, through the feebleness of the Duc de Beuvron, the
stores of grain were given up and the riot began, hooted at and nearly
cut to pieces, suddenly sees the keys of the storehouse in the hands
of a Dutch sailor, and, yelling to the mob that it was betrayed
through a foreigner having got hold of the keys, himself jumps down
from the railing, seizes the keys and hands them to the officer of the
guard, saying to the people, "I am your father, I am the man to be
responsible for the storehouse!"[26] To entrust oneself with porters
and brawlers, to be collared by a political club, to improvise on the
highways, to bark louder than the barkers, to fight with the fists or
a cudgel, as much later with the young and rich gangs, against brutes
and lunatics incapable of employing other arguments, and who must be
answered in the same vein, to mount guard over the Assembly, to act as
volunteer constable, to spare neither one's own hide nor that of
others, to be one of the people to face the people, all these are
simple and effectual proceedings, but so vulgar as to appear to them
disgusting. The idea of resorting to such means never enters their
head; they neither know how, nor do they care to make use of their
hands in such business.[27] They are skilled only in the duel and,
almost immediately, the brutality of opinion, by means of assaults,
stops the way to polite combats. Their arms, the shafts of the
drawing-room, epigrams, witticisms, songs, parodies, and other needle
thrusts are impotent against the popular bull.[28] Their personality
lacks both roots and resources; through super-refinement it has
weakened; their nature, impoverished by culture, is incapable of the
transformations by which we are renewed and survive. - An all-powerful
education has repressed, mollified, and enfeebled their very
instincts. About to die, they experience none of the reactions of
blood and rage, the universal and sudden restoration of the forces,
the murderous spasm, the blind irresistible need of striking those who
strike them. If a gentleman is arrested in his own house by a Jacobin
we never find him splitting his head open.[29] They allow themselves
to be taken, going quietly to prison; to make an uproar would be bad
taste; it is necessary, above all things, to remain what they are,
well-bred people of society. In prison both men and women dress
themselves with great care, pay each other visits and keep up a
drawing-room; it may be at the end of a corridor, by the light of
three or four candles; but here they circulate jests, compose
madrigals, sing songs and pride themselves on being as gallant, as gay
and as gracious as ever: need people be morose and ill-behaved because
accident has consigned them to a poor inn? They preserve their dignity
and their smile before their judges and on the cart; the women,
especially, mount the scaffold with the ease and serenity
characteristic of an evening entertainment. It is the supreme
characteristic of good-breeding, erected into an unique duty, and
become to this aristocracy a second nature, which is found in its
virtues as well as in its vices, in its faculties as well as in its
impotencies, in its prosperity as at its fall, and which adorns it
even in the death to which it conducts.



[1]. Champfort, 110.

[2]. George Sand, V. 59. "I was rebuked for everything; I never
made a movement which was not criticized."

[3]. "Paris, Versailles, et les provinces," I. 162. - "The king of
Sweden is here; be wears rosettes on his breeches; all is over; he is
ridiculous, and a provincial king." ("Le Gouvernement de Normandie,"
by Hippeau, IV. 237, July 4, 1784.

[4]. Stendhal, "Rome, Naples and Florence," 379. Stated by an
English lord.

[5] Marivaux, "La Petit-Maître corrigé. - Gresset, "Le Méchant."
Crébillon fils, "La Nuit et le Moment," (especially the scene between
the scene between Citandre and Lucinde). - Collé, "La Verité dans le
Vin," (the part of the abbé with the with the présidente). - De
Bezenval, 79. (The comte de Frise and Mme. de Blot). "Vie privée du
Maréchal de Richelieu," (scenes with Mme. Michelin). - De Goncourt,
167 to 174.

[6]. Laclos, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses." Mme. de Merteuil was
copied after a Marquise de Grenoble. - Remark the difference between
Lovelace and Valmont, one being stimulated by pride and the other by

[7]. The growth of sensibility is indicated by the following dates:
Rousseau, "Sur l'influence des lettres et des arts," 1749; "Sur
l'inégalité," 1753; "Nouvelle Héloise," 1759. Greuze, "Le Pére de
Famille lisant la Bible," 1755; "L'Accordée de Village," 1761.
Diderot, "Le fils natural," 1757; "Le Pére de Famille," 1758.

[8]. Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," chap. XVII. - George Sand, I. 72.
The young Mme. de Francueil, on seeing Rousseaufor the first time,
burst into tears.

[9]. This point has been brought out with as much skill as accuracy
by Messieurs de Goncourt in "L'Art au dix-huitième siècle," I. 433-

[10]. The number for August, 1792, contains "Les Rivaux d'eux-
mêmes." - About the same time other pieces are inserted in the
"Mercure," such as "The federal union of Hymen and Cupid," "Les
Jaloux," "A Pastoral Romance," "Ode Anacréontique à Mlle. S. D. . . .
" etc.

[11]. Mme. de Genlis, "Adéle et Théodore," I. 312. - De Goncourt,
"La Femme an dixhuitième siècle," 318. - Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 56. -
Description of the puff au sentiment of the Duchesse de Chartres (de
Goncourt, 311): "In the background is a woman seated in a chair and
holding an infant, which represents the Duc de Valois and his nurse.
On the right is a parrot pecking at a cherry, and on the left a little
Negro, the duchess's two pets: the whole is intermingled with locks of
hair of all the relations of Mme. de Chartres, the hair of her
husband, father and father-in-law."

[12]. Mme. de Genlis, "Les Dangers du Monde." I, scène VII; II,
scène IV; - "Adèle et Théodore," I. 312; - "Souvenirs de Félicie,"
199; - Bachaumont, IV, 320.

[13]. Mme. de la Rochejacquelein, "Mémoires."

[14]. Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," chap. XX. - De Lauzun, 270.

[15]. Mme. d'Oberkirk, II. 35 (1783-1784). Mme. Campan, III. 371. -
Mercier, "Tableau de Paris," passim.

[16]. "Correspondance" by Métra, XVII. 55, (1784).-- Mme.
d'Oberkirk, II. 234. - "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy,
II. 63, 29.

[17]. "Le Gouvernement de Normandie," by Hippeau, IV. 387 (Letters
of June 4, 1789, by an eye-witness).

[18]. Florian, "Ruth".

[19]. Hippeau, IV. 86 (June 23, 1773), on the representation of "Le
Siege de Calais," at the Comédie Française, at the moment when Mlle.
Vestris has pronounced these words:

Le Français dans son prince aime à trouver un frère
Qui, né fils de l'Etat, en devienne le père.

"Long and universal plaudits greeted the actress who had turned in
the direction of the Dauphin." In another place these verses recur:

Quelle leçon pour vous, superbes potentats!
Veillez sur vos sujets dans le rang le plus bas,
Tel, loin de vos regards, dans la misère expire,
Qui quelque jour peut-être, eût sauvé votre empire.

"The Dauphin and the Dauphine in turn applauded the speech. This
demonstration of their sensibility was welcomed with new expressions
of affection and gratitude."

[20]. Madame de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Félicie," 76, 161.

[21]. M. de Montlosier; in the Constituent Assembly, is about the
only person familiar with feudal laws.

[22]. "A competent and impartial man who would estimate the
chances of the success of the Révolution would find that there are
more against it than against the five winning numbers in a lottery;
but this is possible, and unfortunately, this time, they all came out"
(Duc de Lévis, "Souvenirs," 328.)

[23]. "Corinne," by Madame de Staël, the character of the Comte
d'Erfeuil. - Malonet, "Mémoires," II. 297 (a memorable instance of
political stupidity).

[24]. Mme. Campan, II. 140, 313. - Duc de Choiseul, "Mémoires."

[25]. Journal of Dumont d'Urville, commander of the vessel which
transported Charles X. into exile in 1830. - See note 4 at the end of
the volume.

[26]. Dumouriez, "Mémoires," III. chap. III. (July 21, 1789).

[27]. 1 "All these fine ladies and gentlemen who knew so well how
to bow and courtesy and walk over a carpet, could not take three steps
on God's earth without getting dreadfully fatigued. They could not
even open or shut a door; they had not even strength enough to lift a
log to put it on the fire; they had to call a servant to draw up a
chair for them; they could not come in or go out by themselves. what
could they have done with their graces, without their valets to supply
the place of hands and feet?" (George Sand, V. 61.)

[28]. When Madame de F- had expressed a clever thing she felt quite
proud of it. M- remarked that on uttering something clever about an
emetic she was quite surprised that she was not purged. Champfort,

[29]. The following is an example of what armed resistance can
accomplish for a man in his own house. "A gentleman of Marseilles,
proscribed and living in his country domicile, has provided himself
with gun, pistols and saber, and never goes out without this armament,
declaring that he will not be taken alive. Nobody dared to execute the
order of arrest. (Anne Plumptree, "A Residence of three years in
France," (1802-1805), II. 115.



The composition of the revolutionary spirit. -- Scientific
acquisition its first element.

On seeing a man with a somewhat feeble constitution, but healthy in
appearance and of steady habits, greedily swallow some new kind of

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