Part 3 out of 6
governed, but somewhat despotically, too, by the worthy and
affectionate creature, whose sole study it is to take care of his
health. He considers it hard to be debarred from sending for one of his
old friends to play a party at picquet, or a game at chess with him,
during the long winter evenings; and he thinks it would be pleasanter
to have some of his female relatives occasionally to dinner: but as the
least hint on these subjects never fails to produce ill-humour on the
part of the "good Jeanette," who declares that such unreasonable
indulgence would inevitably destroy the precious health of Monsieur, he
submits to her will; and while wholly governed by an ignorant and
artful servant, can still smile that he is free from being henpecked by
In no part of Paris are so many children to be seen us in the gardens
of the Luxembourg. At every step may be encountered groups of playful
creatures of every age, from the infant slumbering in its nurse's arms,
to the healthful girl holding her little brother or sister by the hand
as her little charge toddles along; or the manly boy, who gives his arm
to his younger sister with all the air of protection of manhood.
What joyous sounds of mirth come from each group--the clear voices
ringing pleasantly on the ear, from creatures fair and blooming as the
flowers of the rich _parterres_ among which they wander! How each group
examines the other--half-disposed to join in each other's sports, but
withheld by a vague fear of making the first advances--a fear which
indicates that even already civilisation and the artificial habits it
engenders, have taught them the restraint it imposes!
The nurses, too, scrutinise each other, and their little masters and
misses, as they meet. They take in at a glance the toilettes of each,
and judge with an extraordinary accuracy the station of life to which
The child of noble birth is known by the simplicity of its dress and
the good manners of its _bonne_; while that of _the parvenu_ is at once
recognised by the showiness and expensiveness of its clothes, and the
superciliousness of its nurse, who, accustomed to the purse-proud
pretensions of her employers, values nothing so much as all the
attributes that indicate the possession of wealth.
The little children look wistfully at each other every time they meet;
then begin to smile, and at length approach, and join, half-timidly,
half-laughingly, in each other's sports. The nurses, too, draw near,
enter into a conversation, in which each endeavours to insinuate the
importance of her young charge, and consequently her own; while the
children have already contracted an intimacy, which is exemplified by
running hand-in-hand together, their clear jocund voices being mingled.
It is a beautiful sight to behold these gay creatures, who have little
more than passed the first two or three years of life, with the roses
of health glowing on their dimpled cheeks, and the joyousness of
infancy sparkling in their eyes.
They know nought of existence but its smiles; and, caressed by doating
parents, have not a want unsatisfied. Entering life all hope and
gaiety, what a contrast do they offer to the groups of old men who must
so soon leave it, who are basking in the sunshine so near them! Yet
they, too, have had their hours of joyous infancy; and, old and faded
as they are, they have been doated on, as they gambolled like the happy
little beings they now pause to contemplate.
There was something touching in the contrast of youth and age brought
thus together, and I thought that more than one of the old men seemed
to feel it as they looked on the happy children.
I met my new acquaintance, Dr. P----, who was walking with two or three
_savans_; and, having spoken to him, he joined us in our promenade, and
greatly added to its pleasure by his sensible remarks and by his
cheerful tone of mind. He told me that the sight of the fine children
daily to be met in the Luxembourg Gardens, was as exhilarating to his
spirits as the gay flowers in the _parterre_ and that he had frequently
prescribed a walk here to those whose minds stood in need of such a
The General and Countess d'Orsay arrived yesterday from their
_chateau_, in Franche-Comte. A long correspondence had taught me to
appreciate the gifted mind of Madame, who, to solid attainments, joins
a sparkling wit and vivacity that render her conversation delightful.
The Countess d'Orsay has been a celebrated beauty; and, though a
grandmother, still retains considerable traces of it. Her countenance
is so _spirituelle_ and piquant, that it gives additional point to the
clever things she perpetually utters; and what greatly enhances her
attractions is the perfect freedom from any of the airs of a _bel
esprit_, and the total exemption from affectation that distinguishes
General d'Orsay, known from his youth as Le Beau d'Orsay, still
justifies the appellation, for he is the handsomest man of his age that
I have ever beheld. It is said that when the Emperor Napoleon first saw
him, he observed that he would make an admirable model for a Jupiter,
so noble and commanding was the character of his beauty.
Like most people remarkable for good looks, General d'Orsay is reported
to have been wholly free from vanity; to which, perhaps, may be
attributed the general assent accorded to his personal attractions
which, while universally admitted, excited none of the envy and
ill-will which such advantages but too often draw on their possessor.
There is a calm and dignified simplicity in the manners of General
d'Orsay, that harmonises well with his lofty bearing.
It is very gratifying to witness the affection and good intelligence
that reign in the domestic circles in France. Grandfathers and
grandmothers here meet with an attention from their children and
grandchildren, the demonstrations of which are very touching; and I
often see gay and brilliant parties abandoned by some of those with
whom I am in the habit of daily intercourse, in order that they may
pass the evenings with their aged relatives.
Frequently do I see the beautiful Duchesse de Guiche enter the _salon_
of her grandmother, sparkling in diamonds, after having hurried away
from some splendid _fete_, of which she was the brightest ornament, to
spend an hour with her before she retired to rest; and the Countess
d'Orsay is so devoted to her mother, that nearly her whole time is
passed with her.
It is pleasant to see the mother and grandmother inspecting and
commenting on the toilette of the lovely daughter, of whom they are so
justly proud, while she is wholly occupied in inquiring about the
health of each, or answering their questions relative to that of her
The good and venerable Duc de Gramont examines his daughter-in-law
through his eyeglass, and, with an air of paternal affection, observes
to General d'Orsay, "How well our daughter looks to-night!"
Madame Craufurd, referring to her great age last evening, said to me,
and a tear stole down her cheek while she spoke:
"Ah, my dear friend! how can I think that I must soon leave
all those who love me so much, and whom I so dote on, without
bitter regret? Yes, I am too happy here to be as resigned as
I ought to be to meet death."
Saw Potier in the _Ci-devant Jeune Homme_ last night. It is an
excellent piece of acting, from the first scene where he appears in all
the infirmity of age, in his night-cap and flannel dressing-gown, to
the last, in which he portrays tho would-be young man. His face, his
figure, his cough, are inimitable; and when he recounts to his servant
the gaieties of the previous night, the hollow cheek, sunken eye, and
hurried breathing of the "Ci-devant Jeune Homme" render the scene most
Nothing could be more comic than the metamorphose effected in his
appearance by dress, except it were his endeavours to assume an air and
countenance suitable to the juvenility of his toilette; while, at
intervals, some irrepressible symptom of infirmity reminded the
audience of the pangs the effort to appear young inflicted on him.
Potier is a finished actor, and leaves nothing to be wished, except
that he may long continue to perform and delight his audience as last
Dined yesterday at the Countess d'Orsay's, with a large family party.
The only stranger was Sir Francis Burdett. A most agreeable dinner,
followed by a very pleasant evening. I have seldom seen any Englishman
enjoy French society as much as the worthy baronet does. He speaks the
language with great facility, is well acquainted with its literature,
and has none of the prejudices which militate so much against acquiring
a perfect knowledge of the manners and customs of a foreign country.
French society has decidedly one great superiority over English, and
that is its freedom from those topics which too often engross so
considerable a portion of male conversation, even in the presence of
ladies, in England. I have often passed the evening previously and
subsequently to a race, in which many of the men present took a lively
interest, without ever hearing it made the subject of conversation.
Could this be said of a party in England, on a similar occasion?
Nor do the men here talk of their shooting or hunting before women, as
with us. This is a great relief, for in England many a woman is doomed
to listen to interminable tales of slaughtered grouse, partridges, and
pheasants; of hair breadth "'scapes by flood and field," and venturous
leaps, the descriptions of which leave one in doubt whether the
narrator or his horse be the greater animal of the two, and render the
poor listener more fatigued by the recital than either was by the
A dissertation on the comparative merits of Manton's, Lancaster's, and
Moore's guns, and the advantage of percussion locks, it is true,
generally diversifies the conversation.
Then how edifying it is to hear the pedigrees of horses--the odds for
and against the favourite winning such or such a race--the good or bad
books of the talkers--the hedging or backing of the betters! Yet all
this are women condemned to hear on the eve of a race, or during the
shooting or hunting season, should their evil stars bring them into the
society of any of the Nimrods or sportsmen of the day, who think it not
only allowable to devote nearly all their time to such pursuits, but to
talk of little else.
The woman who aims at being popular in her county, must not only listen
patiently, but evince a lively interest in these _intellectual_
occupations; while, if the truth was confessed, she is thoroughly
_ennuyee_ by these details of them: or if not, it must be inferred that
she has lost much of the refinement of mind and taste peculiar to the
well-educated portion of her sex.
I do not object to men liking racing, hunting, and shooting. The first
preserves the breed of horses, for which England is so justly
celebrated, and hunting keeps up the skill in horsemanship in which our
men excel. What I do object to is their making these pursuits the
constant topics of conversation before women, instead of selecting
those more suitable to the tastes and habits of the latter.
There is none of the affectation of avoiding subjects supposed to be
uninteresting to women visible in the men here. They do not utter with
a smile--half pity, half condescension,--"we must not talk politics
before the ladies;" they merely avoid entering into discussions, or
exhibiting party spirit, and shew their deference for female society by
speaking on literature, on which they politely seem to take for granted
that women are well informed.
Perhaps this deferential treatment of the gentler sex may not be wholly
caused by the good breeding of the men in France; for I strongly
suspect that the women here would be very little disposed to submit to
the _nonchalance_ that prompts the conduct I have referred to in
England, and that any man who would make his horses or his field-sports
the topic of discourse in their presence, would soon find himself
expelled from their society.
Frenchwomen still think, and with reason, that they govern the tone of
the circles in which they move, and look with jealousy on any
infringement of the respectful attention they consider to be their due.
A few nights ago I saw the Duchesse de Guiche, on her return from a
reception at court, sparkling in diamonds, and looking so beautiful
that she reminded me of Burke's description of the lovely and
unfortunate Marie-Antoinette. To-day I thought her still more
attractive, when, wearing only a simple white _peignoir_, and her
matchless hair bound tightly round her classically shaped head, I saw
her enacting the part of _garde-malade_ to her children, who have
caught the measles.
With a large, and well-chosen nursery-establishment, she would confide
her precious charge to no care but her own, and moved from each little
white bed to the other with noiseless step and anxious glance, bringing
comfort to the dear little invalid in each. No wonder that her children
adore her, for never was there so devoted a mother.
In the meridian of youth and beauty, and filling so brilliant a
position in France, it is touching to witness how wholly engrossed this
amiable young woman's thoughts are by her domestic duties. She incites,
by sharing, the studies of her boys; and already is her little girl,
owing to her mother's judicious system, cited as a model.
It was pleasant to see the Duc, when released from his attendance at
court, hurrying into the sick chamber of his children, and their
languid eyes, lighting up with a momentary animation, and their
feverish lips relaxing into a smile, at the sound of his well-known
voice. And this is the couple considered to be "the glass of fashion
and the mould of form," the observed of all observers, of the courtly
circle at Paris!
Who could behold them as I have done, in that sick room, without
acknowledging that, despite of all that has been said of the
deleterious influence of courts on the feelings of those who live much
in them, the truly good pass unharmed through the dangerous ordeal?
Went to the Theatre des Nouveautes last night, where I saw _La Maison
du Rempart_. The Parisians seem to have decided taste for bringing
scenes of riot and disorder on the stage; and the tendency of such
exhibitions is any thing but salutary with so inflammable a people, and
in times like the present.
One of the scenes of _La Maison du Rempart_ represents an armed mob
demolishing the house of a citizen--an act of violence that seemed to
afford great satisfaction to the majority of the audience; and, though
the period represented is that of the _Fronde_, the acts of the rabble
strongly assimilated with those of the same class in later times, when
the revolution let loose on hapless France the worst of all tyrants--a
reckless and sanguinary mob. I cannot help feeling alarmed at the
consequences likely to result from such performances. Sparks of fire
flung among gunpowder are not more dangerous. Shewing a populace what
they can effect by brutal force is a dangerous experiment; it is like
letting a tame lion see how easily he could overpower his keepers.
Mr. Cuthbert and M. Charles Laffitte dined here yesterday. Both are
excellent specimens of their countries; the former being well-informed
and agreeable, and the latter possessing all the good sense we believe
to be peculiar to an Englishman, with the high breeding that appertains
to a thoroughly well-educated Frenchman.
The advance of civilization was evident in both these gentlemen--the
Englishman speaking French with purity and fluency, and the Frenchman
speaking English like a born Briton. Twenty years ago, this would have
been considered a very rare occurrence, while now it excites little
remark. But it is not alone the languages of the different countries
that Mr. Cuthbert and M. Charles Laffitte have acquired, for both are
well acquainted with the literature of each, which renders their
society very agreeable.
Spent last evening in the Rue d'Anjou, where I met Lady Combermere, the
Dowager Lady Hawarden, and Mrs. Masters. Lady Combermere is lively and
agreeable, _un peu romanesque_, which gives great originality to her
conversation, and sings Mrs. Arkwright's beautiful ballads with great
Mr. Charles Grant dined here yesterday. He is a very sensible man,
possessing a vast fund of general information, with gentle and
highly-polished manners. What a charm there is in agreeable manners,
and how soon one feels at ease with those who possess them!
Spent, or mis-spent, a great portion of the day in visiting the
curiosity shops on the _Quai Voltaire_, and came away from them with a
lighter purse than I entered. There is no resisting, at least I find it
so, the exquisite _porcelaine de Sevres_, off which the dainty dames of
the reign of Louis the Fourteenth feasted, or which held their
_bouquets_, or _pot pourri_. An _etui of_ gold set with oriental agates
and brilliants, and a _flacon_ of rock crystal, both of which once
appertained to Madame de Sevigne, vanquished my prudence.
Would that with the possession of these articles, often used by her, I
could also inherit the matchless grace with which her pen could invest
every subject it touched! But, alas! it is easier to acquire the
beautiful _bijouterie_, rendered still more valuable by having belonged
to celebrated people, than the talent that gained their celebrity; and
so I must be content with inhaling _esprit de rose_ from the _flacon_
of Madame de Sevigne, without aspiring to any portion of the _esprit_
for which she was so distinguished.
I am now rich in the possession of objects once belonging to remarkable
women, and I am not a little content with my acquisitions. I can boast
the gold and enamelled pincushion of Madame de Maintenon, heart-shaped,
and stuck as full of pins as the hearts of the French Protestants were
with thorns by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; to which she is
said to have so greatly contributed by her counsel to her infatuated
lover, Louis the Fourteenth. I can indulge in a pinch of snuff from the
_tabatiere_ of the Marquise de Rambouillet, hold my court-plaster in
the _boite a mouches_ of Ninon de l'Enclos, and cut ribands with the
scissors of Madame de Deffand.
This desire of obtaining objects that have belonged to celebrated
people may be, and often is, considered puerile; but confess to the
weakness, and the contemplation of the little memorials I have named
awakens recollections in my mind fraught with interest.
I can fancy Madame de Sevigne, who was as amiable as she was clever,
and whose tenderness towards her daughter is demonstrated so naturally
and touchingly in the letters she addressed to her, holding the
_flacon_ now mine to the nostrils of Madame de Grignan, in whose health
she was always so much more interested than in her own.
I can see in my mind's eye the precise and demure Madame de Maintenon
taking a pin from the very pincushion now before me, to prevent the
opening of her kerchief, and so conceal even her throat from the prying
eyes of the aged voluptuary, whose passions the wily prude is said to
have excited by a concealment of a portion of her person that had, in
all probability, ceased to possess charms enough to produce this
effect, if revealed.
This extreme reserve on the part of the mature coquette evinced a
profound knowledge of mankind, and, above all, of him on whom she
practised her arts. The profuse display of the bust and shoulders in
those days, when the ladies of the court left so little to the
imagination of the amorous monarch on whose heart so many of them had
designs, must have impaired the effect meant to have been achieved by
the indelicate exposure; for--hear it ye fair dames, with whose snowy
busts and dimpled shoulders the eyes of your male acquaintance are as
familiar as with your faces!--the charms of nature, however beautiful,
fall short of the ideal perfection accorded to them by the imagination,
when unseen. The clever Maintenon, aware of this fact, of which the
less wise of her sex are ignorant or forgetful, afforded a striking
contrast in her dress to the women around her, and piquing first the
curiosity, and then the passions, of the old libertine, acquired an
influence over him when she had long passed the meridian of her
personal attractions, which youthful beauties, who left him no room to
doubt their charms, or to exaggerate them as imagination is prone to
do, could never accomplish.
This very pincushion, with its red velvet heart stuck with pins, was
probably a gift from the enamoured Louis, and meant to be symbolical of
the state of his own; which, in hardness, it might be truly said to
resemble. It may have often been placed on her table when Maintenon was
paying the penalty of her hard-earned greatness by the painful task of
endeavouring--as she acknowledged--to amuse a man who was no longer
Could it speak, it might relate the wearisome hours passed in a palace
(for the demon _Ennui_ cannot be expelled even from the most brilliant;
nay, prefers, it is said, to select them for his abode), and we should
learn, that while an object of envy to thousands, the mistress, or
unacknowledged wife of _le Grand Monarque_, was but little more happy
than the widow of Scarron when steeped in poverty.
Madame de Maintenon discovered what hundreds before and since have
done--that splendour and greatness cannot confer happiness; and, while
trying to amuse a man who, though possessed of sovereign power, has
lost all sense of enjoyment, must have reverted, perhaps with a sigh,
to the little chamber in which she so long soothed the sick bed of the
witty octogenarian, Scarron; who, gay and cheerful to the last, could
make her smile by his sprightly and _spirituelles_ sallies, which
neither the evils of poverty nor pain could subdue.
Perhaps this pincushion has lain on her table when Madame de Maintenon
listened to the animating conversation of Racine, or heard him read
aloud, with that spirit and deep pathos for which his reading was so
remarkable, his _Esther_ and _Alhalie_, previously to their performance
That she did not make his peace with the king, when he offended him by
writing an essay to prove that long wars, however likely to reflect
glory on a sovereign, were sure to entail misery on his subjects, shews
that either her influence over the mind of Louis was much less powerful
than has been believed, or that she was deficient in the feelings that
must have prompted her to exert it by pleading for him.
The ungenerous conduct of the king in banishing from his court a man
whose genius shed a purer lustre over it than all the battles Boileau
has sung, and for a cause that merited praise instead of displeasure,
has always appeared to me to be indicative of great meanness as well as
hardness of heart; and while lamenting the weakness of Racine,
originating in a morbid sensibility that rendered his disgrace at court
so painful and humiliating to the poet as to cause his death, I am
still less disposed to pardon the sovereign that could thus excite into
undue action a sensibility, the effects of which led its victim to the
The diamond-mounted _tabatiere_ now on my table once occupied a place
on that of the Marquise de Rambouillet, in that hotel so celebrated,
not only for the efforts made by its coterie towards refining the
manners and morals of her day, but the language also, until the
affectation to which its members carried their notions of purity,
exposed them to a ridicule that tended to subvert the influence they
had previously exercised over society.
Moliere--the inimitable Moliere--may have been permitted the high
distinction of taking a pinch of snuff from it, while planning his
_Precieuses Ridicules_, which, _malgre_ his disingenuous disavowal of
the satire being aimed at the Hotel Rambouillet, evidently found its
subject there. I cannot look at the snuff-box without being reminded of
the brilliant circle which its former mistress assembled around her,
and among which Moliere had such excellent opportunities of studying
the peculiarities of the class he subsequently painted.
Little did its members imagine, when he was admitted to it, the use he
would make of the privilege; and great must have been their surprise
and mortification, though not avowed, at the first representation of
the _Precieuses Ridicules_, in which many of them must have discovered
the resemblance to themselves, though the clever author professed only
to ridicule their imitators. _Les Femmes Savantes_, though produced
many years subsequently, also found the originals of its characters in
the same source whence Moliere painted _Les Precieuses Ridicules_.
I can fancy him slily listening to the theme proposed to the assembly
by Mademoiselle Scudery--the _Sarraides_, as she was styled--"Whether a
lover jealous, a lover despised, a lover separated from the object of
his tenderness, or him who has lost her by death, was to be esteemed
the most unhappy."
At a later period of his life, Moliere might have solved the question
from bitter personal experience, for few ever suffered more from the
pangs of jealousy, and assuredly no one has painted with such
vigour--though the comic often prevails over the serious in his
delineations--the effects of a passion any thing but comic to him.
Strange power of genius, to make others laugh at incidents which had
often tormented himself, and to be able to give humour to characters in
various comedies, actuated by the feelings to which he had so
frequently been a victim!
I can picture to myself the fair _Julie d'Angennes_, who bestowed not
her hand on the _Duc de Montausier_ until he had served as many years
in seeking it as Jacob had served to gain that of Rachel, and until she
had passed her thirtieth year (in order that his passion should become
as purified from all grossness, as was the language spoken among the
circle in which she lived), receiving with dignified reserve the finely
painted flowers and poems to illustrate them, which formed the
celebrated _Guirlande de Julie_, presented to her by her courtly
I see pass before me the fair and elegant dames of that galaxy of wit
and beauty, Mesdames de Longueville, Lafayette, and de Sevigne,
fluttering their fans as they listened and replied to the gallant
compliments of Voiture, Menage, Chapelain, Desmarets, or De Reaux, or
to the _spirituelle causerie_ of Chamfort.
What a pity that a society, no less useful than brilliant at its
commencement, should have degenerated into a coterie, remarkable at
last but for its fantastic and false notions of refinement, exhibited
in a manner that deserved the ridicule it called down!
Spent last evening in the Rue d'Anjou: met there la Marquise de
Pouleprie, and the usual _habitues_. She is a delightful person; for
age has neither chilled the warmth of her heart, nor impaired the
vivacity of her manners. I had heard much of her; for she is greatly
beloved by the Duchesse de Guiche and all the De Gramont family; and
she, knowing their partiality to me, treated me rather as an old than
as a new acquaintance.
Talking of old times, to which the Duc de Gramont reverted, the
Marquise mentioned having seen the celebrated Madame du Barry in the
garden at Versailles, when she (the Marquise) was a very young girl.
She described her as having a most animated and pleasant countenance,
_un petit nez retrousse_, brilliant eyes, full red lips, and as being
altogether a very attractive person.
The Marquise de Pouleprie accompanied the French royal family to
England, and remained with them there during the emigration. She told
me that once going through the streets of London in a carriage, with
the French king, during an election at Westminster, the mob, ignorant
of his rank, insisted that he and his servants should take off their
hats, and cry out "Long live Sir Francis Burdett!" which his majesty
did with great good humour, and laughed heartily after.
Went last night to see Mademoiselle Mars, in "Valerie." It was a
finished performance, and worthy of her high reputation. Never was
there so musical a voice as hers! Every tone of it goes direct to the
heart, and its intonations soothe and charm the ear. Her countenance,
too, is peculiarly expressive. Even when her eyes, in the _role_ she
enacted last night, were fixed, and supposed to be sightless, her
countenance was still beautiful. There is a harmony in its various
expressions that accords perfectly with her clear, soft, and liquid
voice; and the united effect of both these attractions renders her
Never did Art so strongly resemble Nature as in the acting of this
admirable _artiste_. She identifies herself so completely with the part
she performs, that she not only believes herself for the time being the
heroine she represents, but makes others do so too. There was not a dry
eye in the whole of the female part of the audience last night--a
homage to her power that no other actress on the French stage could now
The style, too, of Mademoiselle Mars' acting is the most difficult of
all; because there is no exaggeration, no violence in it. The same
difference exists between it and that of other actresses, as between a
highly finished portrait and a glaringly coloured transparency. The
feminine, the graceful, and the natural, are never lost sight of for a
The French are admirable critics of acting, and are keenly alive to the
beauties of a chaste and finished style, like that of Mademoiselle
Mars. In Paris there is no playing to the galleries, and for a simple
reason:--the occupants of the galleries here are as fastidious as those
of the boxes, and any thing like outraging nature would be censured by
them: whereas, in other countries, the broad and the exaggerated almost
invariably find favour with the gods.
The same pure and refined taste that characterises the acting of
Mademoiselle Mars presides also over her toilette, which is always
appropriate and becoming.
Accustomed to the agreeable mixture of literary men in London society,
I observe, with regret, their absence in that of Paris. I have
repeatedly questioned people why this is, but have never been able to
obtain a satisfactory answer. It tells much against the good taste of
those who can give the tone to society here, that literary men should
be left out of it; and if the latter _will_ not mingle with the
aristocratic circles they are to blame, for the union of both is
advantageous to the interests of each.
Parisian society is very exclusive, and is divided into small coteries,
into which a stranger finds it difficult to become initiated. Large
routes are rare, and not at all suited to the tastes of the French
people; who comment with merriment, if not with ridicule, on the
evening parties in London, where the rooms being too small to contain
half the guests invited, the stairs and ante-rooms are filled by a
crowd, in which not only the power of conversing, but almost of
respiring is impeded.
The French ladies attribute the want of freshness so remarkable in the
toilettes of Englishwomen, to their crowded routes, and the knowledge
of its being impossible for a robe, or at least of a greater portion of
one than covers a bust, to be seen; which induces the fair wearers to
economise, by rarely indulging in new dresses.
At Paris certain ladies of distinction open their _salons_, on one
evening of each week, to a circle of their acquaintances, not too
numerous to banish that ease and confidence which form the delight of
society. Each lady takes an evening for her receptions, and no one
interferes with her arrangements by giving a party on the same night.
The individuals of each circle are thus in the habit of being
continually in each other's society; consequently the etiquette and
formality, so _genant_ among acquaintances who seldom meet, are
To preserve the charm of these unceremonious _reunions_, strangers are
seldom admitted to them, but are invited to the balls, dinners, or
large parties, where they see French people _en grande lenue_, both in
dress and manner, instead of penetrating into the more agreeable
parties to which I have referred, where the graceful _neglige_ of a
_demi-toilette_ prevails, and the lively _causerie_ of the _habitues de
la maison_ supersedes the constraint of ceremony.
Such a society is precisely the sort of one that literary men would, I
should suppose, like to mingle in, to unbend their minds from graver
studies, and yet not pass their time unprofitably; for in it, politics,
literature, and the fine arts, generally furnish the topics of
conversation: from which, however, the warmth of discussion, which too
frequently renders politics a prohibited subject, is excluded, or the
pedantry that sometimes spoils literary _causerie_ is banished.
French people, male and female, talk well; give their opinions with
readiness and vivacity; often striking out ideas as original as they
are brilliant; highly suggestive to more profound thinkers, but which
they dispense with as much prodigality as a spendthrift throws away his
small coin, conscious of having more at his disposal. Quick of
perception, they jump, rather than march, to a conclusion, at which an
Englishman or a German would arrive leisurely, enabled to tell all the
particulars of the route, but which the Frenchman would know little of
from having arrived by some shorter road. This quickness of perception
exempts them from the necessity of devoting much of the time and study
which the English or Germans employ in forming opinions, but it also
precludes their being able to reason as justly or as gravely on those
Walked in the gardens of the Tuileries to-day. What a contrast their
frequenters offer to those of the Luxembourg! In the Tuileries, the
promenaders look as if they only walked there to display their tasteful
dresses and pretty persons.
The women eye each other as they pass, and can tell at a glance whether
their respective _chapeaux_ have come from the _atelier_ of Herbault,
or the less _recherce magasin de modes_ of some more humble _modiste_.
How rapidly can they see whether the Cashmere shawl of some passing
dame owes its rich but sober tints to an Indian loom, or to the fabric
of M. Ternaux, who so skilfully imitates the exotic luxury; and what a
difference does the circumstance make in their estimation of the
wearer! The beauty of a woman, however great it may be, excites less
envy in the minds of her own sex in France, than does the possession of
a fine Cashmere, or a _garniture_ of real Russian sable--objects of
general desire to every Parisian _belle_.
I met few handsome women to-day, but these few were remarkably
striking. In Kensington Gardens I should have encountered thrice as
many; but there I should also have seen more plain ones than here. Not
that Englishwomen _en masse_ are not better-looking than the French,
but that these last are so skilful in concealing defects, and revealing
beauties by the appropriateness and good taste in their choice of
dress, that even the plain cease to appear so; and many a woman looks
piquant, if not pretty, at Paris, thanks to her _modiste_, her
_couturiere_, and her _cordonnier_, who, without their "artful aid,"
would be plain indeed.
It is pleasant to behold groups of well-dressed women walking, as only
French women ever do walk, nimbly moving their little feet _bien
chausse_, and with an air half timid, half _espiegle_, that elicits the
admiration they affect to avoid. The rich and varied material of their
robes, the pretty _chapeaux_, from which peep forth such coquettish
glances, the modest assurance--for their self-possession amounts
precisely to that--and the ease and elegance of their carriage, give
them attractions we might seek for in vain in the women of other
countries, however superior these last may be in beauty of complexion
or roundness of _contour_, for which French women in general are not
The men who frequent the gardens of the Tuileries are of a different
order to those met with in the Luxembourg. They consist chiefly of
military men and young fashionables, who go to admire the pretty women,
and elderly and middle-aged ones, who meet in knots and talk politics
with all the animation peculiar to their nation. Children do not abound
in the walks here, as in the Luxembourg; and those to be seen are
evidently brought by some fond mother, proud of exhibiting her boys and
girls in their smart dresses.
The Tuileries Gardens, so beautiful in summer, are not without their
attractions in winter. The trees, though leafless, look well, rearing
their tall branches towards the clear sky, and the statues and vases
seen through vistas of evergreen shrubs, with the gilded railing which
gives back the rays of the bright, though cold sun, and the rich
velvets of every hue in which the women are enveloped, giving them the
appearance of moving _parterres_ of dahlias, all render the scene a
very exhilarating one to the spirits.
I observe a difference in the usages _de moeurs_ at Paris, and in those
of London, of which an ignorance might lead to give offence. In
England, a lady is expected to bow to a gentleman before he presumes to
do so to her, thus leaving her the choice of acknowledging his
acquaintance, or not; but in France it is otherwise, for a man takes
off his hat to every woman whom he has ever met in society, although he
does not address her, unless she encourages him to do so.
In Paris, if two men are walking or riding together, and one of them
bows to a lady of his acquaintance, the other also takes off his hat,
as a mark of respect to the lady known to his friend, although he is
not acquainted with her. The mode of salutation is also much more
deferential towards women in France than in England. The hat is held a
second longer off the head, the bow is lower, and the smile of
recognition is more _amiable_, by which, I mean, that it is meant to
display the pleasure experienced by the meeting.
It is true that the really well-bred Englishmen are not to be surpassed
in politeness and good manners by those of any other country, but all
are not such; and I have seen instances of men in London acknowledging
the presence of ladies, by merely touching, instead of taking off,
their hats when bowing to them; and though I accounted for this
solecism in good breeding by the belief that it proceeded from the
persons practising it wearing wigs, I discovered that there was not
even so good an excuse as the fear of deranging them, and that their
incivility proceeded from ignorance, or _nonchalance_, while the glum
countenance of him who bowed betrayed rather a regret for the necessity
of touching his beaver, than a pleasure at meeting her for whom the
salute was intended.
Time flies away rapidly here, and its flight seems to me to mark two
distinct states of existence. My mornings are devoted wholly to reading
history, poetry, or _belles lettres_, which abstract me so completely
from the actual present to the past, that the hours so disposed of
appear to be the actual life, and those given up to society the shadowy
This forcible contrast between the two portions of the same day, gives
charms to both, though I confess the hours passed in my library are
those which leave behind them the pleasantest reflections. I
experienced this sentiment when in the hey-day of youth, and surrounded
by some of the most gifted persons in England; but now, as age
advances, the love of solitude and repose increases, and a life spent
in study appears to me to be the one of all others the most desirable,
as the enjoyment of the best thoughts of the best authors is preferable
even to their conversation, could it be had, and, consequently to that
of the cleverest men to be met with in society.
Some pleasant people dined here yesterday. Among them was Colonel
Caradoc, the son of our old friend Lord Howden. He possesses great and
versatile information, is good-looking, well-bred, and has superior
abilities; in short, he has all the means, and appliances to boot, to
make a distinguished figure, in life, if he lacks not the ambition and
energy to use them; but, born to station and fortune, he may want the
incitement which the absence of these advantages furnishes, and be
content to enjoy the good he already has, instead of seeking greater
Colonel Caradoc's conversation is brilliant and epigrammatic; and if
occasionally a too evident consciousness of his own powers is suffered
to be revealed in it, those who know it to be well-founded will pardon
his self-complacency, and not join with the persons, and they are not
few, whose _amour-propre_ is wounded by the display of his, and who
question, what really is not questionable, the foundation on which his
pretensions are based.
The clever, like the handsome, to be pardoned for being so, should
affect a humility they are but too seldom in the habit of feeling; and
to acquire popularity must appear unconscious of meriting it. This is
one of the many penalties entailed on the gifted in mind or person.
_January 1st_, 1829.--There is always something grave, if not awful, in
the opening of a new year; for who knows what may occur to render it
memorable for ever! If the bygone one has been marked by aught sad, the
arrival of the new reminds one of the lapse of time; and though the
destroyer brings patience, we sigh to think that we may have new
occasions for its difficult exercise. Who can forbear from trembling
lest the opening year may find us at its close with a lessened circle.
Some, now dear and confided in, may become estranged, or one dearer
than life may be snatched away whose place never can be supplied! The
thought is too painful to be borne, and makes one look around with
increased affection on those dear to us.
The custom prevalent at Paris of offering an exchange of gifts on the
first day of the new year was, perhaps, originally intended to banish
the melancholy reflections such an epoch is calculated to awaken.
My tables are so crowded with gifts that I might set up a _petit
Dunkerque_ of my own, for not a single friend has omitted to send me a
present. These gifts are to be acknowledged by ones of similar value,
and I must go and put my taste to the test in selecting _cadeaux_ to
send in return.
Spent several hours yesterday in the gallery of the Louvre. The
collection of antiquities, though a very rich, one, dwindles into
insignificance when compared with that of the Vatican, and the halls in
which it is arranged appear mean in the eyes of those accustomed to see
the numerous and splendid ones of the Roman edifice. Nevertheless, I
felt much satisfaction in lounging through groups of statues, and busts
of the remarkable men and women of antiquity, with the countenances of
many of whom I had made myself familiar in the Vatican, the Musee of
the Capitol, or in the collection at Naples, where facsimiles of
several of them are to be found.
Nor had I less pleasure in contemplating the personifications of the
_beau ideal_ of the ancient sculptors, exhibited in their gods and
goddesses, in whose faultless faces the expression of all passion seems
to have been carefully avoided. Whether this peculiarity is to be
accounted for by the desire of the artist to signify the superiority of
the Pagan divinities over mortals, by this absence of any trace of
earthly feelings, or whether it was thought that any decided expression
might deteriorate from the character of repose and beauty that marks
the works of the great sculptors of antiquity, I know not, but the
effect produced on my mind by the contemplation of these calm and
beautiful faces, has something so soothing in it, that I can well
imagine with what pleasure those engaged in the turmoils of war, or the
scarcely less exciting arena of politics, in former ages, must have
turned from their mundane cares to look on these personations of their
fabled deities, whose tranquil beauty forms so soothing a contrast to
I have observed this calmness of expression in the faces of many of the
most celebrated statues of antiquity, in the Aristides at Naples, I
remember being struck with it, and noticing that he who was banished
through the envy excited by his being styled the Just, was represented
as unmoved as if the injustice of his countrymen no more affected the
even tenour of his mind, than the passions of mortals disturb those of
the mythological divinities of the ancients.
A long residence in Italy, and a habit of frequenting the galleries
containing the finest works of art there, engender a love of sculpture
and painting, that renders it not only a luxury but almost a necessary
of life to pass some hours occasionally among the all but breathing
marbles and glorious pictures bequeathed to posterity by the mighty
artists of old. I love to pass such hours alone, or in the society of
some one as partial, but more skilled in such studies than myself; and
such a companion I have found in the Baron de Cailleux, an old
acquaintance, and now Under-Director of the Musee, whose knowledge of
the fine arts equals his love for them.
The contemplation of the _chefs-d'oeuvre_ of the old masters begets a
tender melancholy in the mind, that is not without a charm for those
addicted to it. These stand the results of long lives devoted to the
developement of the genius that embodied these inspirations, and left
to the world the fruit of hours of toil and seclusion,--hours snatched
from the tempting pleasures that cease not to court the senses, but
which they who laboured for posterity resisted. The long vigils, the
solitary days, the hopes and fears, the fears more frequent than the
hopes, the depression of spirits, and the injustice or the indifference
of contemporaries, endured by all who have ever devoted their lives to
art, are present to my mind when I behold the great works of other
What cheered these men of genius during their toils and enabled them to
finish their glorious works? Was it not the hope that from posterity
they would meet with the admiration, the sympathy, denied them by their
contemporaries?--as the prisoner in his gloomy dungeon, refused all
pity, seeks consolation by tracing a few lines on its dreary walls, in
appeal to the sympathy of some future inhabitant who may be doomed to
take his place.
I seem to be paying a portion of the debt due by posterity to those who
laboured long and painfully for it, when I stand rapt in admiration
before the works of the great masters of the olden time, my heart
touched with a lively sympathy for their destinies; nor can I look on
the glorious faces or glowing landscapes that remain to us, evincing
the triumph of genius over even time itself, by preserving on canvass
the semblance of all that charmed in nature, without experiencing the
sentiment so naturally and beautifully expressed in the celebrated
picture, by Nicolas Poussin, of a touching scene in Arcadia, in which
is a tomb near to which two shepherds are reading the inscription. "I,
too, was an Arcadian."
Yes, that which delighted the artists of old, they have transmitted to
us with a tender confidence that when contemplating these bequests we
would remember with sympathy that they, like us, had felt the charms
Went to see the Hotel d'Orsay, to-day. Even in its ruin it still
retains many of the vestiges of its former splendour. The _salle a
manger_, for the decoration of which its owner bought, and had conveyed
from Rome, the columns of the Temple of Nero, is now--hear it, ye who
have taste!--converted into a stable; the _salons_, once filled with
the most precious works of art, are now crumbled to decay, and the vast
garden where bloomed the rarest exotics, and in which were several of
the statues that are now in the gardens of the Tuileries, is now turned
into paddocks for horses.
It made me sad to look at this scene of devastation, the result of a
revolution which plunged so many noble families from almost boundless
wealth into comparative poverty, and scattered collections of the works
of art that whole lives were passed in forming. I remember Mr.
Millingen, the antiquary, telling me in Italy that when yet little more
than a boy he was taken to view the Hotel d'Orsay, then one of the most
magnificent houses in Paris, and containing the finest collection of
pictures and statues, and that its splendour made such an impression on
his mind that he had never forgotten it.
With an admirable taste and a princely fortune, Count d'Orsay spared
neither trouble nor expense to render his house the focus of all that
was rich and rare; and, with a spirit that does not always animate the
possessor of rare works of art, he opened it to the young artists of
the day, who were permitted to study in its gallery and _salons_.
In the slate drawing-rooms a fanciful notion of the Count's was carried
into effect and was greatly admired, though, I believe, owing to the
great expense, the mode was not adopted in other houses, namely, on the
folding-doors of the suite being thrown open to admit company, certain
pedals connected with them were put in motion, and a strain of music
was produced, which announced the presence of guests, and the doors of
each of the drawing-rooms when opened took up the air, and continued it
Many of the old _noblesse_ have been describing the splendour of the
Hotel d'Orsay to me since I have been at Paris, and the Duc de
Talleyrand said it almost realised the notion of a fairy palace. Could
the owner who expended such vast sums on its decoration, behold it in
its present ruin, he could never recognise it; but such would be the
case with many a one whose stately palaces became the prey of a furious
rabble, let loose to pillage by a revolution--that most fearful of all
calamities, pestilence only excepted, that can befall a country.
General Ornano, his stepson Count Waleski, M. Achille La Marre, General
d'Orsay, and Mr. Francis Baring dined here yesterday. General Ornano is
agreeable and well-mannered. We had music in the evening, and the
lively and pretty Madame la H---- came. She is greatly admired, and no
wonder; for she is not only handsome, but clever and piquant. Hers does
not appear to be a well-assorted marriage, for M. la H---- is grave, if
not austere, in his manners, while she is full of gaiety and vivacity,
the demonstrations of which seem to give him any thing but pleasure.
I know not which is most to be pitied, a saturnine husband whose
gravity is only increased by the gaiety of his wife, or the gay wife
whose exuberance of spirits finds no sympathy in the Mentor-like
husband. Half, if not all, the unhappy marriages, accounted for by
incompatibility of humour, might with more correctness be attributed to
a total misunderstanding of each other's characters and dispositions in
the parties who drag a heavy and galling chain through life, the links
of which might be rendered light and easy to be borne, if the wearers
took but half the pains to comprehend each other's peculiarities that
they in general do to reproach or to resent the annoyance these
peculiarities occasion them.
An austere man would learn that the gaiety of his wife was as natural
and excusable a peculiarity in her, as was his gravity in him, and
consequently would not resent it; and the lively wife would view the
saturnine humour of her husband as a malady demanding forbearance and
The indissolubility of marriage, so often urged as an additional cause
for aggravating the sense of annoyance experienced by those wedded but
unsuited to each other, is, in my opinion, one of the strongest motives
for using every endeavour to render the union supportable, if not
agreeable. If a dwelling known to be unalienable has some defect which
makes it unsuited to the taste of its owner, he either ameliorates it,
or, if that be impracticable, he adopts the resolution of supporting
its inconvenience with patience; so should a philosophical mind bear
all that displeases in a union in which even the most fortunate find
"something to pity or forgive." It is unfortunate that this same
philosophy, considered so excellent a panacea for enabling us to bear
ills, should be so rarely used that people can seldom judge of its
efficacy when required!
Saw _la Gazza Ladra_ last night, in which Malibran enacted "Ninetta,"
and added new laurels to the wreath accorded her by public opinion. Her
singing in the duo, in the prison scene, was one of the most touching
performances I ever heard; and her acting gave a fearful reality to the
I have been reading the _Calamities of Authors_ all the morning, and
find I like the book even better on a second perusal--no mean praise,
for the first greatly pleased me. So it is with all the works of Mr.
D'Israeli, who writes _con amore_; and not only with a profound
knowledge of his subjects, but with a deep sympathy, which peeps forth
at every line, for the literary men whose troubles or peculiarities he
His must be a fine nature--a contemplative mind imbued with a true love
of literature, and a kindness of heart that melts and makes those of
others melt, for the evils to which its votaries are exposed.
How much are those who like reading, but are too idle for research,
indebted to Mr. D'Israeli, who has given them the precious result of a
long life of study, so admirably digested and beautifully conveyed that
in a few volumes are condensed a mass of the most valuable information!
I never peruse a production of his without longing to be personally
acquainted with him; and, though we never met, I entertain a regard and
respect for him, induced by the many pleasant hours his works have
Met the Princesse de Talleyrand last night at Madame C----'s. I felt
curious to see this lady, of whom I had heard such various reports;
and, as usual, found her very different to the descriptions I had
She came _en princesse_, attended by two _dames de compagnie_, and a
gentleman who acted as _chambellan_. Though her _embonpoint_ has not
only destroyed her shape but has also deteriorated her face, the small
features of which seem imbued in a mask much too fleshy for their
proportions, it is easy to see that in her youth she must have been
handsome. Her complexion is fair; her hair, judging from the eye-brows
and eye-lashes, must have been very light; her eyes are blue; her nose,
_retrousse_; her mouth small, with full lips; and the expression of her
countenance is agreeable, though not intellectual.
In her demeanour there is an evident assumption of dignity, which,
falling short of the aim, gives an ungraceful stiffness to her
appearance. Her dress was rich but suited to her age, which I should
pronounce to be about sixty. Her manner has the formality peculiar to
those conscious of occupying a higher station than their birth or
education entitles them to hold; and this consciousness gives an air of
constraint and reserve that curiously contrasts with the natural
good-humour and _naivete_ that are frequently perceptible in her.
If ignorant--as is asserted--there is no symptom of it in her language.
To be sure, she says little; but that little is expressed with
propriety: and if reserved, she is scrupulously polite. Her _dames de
compagnie_ and _chambellan_ treat her with profound respect, and she
acknowledges their attentions with civility. To sum up all, the
impression made upon me by the Princesse Talleyrand was, that she
differed in no way from any other princess I had ever met, except by a
greater degree of reserve and formality than were in general evinced by
I could not help smiling inwardly when looking at her, as I remembered
Baron Denon's amusing story of the mistake she once made. When the
Baron's work on Egypt was the topic of general conversation, and the
hotel of the Prince Talleyrand was the rendezvous of the most
distinguished persons of both sexes at Paris, Denon being engaged to
dine there one day, the Prince wished the Princesse to read a few pages
of the book, in order that she might be enabled to say something
complimentary on it to the author. He consequently ordered his
librarian to send the work to her apartment on the morning of the day
of the dinner; but, unfortunately, at the same time also commanded that
a copy of _Robinson Crusoe_ should be sent to a young lady, a
_protegee_ of hers, who resided in the hotel. The Baron Denon's work,
through mistake, was given to Mademoiselle, and _Robinson Crusoe_ was
delivered to the Princesse, who rapidly looked through its pages.
The seat of honour at table being assigned to the Baron, the Princesse,
mindful of her husband's wishes, had no sooner eaten her soup than,
smiling graciously, she thanked Denon for the pleasure which the
perusal of his work had afforded her. The author was pleased, and told
her how much he felt honoured; but judge of his astonishment, and the
dismay of the Prince Talleyrand, when the Princesse exclaimed. "Yes,
Monsieur le Baron, your work has delighted me; but I am longing to know
what has become of your poor man Friday, about whom I feel such an
Denon used to recount this anecdote with great spirit, confessing at
the same time that his _amour propre_ as an author had been for a
moment flattered by the commendation, even of a person universally
known to be incompetent to pronounce on the merit of his book. The
Emperor Napoleon heard this story, and made Baron Denon repeat it to
him, laughing immoderately all the time, and frequently after he would,
when he saw Denon, inquire "how was poor Friday?"
When the second restoration of the Bourbons took place, the Prince
Talleyrand, anxious to separate from the Princesse, and to get her out
of his house, induced her, under the pretence that a change of air was
absolutely necessary for her health, to go to England for some months.
She had only been there a few weeks when a confidential friend at Paris
wrote to inform her that from certain rumours afloat it was quite clear
the Prince did not intend her to take up her abode again in his house,
and advised her to return without delay. The Princesse instantly
adopted this counsel, and arrived most unexpectedly in the Rue
St.-Florentin, to the alarm and astonishment of the whole establishment
there, who had been taught not to look for her entering the hotel any
more; and to the utter dismay of the Prince, who, however anxious to be
separated from her, dreaded a scene of violence still more than he
wished to be released from his conjugal chains.
She forced her admission to his presence, overwhelmed him with
reproaches, and it required the exercise of all his diplomatic skill to
allay the storm he had raised. The affair became the general topic of
conversation at Paris; and when, the day after the event, the Prince
waited on Louis the Eighteenth on affairs of state, the King, who loved
a joke, congratulated him on the unexpected arrival of Madame la
Prince Talleyrand felt the sarcasm, and noticed it by one of those
smiles so peculiar to him--a shake of the head and shrug of the
shoulders, while he uttered "_Que voulez-vous, Sire, chacun a son vingt
Mars_?" referring to the unexpected arrival of the Emperor Napoleon.
I have been reading _Yes and No_, a very clever and, interesting novel
from the pen of Lord Normanby. His writings evince great knowledge of
the world, the work-o'-day world, as well as the _beau monde_; yet
there is no bitterness in his satire, which is always just and happily
pointed. His style, too, is easy, fluent, and polished, without being
disfigured by the slightest affectation or pedantry.
Had a long visit to-day from Dr. P----, who has lent me the works of
Bichat and Broussais, which he recommends me to read. He is a most
agreeable companion, and as vivacious as if he was only twenty. He
reminds me sometimes of my old friend Lady Dysart, whose juvenility of
mind and manner always pleased as much as it surprised me.
Old people like these appear to forget, as they are forgotten by, time;
and, like trees marked to be cut down, but which escape the memory of
the marker, they continue to flourish though the lines traced for their
destruction are visible.
The more I see of Count Waleski the more I am pleased with him. He has
an acute mind, great quickness of perception, and exceedingly good
manners. I always consider it a good sign of a young man to be partial
to the society of the old, and I observe that Count Waleski evinces a
preference for that of men old enough to be his father. People are not
generally aware of the advantages which agreeable manners confer, and
the influence they exercise over society. I have seen great abilities
fail in producing the effect accomplished by prepossessing manners,
which are even more serviceable to their owner than is a fine
countenance, that best of all letters of recommendation.
Half the unpopularity of people proceeds from a disagreeable manner;
and though we may be aware of the good qualities of persons who have
this defect, we cannot conceal from ourselves that it must always
originate in a want of the desire to please--a want, the evidence of
which cannot fail to wound the self-love of those who detect, and
indispose them towards those who betray it. By a disagreeable manner I
do not mean the awkwardness often arising from timidity, or the too
great familiarity originating in untutored good nature: but I refer to
a superciliousness, or coldness, that marks a sense of superiority; or
to a habit of contradiction, that renders society what it should never
be--an arena of debate.
How injudicious are those who defend their absent friends, when accused
of having disagreeable manners, by saying, as I have often heard
persons say--"I assure you that he or she can be very agreeable with
those he or she likes:" an assertion which, by implying that the person
accused did not like those who complained of the bad manner, converts
them from simple disapprovers into something approaching to enemies.
I had once occasion to notice the fine tact of a friend of mine, who,
hearing a person he greatly esteemed censured for his disagreeable
"Yes, it is very true: with a thousand good qualities his
manner is very objectionable, even with those he likes best:
it is his misfortune, and he cannot help it; but those who
know him well will pardon it."
This candid admission of what could not be refuted, checked all further
censure at the moment, whereas an injudicious defence would have
lengthened it; and I heard some of the individuals then present assert,
a few days subsequently, that Lord ---- was not, after all, by any
means to be disliked: for that his manners were equally objectionable
even with his most esteemed friends, and consequently meant nothing
uncivil to strangers.
I tried this soothing system the other day in defence of ----, when a
whole circle were attacking him for his rude habit of contradicting, by
asserting, with a grave face, that he only contradicted those whose
talents he suspected, in order that he might draw them out in
---- came in soon after, and it was positively amusing to observe how
much better people bore his contradiction. Madame ---- only smiled
when, having asserted that it was a remarkably fine day, he declared it
to be abominable. The Duc de ---- looked gracious when, having repeated
some political news, ---- said he could prove the contrary to be the
fact; and the Comtesse de ---- looked archly round when, having
extravagantly praised a new novel, he pronounced that it was the worst
of all the bad ones of the author.
---- will become a popular man, and have to thank me for it. How angry
would he be if he knew the service I have rendered him, and how quickly
would he contradict all I said in his favour! ---- reminds me of the
Englishman of whom it was said, that so great was his love of
contradiction, that when the hour of the night and state of the weather
were announced by the watchman beneath his window, he used to get out
of bed and raise both his casement and his voice to protest against the
accuracy of the statement.
Read _Pelham_; commenced it yesterday, and concluded it to-day. It is a
new style of novel, and, like all that is very clever, will lead to
many copyists. The writer possesses a felicitous fluency of language,
profound and just thoughts, and a knowledge of the world rarely
acquired at his age, for I am told he is a very young man.
This work combines pointed and pungent satire on the follies of
society, a deep vein of elevated sentiment, and a train of
philosophical thinking, seldom, if ever, allied to the tenderness which
pierces through the sentimental part. The opening reminded me of that
of _Anastatius_, without being in the slightest degree an imitation;
and many of the passages recalled Voltaire, by their wit and terseness.
I, who don't like reading novels, heard so much in favour of this
one--for all Paris talk of it--that I broke through a resolution formed
since I read the dull book of ----, to read no more; and I am glad I
did so, for this clever book has greatly interested me.
Oh, the misery of having stupid books presented to one by the author!
----, who is experienced in such matters, told me that the best plan in
such cases was, to acknowledge the receipt of the book the same day it
arrived, and civilly express the pleasure anticipated from its perusal,
by which means the necessity of praising a bad book was avoided. This
system has, however, been so generally adopted of late, that authors
are dissatisfied with it; and, consequently, a good-natured person
often feels compelled to write commendations of books which he or she
is far from approving; and which, though it costs an effort to write,
are far from satisfying the _exigeant amour propre_ peculiar to
I remember once being present when the merits of a book were canvassed.
One person declared it to be insufferably dull, when another, who had
published some novel, observed, with rather a supercilious air, "You
know not how difficult it is to write a good book!"
"I suppose it must be very difficult," was the answer, "seeing how long
and how often you have attempted, without succeeding."
How these letters of commendations of bad books, extorted from those to
whom the authors present them, will rise up in judgment against the
writers, when they are "gone to that bourne whence no traveller
returns!" I tremble to think of it! What severe animadversions on the
bad taste, or the want of candour of the writers, and all because they
were too good-natured to give pain to the authors!
Went to the Theatre Italien last night, and saw Malibran in _la
Cenerentola_, in which her acting was no less admirable than her
singing. She sang "Non piu Mesta" better than I ever heard it before,
and astonished as well as delighted the audience. She has a soul and
spirit in her style that carries away her hearers, as no other singer
does, and excites an enthusiasm seldom, if ever, equalled. Malibran
seems to be as little mistress of her own emotions when singing, as
those are whom her thrilling voice melts into softness, or wakes into
passion. Every tone is pregnant with feeling, and every glance and
attitude instinct with truthful emotion.
A custom prevails in France, which is not practised in Italy, or in
England, namely, _les lettres de faire part_, sent to announce deaths,
marriages, and births, to the circle of acquaintances of the parties.
This formality is never omitted, and these printed letters are sent out
to all on the visiting lists, except relations, or very intimate
friends, to whom autograph letters are addressed.
Another custom also prevails, which is that of sending _bonbons_ to the
friends and acquaintance of the _accouchee_. These sweet proofs
_d'amitie_ come pouring in frequently, and I confess I do not dislike
The godfather always sends the _bonbons_ and a trinket to the mother of
the child, and also presents the godmother with a _corbeille_, in which
are some dozens of gloves, two or three handsome fans, embroidered
purses, a smelling-bottle, and a _vinaigrette_; and she offers him, _en
revanche_, a cane, buttons, or a pin--in short, some present. The
_corbeilles_ given to godmothers are often very expensive, being suited
to the rank of the parties; so that in Paris the compliment of being
selected as a godfather entails no trifling expense on the chosen. The
great prices given for wedding _trousseaux_ in France, even by those
who are not rich, surprise me, I confess.
They contain a superabundance of every article supposed to be necessary
for the toilette of a _nouvelle mariee_, from the rich robes of velvet
down to the simple _peignoir de matin_. Dresses of every description
and material, and for all seasons, are found in it. Cloaks, furs,
Cashmere shawls, and all that is required for night or day use, are
liberally supplied; indeed, so much so, that to see one of these
_trousseaux_, one might imagine the person for whom it was intended was
going to pass her life in some far-distant clime, where there would be
no hope of finding similar articles, if ever wanted.
Then comes the _corbeille de mariage_, well stored with the finest
laces, the most delicately embroidered pocket handkerchiefs, veils,
_fichus, chemisettes_ and _canezous_, trinkets, smelling-bottles, fans,
_vinaigrettes_, gloves, garters; and though last, not least, a purse
well filled to meet the wants or wishes of the bride,--a judicious
attention never omitted.
These _trousseaux_ and _corbeilles_ are placed in a _salon_, and are
exhibited to the friends the two or three days previously to the
wedding; and the view of them often sends young maidens--ay, and
elderly ones, too--away with an anxious desire to enter that holy state
which ensures so many treasures. It is not fair to hold out such
temptations to the unmarried, and may be the cause why they are
generally so desirous to quit the pale of single blessedness.
Count Charles de Mornay dined here yesterday, _en famille_. How clever
and amusing he is! Even in his liveliest sallies there is the evidence
of a mind that can reflect deeply, as well as clothe its thoughts in
the happiest language. To be witty, yet thoroughly good-natured as he
is, never exercising his wit at the expense of others, indicates no
less kindness of heart than talent.
I know few things more agreeable than to hear him and his cousin open
the armoury of their wit, which, like summer lightning, flashes rapidly
and brightly, but never wounds. In England, we are apt to consider wit
and satire as nearly synonymous; for we hear of the clever sayings of
our reputed wits, in nine cases out of ten, allied to some ill-natured
_bon mot_, or pointed epigram. In France this is not the case, for some
of the most witty men, and women too, whom I ever knew, are as
remarkable for their good nature as for their cleverness. That wit
which needs not the spur of malice is certainly the best, and is most
frequently met with at Paris.
Went last evening to see Mademoiselle Marsin _Henri III_. Her acting
was, as usual, inimitable. I was disappointed in the piece, of which I
had heard much praise. It is what the French call _decousue_, but is
interesting as a picture of the manners of the times which it
represents. There is no want of action or bustle in it; on the
contrary, it abounds in incidents: but they are, for the most part,
puerile. As in our own _Othello_, a pocket handkerchief leads to the
_denouement_, reminding one of the truth of the verse,--
"What great events from trivial causes spring!"
The whole court of Henry the Third are brought on the scene, and with
an attention to costume to be found only in a Parisian theatre. The
strict attention to costume, and to all the other accessories
appertaining to the epoch, _mise en scene_, is very advantageous to the
pieces brought out here; but, even should they fail to give or preserve
an illusion, it is always highly interesting as offering a _tableau du
costume, et des moeurs des siecles passes_. The crowd brought on the
stage in _Henri III_, though it adds to the splendour of the scenic
effect, produces a confusion in the plot; as does also the vast number
of names and titles introduced during the scenes, which fatigue the
attention and defy the memory of the spectators.
The fierce "Duc de Guise," the slave at once of two passions, generally
considered to be the most incompatible, Love and Ambition, is made to
commit strange inconsistencies. "Saint-Megrin" excites less interest
than he ought; but the "Duchesse de Guise," whose beautiful arm plays a
_grand role_, must, as played by Mademoiselle Mars, have conquered all
hearts _vi et armis_.
_Henri III_ has the most brilliant success, and, in despite of some
faults, is full of genius, and the language is vigorous. Perhaps its
very faults are to be attributed to an excess, rather than to a want,
of power, and to a mind overflowing with a knowledge of the times he
wished to represent; which led to a dilution of the strength of his
scenes, by crowding into them too much extraneous matter.
A curious incident occurred during the representation. Two
ladies--_gentlewomen_ they could not be correctly styled--being seated
in the _balcon_, were brought in closer contact, whether by the crowd,
or otherwise, than was agreeable to them. From remonstrances they
proceeded to murmurs, not only "loud, but deep," and from
murmurs--"tell it not in Ascalon, publish it not in Gath"--to violent
pushing, and, at length, to blows. The audience were, as well they
might be, shocked; the _Gendarmes_ interfered, and order was soon
restored. The extreme propriety of conduct that invariably prevails in
a Parisian audience, and more especially in the female portion of it,
renders the circumstance I have narrated remarkable.
Met Lady G., Lady H., and the usual circle of _habitues_ last night at
Madame C----'s. The first-mentioned lady surprises me every time I meet
her, by the exaggeration of her sentiment and the romantic notions she
entertains. Love, eternal love, is her favourite topic of conversation;
a topic unsuited to discussion at her age and in her position.
To hear a woman, no longer young, talking passionately of love, has
something so absurd in it, that I am pained for Lady C., who is really
a kind-hearted and amiable woman. Her definitions of the passion, and
descriptions of its effects, remind me of the themes furnished by
Scudery, and are as tiresome as the tales of a traveller recounted some
fifty years after he has made his voyage. Lady H., who is older than
Lady G., opens wide her round eyes, laughs, and exclaims, "Oh,
dear!--how very strange!--well, that is so funny!" until Lady C. draws
up with all the dignity of a heroine of romance, and asserts that "few,
very few, are capable of either feeling or comprehending the passion."
A fortunate state for those who are no longer able to inspire it!
To grow old gracefully, proves no ordinary powers of mind, more
especially in one who has been (oh, what an odious phrase that same
_has been_ is!) a beauty. Well has it been observed by a French writer,
that women no longer young and handsome should forget that they ever
I have been reading Wordsworth's poems again, and I verily believe for
the fiftieth time. They contain a mine of lofty, beautiful, and natural
thoughts. I never peruse them without feeling proud that England has
such a poet, and without finding a love for the pure and the noble
increased in my mind. Talk of the ideal in poetry? what is it in
comparison with the positive and the natural, of which he gives such
exquisite delineations, lifting his readers from Nature up to Nature's
God? How eloquently does he portray the feelings awakened by fine
scenery, and the thoughts to which it gives birth!
Wordsworth is, _par excellence_, the Poet of Religion, for his
productions fill the mind with pure and holy aspirations. Fortunate is
the poet who has quaffed inspiration in the purest of all its sources,
Nature; and fortunate is the land that claims him for her own.
The influence exercised by courts over the habits of subjects, though
carried to a less extent in our days than in past times, is still
obvious at Paris in the display of religion assumed by the upper class.
Coroneted carriages are to be seen every day at the doors of certain
churches, which it is not very uncharitable to suppose might be less
frequently beheld there if the King, Madame la Dauphine, and the
Dauphin were less religious; and hands that have wielded a sword in
many a well-fought battle-field, and hold the _baton de marechal_ as a
reward, may now be seen bearing a lighted _cierge_ in some pious
procession,--the military air of the intrepid warrior lost in the
humility of the devotee.
This general assumption of religion on the part of the courtiers
reminds me forcibly of a passage in a poetical epistle, written, too,
by a sovereign, who, unlike many monarchs, seemed to have had a due
appreciation of the proneness of subjects to adopt the opinions of
"L'exemple d'un monarque ordonne et se fait suivre:
Quand Auguste buvait, la Pologne etait ivre;
Et quand Louis le Grand brulait d'un tendre amour,
Paris devint Cythere, et tout suivait sa cour;
Lorsqu'il devint devot, ardent a la priere,
Ses laches courtisans marmottaient leur breviaire."
Should the Duc de Bordeaux arrive at the throne while yet in the
hey-day of youth, and with the gaiety that generally accompanies that
period of life, it will be amusing to witness the metamorphosis that
will be effected in these same courtiers. There are doubtless many, and
I am acquainted with some persons here, whose religion is as sincere
and as fervent as is that of the royal personages of the court they
frequent; but I confess that I doubt whether the general mass of the
upper class would _afficher_ their piety as much as they now do if
their regular attendance at divine worship was less likely to be known
at the Tuileries. The influence of a pious sovereign over the religious
feelings of his people must be highly beneficial when they feel,
instead of affecting to do so, the sanctity they profess.
When those in the possession of supreme power, and all the advantages
it is supposed to confer, turn from the enjoyment of them to seek
support from Heaven to meet the doom allotted to kings as well as
subjects, the example is most salutary; for the piety of the rich and
great is even more edifying than that of the poor and lowly, who are
supposed to seek consolation which the prosperous are imagined not to
The Duchesse de Berri is very popular at Paris, and deservedly so. Her
natural gaiety harmonises With that of this lively people; and her love
of the fine arts, and the liberal patronage she extends to them,
gratify the Parisians.
I heard an anecdote of her to-day from an authority which leaves no
doubt of its truth. Having commanded a brilliant _fete_, a heavy fall
of snow drew from one of her courtiers a remark that the extreme cold
would impede the pleasure of the guests, who would suffer from it in
coming and departing, "True," replied the Duchesse; "but if they in
comfortable carriages, and enveloped in furs and cashmeres, can suffer
from the severity of the weather, what must the poor endure?" And she
instantly ordered a large sum of money to be forthwith distributed, to
supply fuel to the indigent, saying--"While I dance, I shall have the
pleasure of thinking the poor are not without the means of warmth."
Received a long and delightful letter from Walter Savage Landor. His is
one of the most original minds I have ever encountered, and is joined
to one of the finest natures. Living in the delightful solitude he has
chosen near Florence, his time is passed in reading, reflecting, and
writing; a life so blameless and so happy, that the philosophers of
old, with whose thoughts his mind is so richly imbued, might, if envy
could enter into such hearts, entertain it towards him.
Landor is a happy example of the effect of retirement on a great mind.
Free from the interruptions which, if they harass not, at least impede
the continuous flow of thought in those who live much in society, his
mind has developed itself boldly, and acquired a vigour at which,
perhaps, it might never have arrived, had he been compelled to live in
a crowded city, chafed by the contact with minds of an inferior
_The Imaginary Conversations_ could never have been written amid the
vexatious interruptions incidental to one mingling much in the scenes
of busy life; for the voices of the sages of old with whom, beneath his
own vines, Landor loves to commune, would have been inaudible in the
turmoil of a populous town, and their secrets would not have been
revealed to him. The friction of society may animate the man of talent
into its exercise, but I am persuaded that solitude is essential to the
perfect developement of genius.
A letter from Sir William Gell, and, like all his letters, very
amusing. Yet how different from Landor's! Both written beneath the
sunny sky of Italy, both scholars, and nearly of the same age,
nevertheless, how widely different are their letters!
Gell's filled with lively and comic details of persons, seldom fail to
make me laugh; Landor's, wholly devoted to literary subjects, set me
thinking. Cell would die of _ennui_ in the solitude Landor has
selected; Landor would be chafed into irritation in the constant
routine of visiting and dining-out in which Gell finds amusement. But
here am I attempting to draw a parallel where none can be established,
for Landor is a man of genius, Gell a man of talent.
Was at the Opera last night, and saw the Duc d'Orleans there with his
family. They are a fine-looking flock, male and female, and looked as
happy as they are said to be.
I know no position more enviable than that of the Duc d'Orleans.
Blessed with health, a princely revenue, an admirable wife, fine
children, and many friends, he can have nothing to desire but a
continuance of these blessings. Having experienced adversity, and nobly
endured the ordeal, he must feel with an increased zest the happiness
now accorded to him,--a happiness that seems so full and complete, that
I can fancy no addition possible to it.
His vast wealth may enable him to exercise a generosity that even
sovereigns can rarely practise; his exalted rank, while it places him
near a throne, precludes him from the eating cares that never fail to
attend even the most solidly established one, and leaves him free to
enjoy the happiness of domestic life in a family circle said to contain
every ingredient for creating it.
The fondest husband, father, and brother, he is fortunate beyond most
men in his domestic relations, and furnishes to France a bright example
of irreproachable conduct and well-merited felicity in them all. In the
possession of so many blessings, I should, were I in his position (and
he probably does, or he is not the sensible man I take him to be),
tremble at the possibility of any event that could call him from the
calm enjoyment of them to the giddy height and uneasy seat of a throne.
The present king is in the vale of years, the Dauphin not young, and
the Duc de Bordeaux is but a child. Should any thing occur to this
child, then would the Duc d'Orleans stand in direct line after the
Dauphin. I thought of this contingency last night as I looked on the
happy family, and felt assured that were the Duc d'Orleans called to
reign in France, these same faces would look less cloudless than they
did then, for I am one of those who believe that "uneasy lies the head
that wears a crown."
With a good sense that characterises the Duc d'Orleans, he has sent his
sons to public schools--a measure well calculated not only to give them
a just knowledge of the world, so often denied to princes, but to
render them popular. The Duc de Chartres is an exceedingly handsome
young man, and his brothers are fine youths. The Princesses are brought
up immediately under the eye of their mother, who is allowed by every
one to be a faultless model for her sex.
The Duc d'Orleans is said to be wholly engrossed in the future
prospects of his children, and in insuring, as far as human foresight
can insure, their prosperity.
I have been reading Shelley's works, in which I have found many
beautiful thoughts. This man of genius--for decidedly such he was--has
not yet been rendered justice to; the errors that shroud his poetry, as
vapours rising from too rich a soil spread a mist that obstructs our
view of the flowers that also spring from the same bed, have hindered
us from appreciating the many beauties that abound in Shelley's
writings. Alarmed by the poison that lurks in some of his wild
speculations, we have slighted the antidote to be found in many others
of them, and heaped obloquy on the fame of a poet whose genius and
kindness of heart should have insured our pity for the errors of his
He who was all charity has found none in the judgment pronounced on him
by his contemporaries; but posterity will be more just. The wild
theories and fanciful opinions of Shelley, on subjects too sacred to be
approached lightly, carry with them their own condemnation; and so
preclude the evil which pernicious doctrines, more logically reasoned,
might produce on weak minds. His theories are vague, dreamy, always
erroneous, and often absurd: but the imagination of the poet, and the
tenderness of heart of the man, plead for pardon for the false
doctrines of the would-be philosopher; and those who most admire his
poetry will be the least disposed to tolerate his anti-religious
principles. As a proof that his life was far from being in accordance
with his false creed, he enjoyed, up to his death, the friendship of
some of the most excellent men, who deplored his errors but who loved
and valued him.
William Spencer, the poet, dined here yesterday. Alas! he has "fallen
into the sere and yellow leaf," for though sometimes uttering brilliant
thoughts, they are "like angel visits, few and far between;" and total
silence, or half-incoherent rhapsodies, mark the intervals.
This melancholy change is accounted for by the effects of an indulgence
in wine, had recourse to in consequence of depression of spirits. Nor
is this pernicious indulgence confined to the evening, for at a
_dejeuner a la fourchette_ at two o'clock, enough wine is drunk to dull
his faculties for the rest of the day. What an unpoetical close to a
life once so brilliant!
Alas, alas, for poor human nature! when, even though illumined by the
ethereal spark, it can thus sully its higher destiny. I thought of the
many fanciful and graceful poems so often perused with pleasure,
written by Mr. Spencer amid the brilliant _fetes_ in which he formerly
passed his nights, and where he often found his inspirations. His was
ever a courtly Muse, but without the hoop and train--a ball-room
_belle_, with alternate smiles and sentimentality, and witty withal. No
out-bursting of passion, or touch of deep pathos, interrupted the
equanimity of feeling of those who perused Spencer's verses; yet was
their absence unmissed, for the fancy, wit, and sentiment that marked
them all, and the graceful ease of the versification, rendered them
precisely what they were intended for,--_les vers de societe_, the
fitting volume elegantly bound to be placed in the _boudoir_.
And there sat the pet poet of gilded _salons_, whose sparkling sallies
could once delight the fastidious circles in which he moved. His once
bright eyes, glazed and lustreless, his cheeks sunken and pale, seeming
only conscious of the presence of those around him when offered
champagne, the excitement of which for a few brief moments produced
some flashing _bon mot a propos de rien_ passing at the time, after
which his spirits subsided even more rapidly than did the bubbles of
the wine that had given them their short excitement.
It made me sad to contemplate this wreck; but most of those around him
appeared unconscious of there being any thing remarkable in his
demeanour. They had not known him in his better days.
I am often amused, and sometimes half-vexed by witnessing the
prejudices that still exist in France with regard to the English. These
prejudices prevail in all ranks, and are, I am disposed to think,
They extend to trivial, as well as to more grave matters, and influence
the opinions pronounced on all subjects. An example of this prejudice
occurred a few weeks ago, when one of our most admired _belles_ from
London having arrived at Paris, her personal appearance was much
canvassed. One person found her too tall, another discovered that she
had too much _embonpoint_, and a third said her feet were much too
large. A Frenchman, when appealed to for his opinion, declared "_Elle
est tres-bien pour une Anglaise_." I ought to add, that there was no
English person present when he made this ungallant speech, which was
repeated to me by a French lady, who laughed heartily at his notion.
If an Englishwoman enters a glover's, or shoemaker's shop, these
worthies will only shew her the largest gloves or shoes they have in
their _magasins_, so persuaded are they that she cannot have a small
hand or foot; and when they find their wares too large, and are
compelled to search for the smallest size, they seem discomposed as
well as surprised, and inform the lady that they had no notion "_une
dame anglaise_ could want small gloves or shoes."
That an Englishwoman can be witty, or brilliant in conversation, the
French either doubt or profess to doubt; but if convinced against their
will they exclaim, "_C'est drole, mais madame a l'esprit eminemment
francais_." Now this no Englishwoman has, or, in my opinion, can have;
for it is peculiar, half-natural and half-acquired.
Conversation, in France, is an art successfully studied; to excel in
which, not only much natural talent is required, but great fluency and
a happy choice of words are indispensable. No one in Parisian society
speaks ill, and many possess a readiness of wit, and a facility of
turning it to account, that I have never seen exemplified in women of
A Frenchwoman talks well on every subject, from those of the most grave
political importance, to the _derniere mode_. Her talent in this art is
daily exercised, and consequently becomes perfected; while an
Englishwoman, with more various and solid attainments, rarely if ever,
arrives at the ease and self-confidence which would enable her to bring
the treasures with which her mind is stored into play. So generally is
the art of conversation cultivated in France, that even those with
abilities that rise not beyond mediocrity can take their parts in it,
not only without exposing the poverty of their intellects, but with
even a show of talent that often imposes on strangers.
An Englishwoman, more concentrated in her feelings as well as in her
pursuits, seldom devotes the time given by Frenchwomen to the
superficial acquisition of a versatility of knowledge, which, though it
enables _them_ to converse fluently on various subjects, _she_ would
dread entering on, unless well versed in. My fair compatriots have
consequently fewer topics, even if they had equal talent, to converse
on; so that the _esprit_ styled, _par excellence, l'esprit eminemment
francais_, is precisely that to which we can urge the fewest
This does not, however, dispose me to depreciate a talent, or art, for
art it may be called, that renders society in France not only so
brilliant but so agreeable, and which is attended with the salutary
effect of banishing the ill-natured observations and personal remarks
which too often supply the place of more harmless topics with us.
Much as I deplore some of the consequences of the Revolution in France,
and the atrocities by which it was stained, it is impossible not to
admit the great and salutary change effected in the habits and feelings
of the people since that event. Who can live on terms of intimacy with
the French, without being struck by the difference between those of our
time, and those of whom we read previously to that epoch? The system of
education is totally different. The habits of domestic life are wholly
changed. The relations between husband and wife, and parents and
children, have assumed another character, by which the bonds of
affection and mutual dependances are drawn more closely together; and
_home_, sweet _home_, the focus of domestic love, said to have been
once an unknown blessing, at least among the _haute noblesse_, is now
endeared by the discharge of reciprocal duties and warm sympathies.
It is impossible to doubt but that the Revolution of 1789, and the
terrible scenes in the reign of terror which followed it, operated in
producing the change to which I have referred. It found the greater
portion of the _noblesse_ luxuriating in pleasure, and thinking only of
selfish, if not of criminal indulgence, in pursuits equally marked by
puerility and vice.
The corruption of the regency planted the seeds of vice in French
morals, and they yielded a plentiful harvest. How well has St.-Evremond
described that epoch in his playful, but sarcastic verses!--
"Une politique indulgente,
De notre nature innocente,
Favorisait tous les desirs;
Tout gout paraissait legitime,
La douce erreur ne s'appelait point crime,
Les vices delicats se nommalent des plaisirs."
But it was reserved for the reign of Louis the Fifteenth to develope
still more extensively the corruption planted by his predecessor. The
influence exercised on society by the baleful example of his court had
not yet ceased, and time had not been allowed for the reign of the mild
monarch who succeeded that gross voluptuary to work the reform in
manners, if not in morals, which his own personal habits were so well
calculated to produce. It required the terrible lesson given by the
Revolution to awaken the natural feelings of affection that had so long
slumbered supinely in the enervated hearts of the higher classes in
France, corrupted by long habits of indulgence in selfish
gratifications. The lesson at once awoke even the most callous; while
those, and there were many such, who required it not, furnished the
noblest examples of high courage and self-devotion to the objects dear
In exile and in poverty, when all extraneous sources of consolation
were denied them, those who if still plunged in pleasure and splendour
might have remained insensible to the blessings of family ties, now
turned to them with the yearning fondness with which a last comfort is
clasped, and became sensible how little they had hitherto estimated
Once awakened from their too long and torpid slumber, the hearts
purified by affliction learned to appreciate the blessings still left
them, and from the fearful epoch of the Revolution a gradual change may
be traced in the habits and feelings of the French people. Terrible has
been the expiation of their former errors, but admirable has been the
result; for nowhere can be now found more devoted parents, more dutiful
children, or more attached relatives, than among the French _noblesse_.
If the lesson afforded by the Revolution to the upper class has been
attended with a salutary effect, it has been scarcely less advantageous
to the middle and lower; for it has taught them the dangers to be
apprehended from the state of anarchy that ever follows on the heels of
popular convulsions, exposing even those who participated in them to
infinitely worse evils than those from which they hoped to escape by a
subversion of the legitimate government.
These reflections have been suggested by a description given to me, by
one who mixed much in Parisian society previously to the Revolution, of
the habits, modes, and usages of the _haute noblesse_ of that period,
and who is deeply sensible of the present regeneration. This person,
than whom a more impartial recorder of the events of that epoch cannot
be found, assured me that the accounts given in the memoirs and
publications of the state of society at that epoch were by no means
exaggerated, and that the domestic habits and affections at present so
universally cultivated in France were, if not unknown, at least
Married people looked not to each other for happiness, and sought the
aggrandizement, and not the felicity, of their children. The
acquisition of wealth and splendour and the enjoyment of pleasure
occupied their thoughts, and those parents who secured these advantages
for their offspring, however they might have neglected to instil
sentiments of morality and religion into their minds, believed that
they had fully discharged their duty towards them. It was the want of
natural affection between parents and children that led to the cynical
observation uttered by a French philosopher of that day, who explained
the partiality of grandfathers and grandmothers towards their
grandchildren, by saying these last were the enemies of their
enemies,--a reflection founded on the grossest selfishness.
The habit of judging persons and things superficially, is one of the
defects that most frequently strike me in the Parisians. This defect
arises not from a want of quickness of apprehension, but has its source
in the vivacity peculiar to them, which precludes their bestowing
sufficient time to form an accurate opinion on what they pronounce.
Prone to judge from the exterior, rather than to study the interior
qualifications of those with whom they come in contact, the person who
is perfectly well-dressed and well-mannered will be better received
than he who, however highly recommended for mental superiority or fine
qualities, happens to be ill-dressed, or troubled with _mauvaise
A woman, if ever so handsome, who is not dressed _a la mode_, will be
pronounced plain in a Parisian _salon_; while a really plain woman
wearing a robe made by Victorine and a cap by Herbault, will be
considered _tres-bien, ou au moins bien gentille_. The person who can
converse fluently on all the ordinary topics, though never uttering a
single sentiment or opinion worth remembering, will be more highly
thought of than the one who, with a mind abounding with knowledge, only
speaks to elicit or convey information. Talent, to be appreciated in
France, must be--like the wares in its shops--fully displayed; the
French give no credit for what is kept in reserve.
I have been reading _Devereux_, and like it infinitely,--even more than
_Pelham_, which I estimated very highly. There is more thought and
reflection in it, and the sentiments bear the stamp of a profound and
elevated mind. The novels of this writer produce a totally different
effect on me to that exercised by the works of other authors; they
amuse less than they make me think. Other novels banish thought, and
interest me only in the fate of the actors; but these awaken a train of
reflection that often withdraws me from the story, leaving me deeply
impressed with the truth, beauty, and originality of the thoughts with
which every page is pregnant.
All in Paris are talking of the _esclandre_ of the late trial in
London; and the comments made on it by the French prove how different
are the views of morality taken by them and us.
Conversing with some ladies on this subject last night, they asserted
that the infrequency of elopements in France proved the superiority of
morals of the French, and that few examples ever occurred of a woman
being so lost to virtue as to desert her children and abandon her home.
"But if she should have rendered herself unworthy of any longer being
the companion of her children, the partner of her home," asked one of
the circle, "would it be more moral to remain under the roof she had
dishonoured, and with the husband she had betrayed, than to fly, and so
incur the penalty she had drawn on her head?" They were of opinion that
the elopement was the most criminal part of the affair, and that Lady
---- was less culpable than many other ladies, because she had not
fled; and, consequently, that elopements proved a greater
demoralisation than the sinful _liaisons_ carried on without them.
Lady C---- endeavoured to prove that the flight frequently originated
in a latent sense of honour and shame, which rendered the presence of
the deceived husband and innocent children insufferable to her whose
indulgence of a guilty passion had caused her to forfeit her right to
the conjugal home; but they could not comprehend this, and persisted in
thinking the woman who fled with her lover more guilty than her who
remained under the roof of the husband she deceived.
One thing is quite clear, which is, that the woman who feels she dare
not meet her wronged husband and children, if she dishonours them, will
be more deterred from sin by the consciousness of the necessity of
flight, which it imposes, than will be the one who sees no such
necessity, and who dreads not the penalty she may be tempted to incur.
Lady C---- maintained that elopements are not a fair criterion for
judging of the morality of a country; for that she who sins and flies
is less hardened in guilt than she who remains and deceives: and the
example is also less pernicious, as the one who has forfeited her place
in society serves as a beacon to warn others; while she whose errors
are known, yet still retains hers, is a dangerous instance of the
indulgence afforded to hardened duplicity. It is not the horror of
guilt, but the dread of its exposure, that operates on the generality
of minds; and this is not always sufficient to deter from sin.
Les Dames de B---- dined with us yesterday. They are very clever and
amusing, and, what is better, are excellent women. Their attachment to
each other, and devotion to their nephew, are edifying; and he appears
worthy of it. Left an orphan when yet an infant, these sisters adopted
their nephew, and for his sake have refused many advantageous offers of
marriage, devoting themselves to forwarding his interests and insuring
him their inheritance. They have shared his studies, taken part in his
success, and entered into his pains and pleasures, made his friends
theirs, and theirs his; no wonder, then, that he loves them so fondly,
and is never happier than with them, taking a lively interest in all
These good and warm-hearted women are accused of being enthusiasts, and
romantic. People say that at their age it is odd, if not absurd, to
indulge in such exaggerated notions of attachment; nay more, to give
such disinterested proofs of it. They may well smile at such remarks,
while conscious that their devotion to their nephew has not only
secured his happiness, but constitutes their own; and that the warmth
of affection for which they are censured, cheers the winter of their
lives and diffuses a comfort over their existence unknown to the
selfish mortals who live only for self.
They talked to me last night of the happiness they anticipated in
seeing their nephew married. "He is so good, so excellent, that the
person he selects cannot fail to love him fondly," said La Chanoinesse;
"and we will love her so dearly for ensuring his happiness," added the
Who could know these two estimable women, without acknowledging how
harsh and unjust are often the sweeping censures pronounced on those
who are termed old maids?--a class in whose breasts the affections
instinct in woman, not being exercised by conjugal or maternal ties,
expand into some other channel; and, if denied some dear object on
which to place them, expends them on the domestic animals with which,
in default of more rational favourites, they surround themselves.
Les Dames de B----, happier than many of the spinsters of their age,
have an estimable object to bestow their affections on; but those who
are less fortunate should rather excite our pity than ridicule, for
many and severe must have been the trials of that heart which turns at
last, _dans le besoin d'aimer_, to the bird, dog, or cat, that renders
solitude less lonely.
The difference between servitude in England and in France often strikes
me, and more especially when I hear the frequent complaints made by
English people of the insolence and familiarity of French servants.
Unaccustomed to hear a servant reply to any censure passed on him, the
English are apt to consider his doing so as a want of respect or
subordination, though a French servant does not even dream that he is
guilty of either when, according to the general habit of his class and
country, he attempts an exculpation not always satisfactory to his
employer, however it may be to himself.
A French master listens to the explanation patiently, or at least
without any demonstration of anger, unless he finds it is not based on
truth, when he reprehends the servant in a manner that satisfies the
latter that all future attempts to avoid blame by misrepresentation
will be unavailing. French servants imagine that they have the right to
explain, and their employers do not deny it; consequently, when they
change a French for an English master, they continue the same tone and
manner to which they have been used, and are not a little surprised to
find themselves considered guilty of impertinence.
A French master and mistress issue their orders to their domestics with
much more familiarity than the English do; take a lively interest in
their welfare and happiness; advise them about their private concerns;
inquire into the cause of any depression of spirits, or symptom of ill
health they may observe, and make themselves acquainted with the
circumstances of those in their establishment.
This system lessens the distance maintained between masters and
servants, but does not really diminish the respect entertained by the
latter towards their employers, who generally find around them humble
friends, instead of, as with us, cold and calculating dependents, who
repay our _hauteur_ by a total indifference to our interests, and,
while evincing all the external appearance of profound respect,
entertain little of the true feeling of it to their masters.
Treating our servants as if they were automatons created solely for our
use, and who, being paid a certain remuneration for their services,
have no claim on us for kindness or sympathy, is a system very
injurious to their morals and our own interests, and requires an
amelioration. But while I deprecate the tone of familiarity that so
frequently shocks the untravelled English in the treatment of French
employers to their servants, I should like to see more kindness of
manner shewn by the English to theirs. Nowhere are servants so well
paid, clothed, fed, and lodged, as with us, and nowhere are they said
to feel so little attachment to their masters; which can only be
accounted for by the erroneous system to which I have referred.
---- came to see me to-day. He talked politics, and I am afraid went
away shocked at perceiving how little interest I took in them. I like
not political subjects in England, and avoid them whenever I can; but
here I feel very much about them, as the Irishman is said to have felt
when told that the house he was living in was on fire, and he answered
"Sure, what's that to me!--I am only a lodger!"
---- told me that France is in a very dangerous state; the people
discontented, etc. etc. So I have heard every time I have visited Paris
for the last ten years; and as to the people being discontented, when
were they otherwise I should like to know? Never, at least since I have
been acquainted with them; and it will require a sovereign such as
France has not yet known to satisfy a people so versatile and
excitable. Charles the Tenth is not popular. His religious turn, far
from conciliating the respect or confidence of his subjects, tends only
to awaken their suspicions of his being influenced by the Jesuits--a
suspicion fraught with evil, if not danger, to him.
Strange to say, all admit that France has not been so prosperous for
years as at present. Its people are rapidly acquiring a love of
commerce, and the wealth that springs from it, which induces me to
imagine that they would not be disposed to risk the advantages they
possess by any measure likely to subvert the present state of things.
Nevertheless, more than one alarmist like ---- shake their heads and
look solemn, foretelling that affairs cannot long go on as they are.
Of one thing I am convinced, and that is, that no sovereign, whatever
may be his merits, can long remain popular in France; and that no
prosperity, however brilliant, can prevent the people from those
_emeutes_ into which their excitable temperaments, rather than any real
cause for discontent, hurry them. These _emeutes_, too, are less
dangerous than we are led to think. They are safety-valves by which the
exuberant spirits of the French people escape; and their national
vanity, being satisfied with the display of their force, soon subside
into tranquillity, if not aroused into protracted violence by unwise
demonstrations of coercion.
The two eldest sons of the Duc and Duchesse de Guiche have entered the
College of Ste.-Barbe. This is a great trial to their mother, from whom
they had never previously been separated a single day. Well might she
be proud of them, on hearing the just eulogiums pronounced on the
progress in their studies while under the paternal roof; for never did
parents devote themselves more to the improvement of their children
than the Duc and Duchesse de Guiche have done, and never did children
offer a fairer prospect of rewarding their parents than do theirs.
It would have furnished a fine subject for a painter to see this
beautiful woman, still in the zenith of her youth and charms, walking
between these two noble boys, whose personal beauty is as remarkable as
that of their parents, as she accompanied them to the college. The
group reminded me of Cornelia and her sons, for there was the same
classic _tournure_ of heads and profiles, and the same elevated
character of _spirituelle_ beauty, that painters and sculptors always
bestow on the young Roman matron and the Gracchi.
The Duc seemed impressed with a sentiment almost amounting to solemnity
as he conducted his sons to Ste.-Barbe. He thought, probably, of the
difference between their boyhood and his own, passed in a foreign land
and in exile; while they, brought up in the bosom of a happy home, have
now left it for the first time. Well has he taught them to love the
land of their birth, for even now their youthful hearts are filled with
patriotic and chivalrous feelings!
It would be fortunate, indeed, for the King of France if he had many
such men as the Duc de Guiche around him--men with enlightened minds,
who have profited by the lessons of adversity, and kept pace with the
rapidly advancing knowledge of the times to which they belong.
Painful, indeed, would be the position of this excellent man should any
circumstances occur that would place the royal family in jeopardy, for
he is too sensible not to be aware of the errors that might lead to
such a crisis, and too loyal not to share the perils he could not ward
off; though he will never be among those who would incur them, for no
one is more impressed with the necessity of justice and impartiality
than he is.
The approach of spring is already visible here, and right glad am I to
welcome its genial influence; for a Paris winter possesses in my
opinion no superiority over a London one,--nay, though it would be