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The Potiphar Papers by George William Curtis

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[Illustration: George William Curtis]





"Imagination fondly stoops to trace
The parlor splendors of that festive place."

_Goldsmith's Deserted Village._

"Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase,
barbarise or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible
operation, like that of the air we breathe in."

_Burke's First Letter on a Regicide Peace._

"And I do seriously approve of that saying of yours, 'that you would
rather be a civil, well-governed, well-grounded, temperate, poor angler,
than a drunken lord.' But I hope there is none such."

_Walton's Angler._

"'Mon petit faquin de philosophé,' dit le Chevalier de Grammont,
'tu fais ici le Caton de Normandie.'"

"'Est-ce que je mens?' poursuivit Saint-Evremond."

_Memoires de Grammont._



It is surely unnecessary to call the attention of so astute an
observer, and so austere a critic, as yourself, to the fact that the
title of the leading essay in this little volume (of which, permit me
to say, you are so essential an ornament) is marked as a quotation;
and a quotation, as you will very well remember, from the lips of our
friend, Mrs, Potiphar, herself.

Therefore, Rev. Sir, your judgment, which, you must allow me to say,
is no less impartial than your experience is profound, will suggest to
you that the subject of that essay (of the points of which the
succeeding sketches are but elaborations) is the aspect of what is
currently termed "our best society"--whether with reason or not, is
beside the purpose.

Your pastoral charity, I am convinced, will persuade you to direct the
attention of your parishioners to this fact, and to assure them, that,
when you prepared your timely treatise upon the progress of purple
chasubles among the Feejee islanders, you were not justly amenable to
the charge of omitting all notice of the cultivation of artificial
flowers by the Grim Tartars. The latter are, I believe, a very
estimable people, but they were not the subjects of your

To those in your parish, and elsewhere, who have thought fit to
suppose that Mrs. Potiphar is Mrs. Somebody-else,--what can we say?
conscious as we are, that they who have once known that lady could
never confound her with another.

But for those who have actually supposed you, yourself, Reverend Sir,
to be, not somebody else, but nobody, (!) we can only smile
compassionately, and express the hope that a broader experience may
give them greater wisdom.

In taking leave of you, Sir, I know that I express the warmest wish of
a large, a very large parish (might almost say, diocese) that you may
long survive. For your parish is fully, and, as I think, most
correctly persuaded, that while there is a Cream Cheese, there will
always be a Mrs. Potiphar.

With all proper regard,

I am,

Reverend and Dear Sir,

Your very obedient,

humble servant,


NEW YORK, _December_, 1853.



If gilt were only gold, or sugar-candy common sense, what a fine thing
our society would be! If to lavish money upon _objets de vertu_,
to wear the most costly dresses, and always to have them cut in the
height of the fashion; to build houses thirty feet broad, as if they
were palaces; to furnish them with all the luxurious devices of
Parisian genius; to give superb banquets; at which your guests laugh,
and which make you miserable; to drive a fine carriage and ape the
European liveries, and crests, and coats-of-arms; to resent the
friendly advances of your baker's wife, and the lady of your butcher,
(you being yourself a cobbler's daughter); to talk much of the "old
families" and of your aristocratic foreign friends; to despise labour;
to prate of "good society;" to travesty and parody, in every
conceivable way, a society which we know only in books and by the
superficial observation of foreign travel, which arises out of a
social organization entirely unknown to us, and which is opposed to
our fundamental and essential principles; if all this were fine, what
a prodigiously fine society would ours be!

This occurred to us upon lately receiving a card of invitation to a
brilliant ball. We were quietly ruminating over our evening fire, with
Disraeli's Wellington speech, "all tears," in our hands, with the
account of a great man's burial, and a little man's triumph across the
channel. So many great men gone, we mused, and such great crises
impending! This democratic movement in Europe; Kossuth--and Mazzini
waiting for the moment to give the word; the Russian bear watchfully
sucking his paws; the Napoleonic empire redivivus; Cuba, and
annexation, and slavery; California and Australia, and the consequent
considerations of political economy; dear me! exclaimed we, putting on
a fresh hodful of coal, we must look a little into the state of

As we put down the coal-scuttle there was a knock at the door. We
said, "come in," and in came a neat Alhambra-watered envelope,
containing the announcement that the queen of fashion was "at home"
that evening week. Later in the evening came a friend to smoke a
cigar. The card was lying upon the table, and he read it with
eagerness. "You'll go, of course," said he, "for you will meet all
the 'best society.'"

Shall we, truly? Shall we really see the "best society of the city,"
the picked flower of its genius, character, and beauty? What makes the
"best society" of men and women? The noblest specimens of each, of
course. The men who mould the time, who refresh our faith in heroism
and virtue, who make Plato and Zeno, and Shakespeare, and all
Shakespeare's gentlemen, possible, again. The women, whose beauty, and
sweetness, and dignity, and high accomplishment, and grace, make us
understand the Greek Mythology, and weaken our desire to have some
glimpse of the most famous women of history. The "best society" is
that in which the virtues are most shining, which is the most
charitable, forgiving, long-suffering, modest, and innocent. The
"best society" is, in its very name, that in which there is the least
hypocrisy and insincerity of all kinds, which recoils from, and
blasts, artificiality, which is anxious to be all that it is possible
to be, and which sternly reprobates all shallow pretence, all
coxcombry and foppery, and insists upon simplicity as the infallible
characteristic of true worth. That is the "best society," which
comprises the best men and women.

Had we recently arrived from the moon, we might, upon hearing that we
were to meet the "best society," have fancied that we were about to
enjoy an opportunity not to be overvalued. But unfortunately we were
not so freshly arrived. We had received other cards, and had perfected
our toilette many times, to meet this same society, so magnificently
described, and had found it the least "best" of all. Who compose it?
Whom shall we meet if we go to this ball? We shall meet three classes
of persons: first, those who are rich, and who have all that money can
buy; second, those who belong to what are technically called "the good
old families," because some ancestor was a man of mark in the state or
country, or was very rich, and has kept the fortune in the family; and
thirdly, a swarm of youths who can dance dexterously, and who are
invited for that purpose. Now these are all arbitrary and factitious
distinctions upon which to found so profound a social difference as
that which exists in American, or, at least, in New York
society. First, as a general rule, the rich men of every community who
make their own money are not the most generally intelligent and
cultivated. They have a shrewd talent which secures a fortune, and
which keeps them closely at the work of amassing from their youngest
years until they are old. They are sturdy men of simple tastes
often. Sometimes, though rarely, very generous, but necessarily with
an altogether false and exaggerated idea of the importance of
money. They are rather rough, unsympathetic, and, perhaps, selfish
class, who, themselves, despise purple and fine linen, and still
prefer a cot-bed and a bare room, although they may be worth
millions. But they are married to scheming, or ambitious, or
disappointed women, whose life is a prolonged pageant, and they are
dragged hither and thither in it, are bled of their golden blood, and
forced into a position they do not covet and which they despise. Then
there are the inheritors of wealth. How many of them inherit the
valiant genius and hard frugality which built up their fortunes; how
many acknowledge the stern and heavy responsibility of their
opportunities; how many refuse to dream their lives away in a Sybarite
luxury; how many are smitten with the lofty ambition of achieving an
enduring name by works of a permanent value; how many do not dwindle
into dainty dilettanti, and dilute their manhood with factitious
sentimentality instead of a hearty human sympathy; how many are not
satisfied with having the fastest horses and the "crackest" carriages,
and an unlimited wardrobe, and a weak affectation and puerile
imitation of foreign life?


And who are these of our secondly, these "old families"? The spirit of
our time and of our country knows no such thing, but the habitué of
society hears constantly of "a good family." It means simply, the
collective mass of children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and
descendants of some man who deserved well of his country, and whom his
country honors. But sad is the heritage of a great name! The son of
Burke will inevitably be measured by Burke. The niece of Pope must
show some superiority to other women (so to speak), or her equality is
inferiority. The feeling of men attributes some magical charm to
blood, and we look to see the daughter of Helen as fair as her mother,
and the son of Shakespeare musical as his sire. If they are not so, if
they are merely names, and common persons--if there is no Burke, nor
Shakespeare, nor Washington, nor Bacon, in their words, or actions, or
lives, then we must pity them, and pass gently on, not upbraiding
them, but regretting that it is one of the laws of greatness that it
dwindles all things in its vicinity, which would otherwise show large
enough. Nay, in our regard for the great man, we may even admit to a
compassionate honor, as pensioners upon our charity, those who bear
and transmit his name. But if these heirs should presume upon that
fame, and claim any precedence of living men and women because their
dead grandfather was a hero,--they must be shown the door directly. We
should dread to be born a Percy, or a Colonna, or a Bonaparte. We
should not like to be the second Duke of Wellington, nor Charles
Dickens, jr. It is a terrible thing one would say, to a mind of
honorable feeling, to be pointed out as somebody's son, or uncle, or
granddaughter, as if the excellence were all derived. It must be a
little humiliating to reflect that if your great uncle had not been
somebody, you would be nobody,--that in fact, you are only a name, and
that, if you should consent to change it for the sake of a fortune, as
is sometimes done, you would cease to be any thing but a rich man. "My
father was President, or Governor of the State," some pompous man may
say. But, by Jupiter! king of gods and men, what are _you?_ is the
instinctive response. Do you not see, our pompous friend, that you are
only pointing your own unimportance? If your father was Governor of
the State, what right have you to use that fact only to fatten your
self-conceit? Take care, good care; for whether you say it by your
lips or by your life that withering response awaits you,--"then what
are _you?_" If your ancestor was great, you are under bonds to
greatness. If you are small, make haste to learn it betimes, and,
thanking Heaven that your name has been made illustrious, retire into
a corner and keep it, at least, untarnished.

Our thirdly, is a class made by sundry French tailors, bootmakers,
dancing-masters, and Mr. Brown. They are a corps-de-ballet, for the
use of private entertainments. They are fostered by society for the
use of young debutantes, and hardier damsels, who have dared two or
three years of the "tight" polka. They are cultivated for their heels,
not their heads. Their life begins at ten o'clock in the evening, and
lasts until four in the morning. They go home and sleep until nine;
then they reel, sleepy, to counting-houses and offices, and doze on
desks until dinner-time. Or, unable to do that, they are actively at
work all day, and their cheeks grow pale, and their lips thin, and
their eyes bloodshot and hollow, and they drag themselves home at
evening to catch a nap until the ball begins, or to dine and smoke at
their club, and be very manly with punches and coarse stories; and
then to rush into hot and glittering rooms and seize very decolleté
girls closely around the waist, and dash with them around an area of
stretched linen, saying in the panting pauses, "How very hot it is!"
"How very pretty Miss Podge looks!" "What a good redowa!" "Are you
going to Mrs. Potiphar's?"

Is this the assembled flower of manhood and womanhood, called "best
society," and to see which is so envied a privilege? If such are the
elements, can we be long in arriving at the present state, and
necessary future condition of parties?

"Vanity Fair," is peculiarly a picture of modern society. It aims at
English follies, but its mark is universal, as the madness is. It is
called a satire, but after much diligent reading, we cannot discover
the satire. A state of society not at all superior to that of "Vanity
Fair" is not unknown to our experience; and, unless truth-telling be
satire; unless the most tragically real portraiture be satire; unless
scalding tears of sorrow, and the bitter regret of a manly mind over
the miserable spectacle of artificiality, wasted powers, misdirected
energies, and lost opportunities, be satirical; we do not find satire
in that sad story. The reader closes it with a grief beyond tears. It
leaves a vague apprehension in the mind, as if we should suspect the
air to be poisoned. It suggests the terrible thought of the
enfeebling of moral power, and the deterioration of noble character,
as a necessary consequence of contact with "society." Every man looks
suddenly and sharply around him, and accosts himself and his
neighbors, to ascertain if they are all parties to this
corruption. Sentimental youths and maidens, upon velvet sofas, or in
calf-bound libraries, resolve that it is an insult to human
nature--are sure that their velvet and calf-bound friends are not like
the dramatis personae of "Vanity Fair," and that the drama is
therefore hideous and unreal. They should remember, what they
uniformly and universally forget, that we are not invited, upon the
rising of the curtain to behold a cosmorama, or picture of the world,
but a representation of that part of it called Vanity Fair. What its
just limits are-how far its poisonous purlieus reach--how much of the
world's air is tainted by it, is a question which every thoughtful man
will ask himself, with a shudder, and look sadly around, to answer. If
the sentimental objectors rally again to the charge, and declare that,
if we wish to improve the world, its virtuous ambition must be piqued
and stimulated by making the shining heights of "the ideal" more
radiant; we reply, that none shall surpass us in honoring the men
whose creations of beauty inspire and instruct mankind. But if they
benefit the world, it is no less true that a vivid apprehension of the
depths into which we are sunken or may sink, nerves the soul's courage
quite as much as the alluring mirage of the happy heights we may
attain. "To hold the mirror up to Nature," is still the most potent
method of shaming sin and strengthening virtue.

If "Vanity Fair" is a satire, what novel of society is not? Are
"Vivian Grey," and "Pelham," and the long catalogue of books
illustrating English, or the host of Balzacs, Sands, Sues, and Dumas,
that paint French society, any less satires? Nay, if you should catch
any dandy in Broadway, or in Pall-Mall, or upon the Boulevards, this
very morning, and write a coldly true history of his life and actions,
his doings and undoings, would it not be the most scathing and
tremendous satire?--if by satire you mean the consuming melancholy of
the conviction, that the life of that pendant to a moustache, is an
insult to the possible life of a man?

We have read of a hypocrisy so thorough, that it was surprised you
should think it hypocritical; and we have bitterly thought of the
saying, when hearing one mother say of another mother's child, that
she had "made a good match," because the girl was betrothed to a
stupid boy whose father was rich. The remark was the key of our
social feeling.

Let us look at it a little, and, first of all, let the reader consider
the criticism, and not the critic. We may like very well, in our
individual capacity, to partake of the delicacies prepared by our
hostess's _chef_, we may not be adverse to _paté_, and myriad _objets
de goût_, and if you caught us in a corner at the next ball, putting
away a fair share of _dinde aux truffes_, we know you would have at us,
in a tone of great moral indignation, and wish to know why we sneaked
into great houses, eating good suppers, and drinking choice wines,
and then went away with an indigestion, to write dyspeptic disgusts
at society.

We might reply that it is necessary to know something of a subject
before writing about it, and that if a man wished to describe the
habits of South Sea Islanders, it is useless to go to Greenland; we
might also confess a partiality for _paté_, and a tenderness for
_truffes_, and acknowledge that, considering our single absence
would not put down extravagant, pompous parties, we were not strong
enough to let the morsels drop into unappreciating mouths; or we might
say, that if a man invited us to see his new house, it would not be
ungracious nor insulting to his hospitality, to point out whatever
weak parts we might detect in it, nor to declare our candid
conviction, that it was built upon wrong principles and could not
stand. He might believe us if we had been in the house, but he
certainly would not, if we had never seen it. Nor would it be a very
wise reply upon his part, that we might build a better if we didn't
like that. We are not fond of David's pictures, but we certainly could
never paint half so well; nor of Pope's poetry, but posterity will
never hear of our verses. Criticism is not construction, it is
observation. If we could surpass in its own way every thing which
displeased us, we should make short work of it, and instead of showing
what fatal blemishes deform our present society, we should present a
specimen of perfection, directly.


We went to the brilliant ball. There was too much of everything. Too
much light, and eating, and drinking, and dancing, and flirting, and
dressing, and feigning, and smirking, and much too many people. Good
taste insists first upon fitness. But why had Mrs. Potiphar given this
ball? We inquired industriously, and learned it was because she did
not give one last year. Is it then essential to do this thing
biennially? inquired we with some trepidation. "Certainly," was the
bland reply, "or society will forget you." Everybody was unhappy at
Mrs. Potiphar's, save a few girls and boys, who danced violently all
the evening. Those who did not dance walked up and down the rooms as
well as they could, squeezing by non-dancing ladies, causing them to
swear in their hearts as the brusque broadcloth carried away the light
outworks of gauze and gossamer. The dowagers, ranged in solid
phalanx, occupied all the chairs and sofas against the wall, and
fanned themselves until supper-time, looking at each other's diamonds,
and criticising the toilettes of the younger ladies, each narrowly
watching her peculiar Polly Jane, that she did not betray too much
interest in any man who was not of a certain fortune. It is the cold,
vulgar truth, madam, nor are we in the slightest degree
exaggerating. Elderly gentlemen, twisting single gloves in a very
wretched manner, came up and bowed to the dowagers, and smirked, and
said it was a pleasant party, and a handsome house, and then clutched
their hands behind them, and walked miserably away, looking as affable
as possible. And the dowagers made a little fun of the elderly
gentlemen, among themselves, as they walked away.

Then came the younger non-dancing men--a class of the community who
wear black cravats and waistcoats, and thrust their thumbs and
forefingers in their waistcoat pockets, and are called "talking men."
Some of them are literary, and affect the philosopher; have, perhaps,
written a book or two, and are a small species of lion to very young
ladies. Some are of the _blasé_ kind; men who affect the
extremest elegance, and are reputed "so aristocratic," and who care
for nothing in particular, but wish they had not been born gentlemen,
in which case they might have escaped ennui. These gentlemen stand
with hat in hand, and coats and trowsers most unexceptionable. They
are the "so gentlemanly" persons of whom one hears a great deal, but
which seems to mean nothing but cleanliness. Vivian Grey and Pelham
are the models of their ambition, and they succeed in being
Pendennis. They enjoy the reputation of being "very clever," and "very
talented fellows," "smart chaps," etc., but they refrain from proving
what is so generously conceded. They are often men of a certain
cultivation. They have travelled, many of them,--spending a year or
two in Paris, and a month or two in the rest of Europe. Consequently
they endure society at home, with a smile, and a shrug, and a graceful
superciliousness, which is very engaging. They are perfectly at home,
and they rather despise Young America, which, in the next room, is
diligently earning its invitation. They prefer to hover about the
ladies who did not come out this season, but are a little used to the
world, with whom they are upon most friendly terms, and who criticise
together very freely all the great events in the great world of

These elegant Pendennises we saw at Mrs. Potiphar's, but not without a
sadness which can hardly be explained. They had been boys once, all of
them, fresh and frank-hearted, and full of a noble ambition. They had
read and pondered the histories of great men; how they resolved, and
struggled, and achieved. In the pure portraiture of genius, they had
loved and honored noble women, and each young heart was sworn to truth
and the service of beauty. Those feelings were chivalric and
fair. Those boyish instincts clung to whatever was lovely, and
rejected the specious snare, however graceful and elegant. They
sailed, new knights, upon that old and endless crusade against
hypocrisy and the devil, and they were lost in the luxury of Corinth,
nor longer seek the difficult shores beyond. A present smile was worth
a future laurel. The ease of the moment was worth immortal
tranquillity. They renounced the stern worship of the unknown God, and
acknowledged the deities of Athens. But the seal of their shame is
their own smile at their early dreams, and the high hopes of their
boyhood, their sneering infidelity of simplicity, their skepticism of
motives and of men. Youths, whose younger years were fervid with the
resolution to strike and win, to deserve, at least, a gentle
remembrance, if not a dazzling fame, are content to eat, and drink,
and sleep well; to go to the opera and all the balls; to be known as
"gentlemanly," and "aristocratic," and "dangerous," and "elegant;" to
cherish a luxurious and enervating indolence, and to "succeed," upon
the cheap reputation of having been "fast" in Paris. The end of such
men is evident enough from the beginning. They are snuffed out by a
"great match," and become an appendage to a rich woman; or they
dwindle off into old roués, men of the world in sad earnest, and not
with elegant affectation, _blasé_; and as they began Arthur
Pendennises, so they end the Major. But, believe it, that old fossil
heart is wrung sometimes by a mortal pang, as it remembers those
squandered opportunities and that lost life.

From these groups we passed into the dancing-room. We have seen
dancing in other countries, and dressing. We have certainly never seen
gentlemen dance so easily, gracefully and well as the American. But
the _style_ of dancing, in its whirl, its rush, its fury, is only
equalled by that of the masked balls at the French Opera, and the
balls at the _Salle Valentino_, the _Jardin Mabille_, the
_Chateau Rouge_, and other favorite resorts of Parisian Grisettes
and Lorettes. We saw a few young men looking upon the dance very
soberly, and, upon inquiry, learned that they were engaged to certain
ladies of the corps-de-ballet. Nor did we wonder that the spectacle of
a young woman whirling in a _décolleté_ state, and in the embrace
of a warm youth, around a heated room, induced a little sobriety upon
her lover's face, if not a sadness in his heart. Amusement,
recreation, enjoyment! There are no more beautiful things. But this
proceeding falls under another head. We watch the various toilettes of
these bounding belles. They were rich and tasteful. But a man at our
elbow, of experience and shrewd observation, said, with a sneer, for
which we called him to account, "I observe that American ladies are so
rich in charms that they are not at all chary of them. It is certainly
generous to us miserable blackcoats. But, do you know, it strikes me
as a generosity of display that must necessarily leave the donor
poorer in maidenly feeling." We thought ourselves cynical, but this
was intolerable; and in a very crisp manner we demanded an apology.

"Why," responded our friend with more of sadness than of satire in his
tone, "why are you so exasperated? Look at this scene! Consider that
this is, really, the life of these girls. This is what they 'come out'
for. This is the end of their ambition. They think of it, dream of
it, long for it. Is it amusement? Yes, to a few, possibly. But listen,
and gather, if you can, from their remarks (when they make any) that
they have any thought beyond this, and going to church very rigidly on
Sunday. The vigor of polking and church-going are proportioned; as is
the one so is the other. My young friend, I am no ascetic, and do not
suppose a man is damned because he dances. But Life is not a ball
(more's the pity, truly, for these butterflies), nor is its sole duty
and delight, dancing. When I consider this spectacle,--when I remember
what a noble and beautiful woman is, what a manly man,--when I reel,
dazzled by this glare, drunken with these perfumes, confused by this
alluring music, and reflect upon the enormous sums wasted in a pompous
profusion that delights no one,--when I look around upon all this
rampant vulgarity in tinsel and Brussels lace, and think how fortunes
go, how men struggle and lose the bloom of their honesty, how women
hide in a smiling pretence, and eye with caustic glances their
neighbor's newer house, diamonds, or porcelain, and observe their
daughters, such as these,--why, I tremble and tremble, and this scene
to-night, every 'crack' ball this winter will be, not the pleasant
society of men and women, but--even in this young country--an orgie
such as rotting Corinth saw, a frenzied festival of Rome in its

There was a sober truth in this bitterness, and we turned away to
escape the sombre thought of the moment. Addressing one of the panting
Houris who stood melting in a window, we spoke (and confess how
absurdly) of the Düsseldorf Gallery. It was merely to avoid saying how
warm the room was, and how pleasant the party was; facts upon which we
had already sufficiently enlarged. "Yes, they are pretty pictures; but
la! how long it must have taken Mr. Düsseldorf to paint them all;" was
the reply.

By the Farnesian Hercules! no Roman sylph in her city's decline would
ever have called the sun-god, Mr. Apollo. We hope that Houri melted
entirely away in the window, but we certainly did not stay to see.

Passing out toward the supper-room we encountered two young
men. "What, Hal," said one, "_you_ at Mrs. Potiphar's?" It seems
that Hal was a sprig of one of the old "families." "Well, Joe," said
Hal, a little confused, "it _is_ a little strange. The fact is I
didn't mean to be here, but I concluded to compromise by coming,
_and not being introduced to the host_." Hal could come, eat
Potiphar's supper, drink his wines, spoil his carpets, laugh at his
fashionable struggles, and affect the puppyism of a foreign Lord,
because he disgraced the name of a man who had done some service
somewhere, while Potiphar was only an honest man who made a fortune.

The supper-room was a pleasant place. The table was covered with a
chaos of supper. Everything sweet and rare, and hot and cold, solid
and liquid, was there. It was the very apotheosis of gilt
gingerbread. There was a universal rush and struggle. The charge of
the guards at Waterloo was nothing to it. Jellies, custards,
oyster-soup, ice-cream, wine and water, gushed in profuse cascades
over transparent precipices of _tulle_, muslin, gauze, silk, arid
satin. Clumsy boys tumbled against costly dresses and smeared them
with preserves,--when clean plates failed, the contents of plates
already used were quietly "chucked" under the table--heeltaps of
champagne were poured into the oyster tureens or overflowed upon
plates to clear the glasses--wine of all kinds flowed in torrents,
particularly down the throats of very young men, who evinced their
manhood by becoming noisy, troublesome, and disgusting, and were
finally either led, sick, into the hat room, or carried out of the
way, drunk. The supper over, the young people attended by their
matrons descended to the dancing-room for the "German." This is a
dance commencing usually at midnight or a little after, and continuing
indefinitely toward daybreak. The young people were attended by their
matrons, who were there to supervise the morals and manners of their
charges. To secure the performance of this duty, the young people took
good care to sit where the matrons could not see them, nor did they,
by any chance, look toward the quarter in which the matrons sat. In
that quarter through all the varying mazes of the prolonged dance, to
two o'clock, to three, to four, sat the bediamonded dowagers, the
mothers, the matrons,--against nature, against common sense. They
babbled with each other, they drowsed, they dozed. Their fans fell
listless into their laps. In the adjoining room, out of the waking
sight, even, of the then sleeping mammas, the daughters whirled in the
close embrace of partners who had brought down bottles of champagne
from the supper-room, and put them by the side of their chairs for
occasional refreshment during the dance. The dizzy hours staggered
by--"Azalia, you _must_ come now," had been already said a dozen
times, but only as by the scribes. Finally it was declared with
authority. Azalia went,--Amelia--Arabella. The rest followed. There
was a prolonged cloaking, there were lingering farewells. A few papas
were in the supper-room, sitting among the _débris_ of game. A
few young non-dancing husbands sat beneath gas unnaturally bright,
reading whatever chance book was at hand, and thinking of the young
child at home waiting for mamma who was dancing the "German" below. A
few exhausted matrons sat in the robing-room, tired, sad, wishing Jane
would come up; assailed at intervals by a vague suspicion that it was
not quite worth while; wondering how it was they used to have such
good times at balls; yawning and looking at their watches; while the
regular beat of the music below, with sardonic sadness, continued. At
last Jane came up, had had the most glorious time, and went down with
mamma to the carriage, and so drove home. Even the last Jane went--the
last noisy youth was expelled, and Mr. and Mrs. Potiphar having duly
performed their biennial social duty, dismissed the music, ordered the
servants to count the spoons, and an hour or two after daylight went
to bed. Enviable Mr. and Mrs. Potiphar!

We are now prepared for the great moral indignation of the friend who
saw us eating our _dinde aux truffes_ in that remarkable
supper-room. We are waiting to hear him say in the most moderate and
"gentlemanly" manner, that it is all very well to select flaws and
present them as specimens, and to learn from him, possibly with
indignant publicity, that the present condition of parties is not what
we have intimated. Or, in his quiet and pointed way, he may smile at
our fiery assault upon edged flounces and nuga pyramids, and the
kingdom of Lilliput in general.

Yet, after all, and despite the youths who are led out, and carried
home, or who stumble through the "German," this is a sober matter. My
friend told us we should see the "best society." But he is a
prodigious wag. Who make this country? From whom is its character of
unparalleled enterprise, heroism and success derived? Who have given
it its place in the respect and the fear of the world? Who, annually,
recruit its energies, confirm its progress, and secure its triumph?
Who are its characteristic children, the pith, the sinew, the bone, of
its prosperity? Who found, and direct, and continue its manifold
institutions of mercy and education? Who are, essentially, Americans?
Indignant friend, these classes, whoever they may be, are the "best
society," because they alone are the representatives of its character
and cultivation. They are the "best society" of New York, of Boston,
of Baltimore, of St. Louis, of New Orleans, whether they live upon six
hundred or sixty thousand dollars a year--whether they inhabit
princely houses in fashionable streets (which they often do), or
not--whether their sons have graduated at Celarius' and the _Jardin
Mabille_, or have never been out of their fathers' shops--whether
they have "air" and "style," and are "so gentlemanly" and "so
aristocratic," or not. Your shoemaker, your lawyer, your butcher, your
clergyman--if they are simple and steady, and, whether rich or poor,
are unseduced by the sirens of extravagance and ruinous display, help
make up the "best society." For that mystic communion is not composed
of the rich, but of the worthy; and is "best" by its virtues, and not
by its vices. When Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith, Garrick, Reynolds, and
their friends, met at supper in Goldsmith's rooms, where was the "best
society" in England? When George the Fourth outraged humanity and
decency in his treatment of Queen Caroline, who was the first
scoundrel in Europe?

Pause yet a moment, indignant friend. Whose habits and principles
would ruin this country as rapidly as it has been made? Who are
enamored of a puerile imitation of foreign splendors? Who strenuously
endeavor to graft the questionable points of Parisian society upon our
own? Who pass a few years in Europe, and return skeptical of
republicanism and human improvement, longing and sighing for more
sharply emphasised social distinctions? Who squander with profuse
recklessness the hard-earned fortunes of their sires? Who diligently
devote their time to nothing, foolishly and wrongly supposing that a
young English nobleman has nothing to do? Who, in fine, evince by
their collective conduct, that they regard their Americanism as a
misfortune, and are so the most deadly enemies of their country? None
but what our wag facetiously termed "the best society."

If the reader doubts, let him consider its practical results in any
great emporium of "best society." Marriage is there regarded as a
luxury, too expensive for any but the sons of rich men, or fortunate
young men. We once heard an eminent divine assert, and only half in
sport, that the rate of living was advancing so incredibly, that
weddings in his experience were perceptibly diminishing. The reasons
might have been many and various. But we all acknowledge the fact. On
the other hand, and about the same time, a lovely damsel (ah!
Clorinda,) whose father was not wealthy, who had no prospective means
of support, who could do nothing but polka to perfection, who
literally knew almost nothing, and who constantly shocked every fairly
intelligent person by the glaring ignorance betrayed in her remarks,
informed a friend at one of the Saratoga balls, whither he had made
haste to meet "the best society," that there were "not more than three
good matches in society!" _La Dame aux Camélias_, Marie
Duplessis, was, to our fancy, a much more feminine, and admirable, and
moral, and human person, than the adored Clorinda. And yet what she
said was the legitimate result of the state of our fashionable
society. It worships wealth, and the pomp which wealth can purchase,
more than virtue, genius, or beauty. We may be told that it has always
been so in every country, and that the fine society of all lands is as
profuse and flashy as our own. We deny it, flatly. Neither English,
nor French, nor Italian, nor German society, is so unspeakably barren
as that which is technically called "society" here. In London, and
Paris, and Vienna, and Rome, all the really eminent men and women help
make up the mass of society. A party is not a mere ball, but it is a
congress of the wit, beauty, and fame of the capital. It is worth
while to dress, if you shall meet Macaulay, or Hallam, or Guizot, or
Thiers, or Landseer, or Delaroche,--Mrs. Norton, the Misses Berry,
Madame Recamier, and all the brilliant women and famous
foreigners. But why should we desert the pleasant pages of those men,
and the recorded gossip of those women, to be squeezed flat against a
wall, while young Doughface pours oyster gravy down our shirt front,
and Carolina Pettitoes wonders at "Mr. Düsseldorf's" industry?

If intelligent people decline to go, you justly remark, it is their
own fault. Yes, but if they stay away it is very certainly their great
gain. The elderly people are always neglected with us, and nothing
surprises intelligent strangers more, than the tyrannical supremacy of
Young America. But we are not surprised at this neglect. How can we be
if we have our eyes open? When Caroline Pettitoes retreats from the
floor to the sofa, and instead of a "polker" figures at parties as a
matron, do you suppose that "tough old Joes" like ourselves are going
to desert the young Caroline upon the floor, for Madame Pettitoes upon
the sofa? If the pretty young Caroline, with youth, health, freshness,
a fine, budding form, and wreathed in a semi-transparent haze of
flounced and flowered gauze, is so vapid that we prefer to accost her
with our eyes alone, and not with our tongues, is the same Caroline
married into a Madame Pettitoes, and fanning herself upon a sofa,--no
longer particularly fresh, nor young, nor pretty, and no longer
budding but very fully blown,--likely to be fascinating in
conversation? We cannot wonder that the whole connection of Pettitoes,
when advanced to the matron state, is entirely neglected. Proper
homage to age we can all pay at home, to our parents and
grandparents. Proper respect for some persons is best preserved by
avoiding their neighborhood.

And what, think you, is the influence of this extravagant expense and
senseless show upon these same young men and women? We can easily
discover. It saps their noble ambition, assails their health, lowers
their estimate of men and their reverence for women, cherishes an
eager and aimless rivalry, weakens true feeling, wipes away the bloom
of true modesty, and induces an ennui, a satiety, and a kind of
dilettante misanthropy, which is only the more monstrous because it is
undoubtedly real. You shall hear young men of intelligence and
cultivation, to whom the unprecedented circumstances of this country
offer opportunities of a great and beneficent career, complaining that
they were born within this blighted circle--regretting that they were
not bakers and tallow-chandlers, and under no obligation to keep up
appearances--deliberately surrendering all the golden possibilities of
that Future which this country, beyond all others, holds before
them--sighing that they are not rich enough to marry the girls they
love, and bitterly upbraiding fortune that they are not
millionnaires--suffering the vigor of their years to exhale in idle
wishes and pointless regrets--disgracing their manhood by lying in
wait behind their "so gentlemanly" and "aristocratic" manners, until
they can pounce upon a "fortune" and ensnare an heiress into
matrimony: and so having dragged their gifts, their horses of the sun,
into a service which shames out of them all their native pride and
power, they sink in the mire, and their peers and emulators exclaim
that they have "made a good thing of it."

Are these the processes by which a noble race is made and perpetuated?
At Mrs. Potiphar's we heard several Pendennises longing for a similar
luxury, and announcing their firm purpose, never to have wives, nor
houses, until they could have them as splendid as jewelled
Mrs. Potiphar, and her palace, thirty feet front. Where were their
heads and their hearts, and their arms? How looks this craven
despondency, before the stern virtues of the ages we call dark? When a
man is so voluntarily imbecile as to regret he is not rich, if that is
what he wants, before he has struck a blow for wealth; or so dastardly
as to renounce the prospect of love, because sitting sighing, in
velvet dressing-gown and slippers, he does not see his way clear to
ten thousand a year; when young women coiffed _à merveille_, of
unexceptionable "style," who, with or without a prospective penny,
secretly look down upon honest women who struggle for their
livelihood, like noble and Christian beings, and, as such, are
rewarded; in whose society a man must forget that he has ever read,
thought or felt; who destroy in the mind, the fair ideal of woman,
which the genius of art and poetry, and love, their inspirer, has
created; then it seems to us, it is high time that the subject should
be regarded not as a matter of breaking butterflies upon the wheel,
but as a sad and sober question, in whose solution, all fathers and
mothers, and the state itself, are interested. When keen observers,
and men of the world, from Europe, are amazed and appalled at the
giddy whirl and frenzied rush of our society--a society singular in
history, for the exaggerated prominence it assigns to wealth,
irrespective of the talents that amassed it, they and their possessor
being usually hustled out of sight--is it not quite time to ponder a
little upon the Court of Louis XIV., and the "merrie days" of King
Charles II.? Is it not clear that, if what our good wag, with caustic
irony, called "best society," were really such, every thoughtful man
would read upon Mrs. Potiphar's softly-tinted walls, the terrible
"mene, mene" of imminent destruction?

Venice in her purple prime of luxury, when the famous law was passed,
making all gondolas black, that the nobles should not squander
fortunes upon them, was not more luxurious than New York today. Our
hotels have a superficial splendor, derived from a profusion of gilt
and paint, wood and damask. Yet, in not one of them can the traveller
be so quietly comfortable as in an English Inn, and nowhere in New
York can the stranger procure a dinner, at once so neat and elegant,
and economical, as at scores of Cafes in Paris. The fever of display
has consumed comfort. A gondola plated with gold was no easier than a
black wooden one. We could well spare a little gilt upon the walls,
for more cleanliness upon the public table; nor is it worth while to
cover the walls with mirrors to reflect a want of comfort, One prefers
a wooden bench to a greasy velvet cushion, and a sanded floor to a
soiled and threadbare carpet. An insipid uniformity is the
Procrustes-bed, upon which "society" is stretched. Every new house is
the counterpart of every other, with the exception of more gilt, if
the owner can afford it. The interior arrangement, instead of being
characteristic, instead of revealing something of the tastes and
feelings of the owner, is rigorously conformed to every other
interior. The same hollow and tame complaisance rules in the
intercourse of society. Who dares say precisely what he thinks upon a
great topic? What youth ventures to say sharp things, of slavery, for
instance, at a polite dinner-table? What girl dares wear curls, when
Martelle prescribes puffs or bandeaux? What specimen of young America
dares have his trowsers loose or wear straps to them? We want
individuality, heroism, and, if necessary, an uncompromising
persistence in difference.

This is the present state of parties. They are wildly extravagant,
full of senseless display; they are avoided by the pleasant and
intelligent, and swarm with reckless regiments of "Brown's men." The
ends of the earth contribute their choicest products to the supper,
and there is everything that wealth can purchase, and all the spacious
splendor that thirty feet front can afford. They are hot, and crowded,
and glaring. There is a little weak scandal, venomous, not witty, and
a stream of weary platitude, mortifying to every sensible person.
Will any of our Pendennis friends intermit their indignation for a
moment, and consider how many good things they have said or heard
during the season? If Mr. Potiphar's eyes should chance to fall here,
will he reckon the amount of satisfaction and enjoyment he derived
from Mrs. Potiphar's ball, and will that lady candidly confess what
she gained from it besides weariness and disgust? What eloquent
sermons we remember to have heard in which the sins and the sinners of
Babylon, Jericho and Gomorrah were scathed with holy indignation. The
cloth is very hard upon Cain, and completely routs the erring kings of
Judah. The Spanish Inquisition, too, gets frightful knocks, and there
is much eloquent exhortation to preach the gospel in the interior of
Siam. Let it be preached there, and God speed the word. But also let
us have a text or two in Broadway and the Avenue.

The best sermon ever preached upon society, within our knowledge, is
"Vanity Fair." Is the spirit of that story less true of New York than
of London? Probably we never see Amelia at our parties, nor
Lieutenant George Osborne, nor good gawky Dobbin, nor Mrs. Rebecca
Sharp Crawley, nor old Steyne. We are very much pained, of course,
that any author should take such dreary views of human nature. We,
for our parts, all go to Mrs. Potiphar's to refresh our faith in men
and women. Generosity, amiability, a catholic charity, simplicity,
taste, sense, high cultivation, and intelligence, distinguish our
parties. The statesman seeks their stimulating influence; the literary
man, after the day's labour, desires the repose of their elegant
conversation; the professional man and the merchant hurry up from down
town to shuffle off the coil of heavy duty, and forget the drudgery of
life in the agreeable picture of its amenities and graces presented by
Mrs. Potiphar's ball. Is this account of the matter, or "Vanity
Fair," the satire? What are the prospects of any society of which that
tale is the true history? There is a picture in the Luxembourg
gallery at Paris, "The Decadence of the Romans," which made the fame
and fortune of Couture, the painter. It represents an orgie in the
court of a temple, during the last days of Rome. A swarm of revellers
occupy the middle of the picture, wreathed in elaborate intricacy of
luxurious posture, men and women intermingled; their faces, in which
the old Roman fire scarcely flickers, brutalized with excess of every
kind; their heads of dishevelled hair bound with coronals of leaves,
while, from goblets of an antique grace, they drain the fiery torrent
which is destroying them. Around the bacchanalian feast stand, lofty
upon pedestals, the statues of old Rome, looking with marble calmness
and the severity of a rebuke beyond words upon the revellers. A youth
of boyish grace, with a wreath woven in his tangled hair, and with red
and drowsy eyes, sits listless upon one pedestal, while upon another
stands a boy, insane with drunkenness, and proffering a dripping
goblet to the marble mouth of the statue. In the corner of the
picture, as if just quitting the court--Rome finally departing--is a
group of Romans with care-worn brows, and hands raised to their faces
in melancholy meditation. In the foreground of the picture, which is
painted with all the sumptuous splendor of Venetian art, is a stately
vase, around which hangs a festoon of gorgeous flowers, its end
dragging upon the pavement. In the background, between the columns,
smiles the blue sky of Italy--the only thing Italian not deteriorated
by time. The careful student of this picture, if he has been long in
Paris, is some day startled by detecting, especially in the faces of
the women represented, a surprising likeness to the women of Paris,
and perceives, with a thrill of dismay, that the models for this
picture of decadent human nature are furnished by the very city in
which he lives.




NEW YORK, _April._

MY DEAR CAROLINE,--Lent came so frightfully early this year, that I
was very much afraid my new bonnet _à l'Imperatrice_ would not be
out from Paris soon enough. But fortunately it arrived just in time,
and I had the satisfaction of taking down the pride of Mrs. Croesus,
who fancied hers would be the only stylish hat in church the first
Sunday. She could not keep her eyes away from me, and I sat so
unmoved, and so calmly looking at the Doctor, that she was quite
vexed. But, whenever she turned away, I ran my eyes over the whole
congregation, and would you believe that, almost without an exception,
people had their old things? However, I suppose they forgot how soon
Lent was coming. As I was passing out of church, Mrs. Croesus brushed
by me:

"Ah!" said she, "good morning. Why bless me! you've got that pretty
hat I saw at Lawson's. Well, now, it's really quite pretty; Lawson has
some taste left yet; what a lovely sermon the Doctor gave us. By the
by, did you know that Mrs. Gnu had actually bought the blue velvet?
It's too bad, because I wanted to cover my prayer-book with blue, and
she sits so near, the effect of my book will be quite spoiled. Dear
me! there she is beckoning to me; good-bye, do come and see us;
Tuesdays, you know. Well, Lawson really does very well."

I was so mad with the old thing, that I could not help catching her by
her mantle and holding on while I whispered loud enough for everybody
to hear:

"Mrs. Croesus, you see I have just got my bonnet from Paris. It's made
after the Empress's. If you would like to have yours made over in the
fashion, dear Mrs. Croesus, I shall be so glad to lend you mine."

"No, thank you, dear," said she, "Lawson won't do for me. Bye-bye."

And so she slipped out, and, I've no doubt, told Mrs. Gnu that she had
seen my bonnet at Lawson's. Isn't it too bad? Then she is so
abominably cool. Somehow, when I am talking with Mrs. Croesus, who
has all her own things made at home, I don't feel as if mine came from
Paris at all. She has such a way of looking at you, that it's quite
dreadful. She seems to be saying in her mind, "La! now, well done,
little dear." And I think that kind of mental reservation (I think
that's what they call it) is an insupportable impertinence. However, I
don't care, do you?

I've so many things to tell you that I hardly know where to begin. The
great thing is the livery, but I want to come regularly up to that,
and forget nothing by the way. I was uncertain for a long time how to
have my prayer-book bound. Finally, after thinking about it a great
deal, I concluded to have it done in pale blue velvet, with gold
clasps, and a gold cross upon the side. To be sure, it's nothing very
new. But what _is_ new now-a-days? Sally Shrimp has had hers done
in emerald, and I know Mrs. Croesus will have crimson for hers, and
those people who sits next us in church (I wonder who they are; it's
very unpleasant to sit next to people you don't know; and, positively,
that girl, the dark-haired one with large eyes, carries the same muff
she did last year; it's big enough for a family) have a kind of brown
morocco binding. I must tell you one reason why I fixed upon the
pale-blue. You know that aristocratic-looking young man, in white
cravat and black pantaloons and waistcoat, whom we saw at Saratoga a
year ago, and who always had such a beautiful sanctimonious look, and
such small white hands; well, he is a minister, as we supposed, "an
unworthy candidate, and unprofitable husbandman," as he calls himself
in that delicious voice of his. He has been quite taken up among
us. He has been asked a good deal to dinner, and there was hope of his
being settled as colleague to the Doctor, only Mr. Potiphar (who can
be stubborn, you know) insisted that the Rev. Cream Cheese, though a
very good young man, he didn't doubt, was addicted to candlesticks. I
suppose that's something awful. But, could you believe anything awful
of him? I asked Mr. Potiphar what he meant by saying such things.

"I mean," said he, "that he's a Puseyite, and I've no idea of being
tied to the apron-strings of the Scarlet Woman."

Dear Caroline, who _is_ the Scarlet Woman? Dearest, tell me,
upon your honor, if you have ever heard any scandal of Mr. Potiphar?

"What is it about candlesticks?" said I to Mr. Potiphar. "Perhaps
Mr. Cheese finds gas too bright for his eyes; and that's his
misfortune, not his fault.

"Polly," said Mr. Potiphar, who _will_ call me Polly, although it
sounds so very vulgar, "please not to meddle with things you don't
understand. You may have Cream Cheese to dinner as much as you
choose, but I will not have him in the pulpit of my church."

The same day Mr. Cheese happened in about lunch-time, and I asked him
if his eyes were really weak.

"Not at all," said he, "why do you ask?"

Then I told him that I had heard he was so fond of candlesticks.

Ah! Caroline, you should have seen him then. He stopped in the midst
of pouring out a glass of Mr. P.'s best old port, and holding the
decanter in one hand, and the glass in the other, he looked so
beautifully sad, and said in that sweet low voice:

"Dear Mrs. Potiphar, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the
church." Then he filled up his glass, and drank the wine off with such
a mournful, resigned air, and wiped his lips so gently with his
cambric handkerchief (I saw that it was a hem-stitch), that I had no
voice to ask him to take a bit of the cold chicken, which he did,
however, without my asking him. But when he said in the same low
voice, "A little more breast, dear Mrs. Potiphar," I was obliged to
run into the drawing room for a moment, to recover myself.

Well, after he had lunched I told him that I wished to take his advice
upon something connected with the church, (for a prayer-book
_is,_ you know, dear,) and he looked so sweetly at me, that,
would you believe it, I almost wished to be a Catholic, and to confess
three or four times a week, and to have him for my confessor. But it's
very wicked to wish to be a Catholic, and it wasn't real much, you
know; but somehow I thought so. When I asked him in what velvet he
would advise me to have my prayer-book bound, he talked beautifully
for about twenty minutes. I wish you could have heard him. I'm not
sure that I understood much of what he said--how should I?--but it
was very beautiful. Don't laugh, Carrie, but there was one thing I
did understand, and which, as it came pretty often, quite helped me
through: it was, "Dear Mrs. Potiphar;" you can't tell how nicely he
says it. He began by telling me that it was very important to consider
all the details and little things about the church. He said they were
all Timbales or Cymbals--or something of that kind; and then he
talked very prettily about the stole, and the violet and scarlet capes
of the cardinals, and purple chasubles, and the lace edge of the
Pope's little short gown; and--do you know it was very funny--but it
seemed to me, somehow, as if I was talking with Portier or Florine
Lefevre, except that he used such beautiful words. Well, by and by, he

"Therefore, dear Mrs. Potiphar, as your faith is so pure and
childlike, and as I observe that the light from the yellow panes
usually falls across your pew, I would advise that you cymbalize your
faith (wouldn't that be noisy in church?) by binding your prayer-book
in pale blue; the color of skim-milk, dear Mrs. Potiphar, which is so
full of pastoral associations."

Why did he emphasize the word "pastoral?" Do you wonder that I like
Cream Cheese, dear Caroline, when he is so gentle and religious--and
such a pretty religion too! For he is not only well-dressed, and has
such aristocratic hands and feet, in the parlor, but he is so
perfectly gentlemanly in the pulpit. He never raises his voice too
loud, and he has such wavy gestures. Mr. Potiphar says that may be all
very true, but he knows perfectly well that he has a hankering for
artificial flowers, and that, for his part, he prefers the Doctor to
any preacher he ever heard "because," he says, "I can go quietly to
sleep, confident that he will say nothing that might not be preached
from every well-regulated pulpit; whereas, if we should let Cream
Cheese into the desk, I should have to keep awake to be on the
look-out for some of these new-fangled idolatries: and, Polly
Potiphar, I, for one, am determined to have nothing to do with the
Scarlet Woman."

Darling Caroline--I don't care much--but did he ever have anything to
do with a Scarlet Woman?

After he said that about artificial flowers, I ordered from Martelle
the sweetest sprig of _immortelle_ he had in his shop, and sent
it anonymously on St. Valentine's day. Of course I didn't wish to do
anything secret from my husband, that might make people talk, so I
wrote--"Rev. Cream Cheese; from his grateful _Skim-milk._" I
marked the last words, and hope he understood that I meant to express
my thanks for his advice about the pale-blue cover. You don't think it
was too romantice, do you, dear?

You can imagine how pleasantly Lent is passing since I see so much of
him: and then it is so appropriate to Lent to be intimate with a
minister. He goes with me to church a great deal; for Mr. Potiphar, of
course, has no time for that, except on Sundays; and it is really
delightful to see such piety. He makes the responses in the most
musical manner; and when he kneels upon entering the pew, he is the
admiration of the whole church. He buries his face entirely in a cloud
of cambric pocket-handkerchief, with his initial embroidered at the
corner; and his hair is beautifully parted down behind, which is very
fortunate, as otherwise it would look so badly, when only half his
head showed. I feel _so_ good when I sit by his side; and when
the Doctor (as Mr. P. says) "blows up" those terrible sinners in
Babylon and the other Bible towns, I always find the Rev. Cream's eyes
fixed upon me, with so much sweet sadness, that I am very, very sorry
for the naughty people the Doctor talks about. Why did they do so, do
you suppose, dear Caroline? How thankful we ought to be that we live
now with so many churches, and such fine ones, and with such
gentlemanly ministers as Mr. Cheese. And how nicely it's arranged
that, after dancing and dining for two or three months constantly,
during which, of course, we can only go to church Sundays, there comes
a time for stopping, when we're tired out, and for going to church
every day, and (as Mr. P. says) "striking a balance;" and thinking
about being good, and all those things. We don't lose a great deal,
you know. It makes a variety, and we all see each other, just the
same, only we don't dance. I do think it would be better if we took
our lorgnettes with us, however, for it was only last Wednesday, at
nine o'clock prayers, that I saw Sheena Silke across the church in
their little pew at the corner, and I am sure that she had a new
bonnet on; and yet, though I looked at it all the time trying to find
out, prayers were fairly over before I discovered whether it was
really new, or only that old white one made over with a few new
flowers. Now, if I had had my glass, I could have told in a moment,
and shouldn't have been obliged to lose all the prayers.

But, as I was saying, those poor old people in Babylon and Nineveh!
only think, if they had had the privileges of prayers for six or seven
weeks in Lent, and regular preaching the rest of the year, except, of
course, in the summer--(by the by, I wonder if they all had some kind
of Saratoga or Newport to go to?--I mean to ask Mr. Cheese)--they
might have been good, and all have been happy. It's quite awful to
hear how eloquent and earnest the Doctor is when he preaches against
Babylon. Mr. P. says he likes to have him "pitch into those old
sinners; it does 'em so much good;" and then he looks quite
fierce. Mr. Cheese is going to read me a sermon he has written upon
the maidenhood of Lot's wife. He says that he quotes a great deal of
poetry in it, and that I must _dam_ up the fount of my tears when
he reads it. It was an odd expression for a minister, wasn't it? and I
was obliged to say, "Mr. Cheese, you forget yourself." He replied,
"Dear Mrs. Potiphar, I will explain;" and he did so; so that I admired
him more than ever.

Dearest Caroline,--if you should only like him! He asked one day
about you; and when I told him what a dear, good girl you are, he
said: "And her father has worldly possessions, has he not?"

I answered, yes; that your father was very rich. Then he sighed, and
said that he could never marry an heiress unless he clearly saw it to
be his duty. Isn't it a beautiful resignation?

I had no idea of saying so much about him, but you know it's proper,
when writing a letter in Lent, to talk about religious matters. And, I
must confess, there is something comfortable in having to do with such
things. Don't you feel better, when you've been dancing all the week,
and dining, and going to the opera, and flirting and flying around, to
go to church on Sundays? I do. It seems, somehow, as if we ought to
go. But I do wish Mrs. Croesus would sit somewhere else than just in
front of us, for her new bonnets and her splendid collars and capes
makes me quite miserable: and then she puts me out of conceit of my
things by talking about Lawson, or somebody, as I told you in the

Mr. Potiphar has sent out for the new carpets. I had only two spoiled
at my ball, you know, and that was very little. One always expects to
sacrifice at least two carpets upon occasion of seeing one's friends.
That handsome one in the supper room was entirely ruined. Would you
believe that Mr. P. when he went downstairs the next morning, found
our Fred and his cousin hoeing it with their little toes? It was
entirely matted with preserves and things, and the boys said that they
were scraping it clean for breakfast. The other spoiled carpet was in
the gentlemen's dressing-room where the punch-bowl was. Young Gauche
Boosey, a very gentlemanly fellow, you know, ran up after polking, and
was so confused with the light and heat that he went quite unsteadily,
and as he was trying to fill a glass with the silver ladle (which is
rather heavy), he somehow leaned too hard upon the table, and down
went the whole thing, table, bowl, punch, and Boosey, and ended my
poor carpet. I was sorry for that, and also for the bowl, which was a
very handsome one, imported from China by my father's partner--a
wedding gift to me--and for the table, a delicate rosewood stand,
which was a work table of my sister Lucy's--whom you never knew, and
who died long and long ago. However, I was amply repaid by Boosey's
drollery afterward. He is a very witty young man, and when he got up
from the floor, saturated with punch (his clothes I mean), he looked
down at the carpet and said:

"Well, I've given that such a punch it will want some _lemon-aid_
to recover."

I suppose he had some idea about lemon acid taking out spots.

But, the best thing was what he said to me. He is so droll that he
insisted upon coming down, and finishing the dance just as he was. The
funny fellow brushed against all the dresses in his way, and, finally
said to me, as he pointed to a lemon-seed upon his coat:

"I feel so very _lemon-choly_ for what I have done."

I laughed very much (you were in the other room), but Mr. P. stepped
up and ordered him to leave the house. Boosey said he would do no such
thing; and I have no doubt we should have had a scene, if Mr. P. had
not marched him straight to the door, and put him into a carriage, and
told the driver where to take him. Mr. P. was red enough when he came

"No man shall insult me or my guests, by getting drunk in my house,"
said he; and he has since asked me not to invite Boosey nor "any of
his kind," as he calls them, to our house. However, I think it will
pass over. I tell him that all young men of spirit get a little
excited with wine sometimes, and he mustn't be too hard upon them.

"Madame," said he to me, the first time I ventured to say that, "no
man with genuine self-respect ever gets drunk twice; and, if you had
the faintest idea of the misery which a little elegant intoxication
has produced in scores of families that you know, you would never
insinuate again that a little excitement from wine is an agreeable
thing. There's your friend Mrs. Croesus (he thinks she's my friend,
because we call each other 'dear'!); she is delighted to be a
fashionable woman, and to be described as the 'peerless and
accomplished Mrs. Croesus' in letters from the Watering-places to the
Herald; but I tell you, if anything of the woman or the mother is left
in the fashionable Mrs. Croesus, I could wring her heart as it never
was wrung--and never shall be by me--by showing her the places that
young Timon Croesus haunts, the people with whom he associates and the
drunkenness, gambling, and worse dissipations of which he is guilty.

"Timon Croesus is eighteen or nineteen, or, perhaps, twenty years old;
and Polly, I tell you, he is actually _blasé_, worn out with
dissipation, the companion of blacklegs, the chevalier of Cyprians,
tipsy every night, and haggard every morning. Timon Croesus is the
puny caricature of a man, mentally, morally, and physically. He gets
'elegantly intoxicated' at your parties; he goes off to sup with
Gauche Boosey; you and Mrs. Croesus think them young men of
spirit,--it is an exhilarating case of sowing wildcats, you
fancy,--and, when, at twenty-five, Timon Croesus stands ruined in the
world, without aims or capacities, without the esteem of a single man
or his own self-respect--youth, health, hope, and energy, all gone
forever--then you and your dear Mrs. Croesus will probably wonder at
the horrible harvest. Mrs. Potiphar, ask the Rev. Cream Cheese to omit
his sermon upon the maidenhood of Lot's wife, and preach from this
text: 'They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.' Good heavens!
Polly, fancy our Fred growing up to such a life! I'd rather bury him

I never saw Mr. P. so much excited. He fairly put his handkerchief to
his eyes, and I really believe he cried! But I think he exaggerates
these things: and as he had a very dear friend that went worse and
worse, until he died frightfully, a drunkard, it is not strange he
should speak so warmly about it. But as Mrs. Croesus says:

"What can you do? You can't curb these boys, you don't want to break
their spirits, you don't want to make them milk-sops."

When I repeated this speech to Mr. P., he said to me with a kind of

"Tell Mrs. Croesus that I am not here to judge nor dictate: but she
may be well assured, that every parent is responsible for every child
of his to the utmost of the influence he can exert, whether he chooses
to consider himself so or not; and if not now, in this world, yet
somewhere and somehow, he must hear and heed the voice that called to
Cain in the garden, 'Where is Abel, thy brother?'"

I can't bear to hear Mr.P. talk in that way; it sounds so like
preaching. Not precisely like what I hear at church but like what we
mean when we say "preaching," without referring to any particular
sermon. However, he grants that young Timon is an extreme case: but,
he says, it is the result that proves the principle, and a state of
feeling which not only allows, but indirectly fosters, that result, is
frightful to think of.

"Don't think of it then, Mr. P.," said I. He looked at me for a moment
with the sternest scowl I ever saw upon a man's face, then he suddenly
ran up to me, and kissed me on the forehead (although my hair was all
dressed for Mrs. Gnu's dinner), and went out of the house. He hasn't
said much to me since, but he speaks very gently when he does speak,
and sometimes I catch him looking at me in such a singular way, so
half mournful, that Mr. Cheese's eyes don't seem so very sad after

However, to return to the party, I believe nothing else was injured
except the curtains in the front drawing-room, which were so smeared
with ice-cream and oyster gravy, that we must get new ones; and the
cover of my porcelain tureen was broken by the servant, though the man
said he didn't really mean to do it, and I could say nothing; and a
party of young men, after the German Cotillion, did let fall that
superb cut-glass Claret, and shivered it, with a dozen of the
delicately engraved straw-stems that stood upon the waiter. That was
all, I believe--oh! except that fine "Dresden Gallery," the most
splendid book I ever saw, full of engravings of the great pictures in
Dresden, Vienna, and the other Italian towns, and which was sent to
Mr. P. by an old friend, an artist, whom he had helped along when he
was very poor. Somebody unfortunately tipped over a bottle of claret
that stood upon the table, (I am sure I don't know how it got there,
though Mr. P. says Gauche Boosey knows,) and it lay soaking into the
book, so that almost every picture has a claret stain, which looks so
funny. I am very sorry, I am sure, but as I tell Mr. P., it's no use
crying for spilt milk. I was telling Mr. Boosey of it at the Gnus'
dinner. He laughed very much, and when I said that a good many of the
faces were sadly stained, he said in his droll way, "You ought to call
it _L'Opera di Bordeaux; Le Domino rouge._" I supposed it was
something funny, so I laughed a good deal. He said to me later: "Shall
I pour a little claret into your book--I mean into your glass?"

Wasn't it a pretty _bon-mot?_

Don't you think we are getting very _spirituel_ in this country?

I believe there was nothing else injured except the bed-hangings in
the back room, which were somehow badly burnt and very much torn in
pulling down, and a few of our handsomest shades that were cracked by
the heat, and a few plates, which it was hardly fair to expect
wouldn't be broken, and the colored glass door in my _escritoire_,
against which Flattie Podge fell as she was dancing with Gauche Boosey;
but he may have been a little excited, you know, and she, poor girl,
couldn't help tumbling, and as her head hit the glass, of course, it
broke, and cut her head badly, so that the blood ran down and naturally
spoiled her dress; and what little _escritoire_ could stand against
Flattie Podge? So that went, and was a good deal smashed in falling.
That's all, I think, except that the next day Mrs. Croesus sent a note,
saying that she had lost her largest diamond from her necklace, and she
was sure that it was not in the carriage, nor in her own house, nor
upon the sidewalk, for she had carefully looked everywhere, _and
she would be very glad if I would return it by the bearer._

Think of that.

Well, we hunted everywhere, and found no diamond. I took particular
pains to ask the servants if they had found it, for if they had, they
might as well give it up at once, without expecting any reward from
Mrs. Croesus, who wasn't very generous. But they all said they hadn't
found any diamond: and our man John, who you know is so
guileless,--although it _was_ a little mysterious about that
emerald pin of mine,--brought me a bit of glass that had been nicked
out of my large custard dish, and asked me if that was not
Mrs. Croesus's diamond. I told him no, and gave him a gold dollar for
his honesty. John is an invaluable servant; he is so guileless.

_Do you know I am not so sure about Mrs. Croesus's diamond!_

Mr. P. made a great howling about the ball. But it was very foolish,
for he got safely to bed by six o'clock, and he need have no trouble
about replacing the curtains, and glass, etc. I shall do all that, and
the sum total will be sent to him in a lump, so that he can pay it.

Men are so unreasonable. Fancy us at seven o'clock that morning, when
I retired. He wasn't asleep. But whose fault was that?

"Polly," said he, "that's the last."

"Last what?" said I.

"Last ball at my house," said he.

"Fiddle-dee-dee," said I.

"I tell you, Mrs. Potiphar, I am not going to open my house for a
crowd of people who don't go away till daylight; who spoil my books
and furniture; involve me in a foolish expense; for a gang of rowdy
boys, who drink my Margaux, and Lafitte, and Marcobrunner, (what kind
of drinks are those, dear Caroline?) and who don't know Chambertin
from liquorice-water,--for a swarm of persons few of whom we know
fewer, still care for me, and to whom I am only 'Old Potiphar,' the
husband of you, a fashionable woman. I am simply resolved to have no
more such tomfoolery in my house."

"Dear Mr. P.," said I, "you'll feel much better when you have
slept. Besides, why do you say such things? Mustn't we see our
friends, I should like to know; and if we do, are you going to let
your wife receive them in a manner inferior to old Mrs. Podge or
Mrs. Croesus? People will accuse you of meanness, and of treating me
ill; and if some persons hear that you have reduced your style of
living, they will begin to suspect the state of your affairs. Don't
make any rash vows, Mr. P.," said I, "but go to sleep."

(Do you know that speech was just what Mrs. Croesus told me she had
said to her husband under similar circumstances?)

Mr. P. fairly groaned, and I heard that short, strong little word that
sometimes inadvertently drops out of the best regulated mouths, as
young Gooseberry Downe says when he swears before his mother. Do you
know Mrs. Settum Downe? Charming woman, but satirical.

Mr. P. groaned, and said some more ill-natured things, until the clock
struck nine, and he was obliged to get up. I should be sorry to say to
anybody but you, dearest, that I was rather glad of it; for I could
then fall asleep at my ease; and these little connubial felicities (I
think they call them) are so tiresome. But everybody agreed it was a
beautiful ball; and I had the great gratification of hearing young
Lord Mount Ague (you know you danced with him, love) say that it was
quite the same thing as a ball at Buckingham Palace, except, of
course, in size, and the number of persons, and dresses, and jewels,
and the plate, and glass, and supper, and wines, and furnishing of the
rooms, and lights, and some of those things, which are naturally upon
a larger scale at a palace than in a private house. But, he said,
excepting such things, it was quite as fine. I am afraid that Lord
Mount Ague flatters; just a little bit you know.

Yes; and there was young Major Staggers, who said that "Decidedly it
was _the_ party of the season,"

"How odd," said Mrs. Croesus, to whom I told it, and, I confess, with
a little pride. "What a sympathetic man: that is, for a military man,
I mean. Would you believe, dear Mrs. Potiphar, that he said precisely
the same thing to me two days after my ball?"

Now, Caroline, dearest, _perhaps_ he did!

With all these pleasant things said about one's party, I cannot see
that it is such a dismal thing as Mr. P. tries to make out. After one
of his solemn talks, I asked Mr. Cheese what he thought of balls,
whether it was so very wicked to dance, and go to parties, if one only
went to church twice a day on Sundays. He patted his lips a moment
with his handkerchief, and then he said,--and, Caroline, you can
always quote the Rev. Cream Cheese as authority,--

"Dear Mrs. Potiphar, it is recorded in Holy Scripture that the King
danced before the Lord."

Darling, _if anything should happen,_ I don't believe
he would object much to our dancing.

What gossips we women are, to be sure! I meant to write you about our
new livery and I am afraid I have tired you out already. You remember
when you were here, I said that I meant to have a livery, for my
sister Margaret told me that when they used to drive in Hyde Park,
with the old Marquis of Mammon, it was always so delightful to hear
him say, "Ah! there is Lady Lobster's livery."

It was so aristocratic. And in countries where certain colors
distinguish certain families, and are hereditary, so to say, it is
convenient and pleasant to recognize a coat-of-arms, or a livery, and
to know that the representative of a great and famous family is
passing by.

"That's a Howard, that's a Eussell, that's a Dorset, that's de
Colique, that's Mount Ague," old Lord Mammon used to say as the
carriages whirled by. He knew none of them personally, I believe,
except de Colique and Mount Ague, but then it was so agreeable to be
able to know their liveries.

Now why shouldn't we have the same arrangement? Why not have the
Smith colors, and the Brown colors, and the Black colors, and the
Potiphar colors, etc., so that the people might say, "Ah! there goes
the Potiphar arms."

There is one difficulty, Mr. P. says, and that is, that he found five
hundred and sixty-seven Smiths in the Directory, which might lead to
some confusion. But that was absurd, as I told him, because everybody
would know which of the Smiths was able to keep a carriage, so that
the livery would be recognized directly the moment that any of the
family were seen in a carriage. Upon which he said, in his provoking
way, "Why have any livery at all, then?" and he persisted in saying
that no Smith was ever _the_ Smith for three generations, and
that he knew at least twenty, each of whom was able to set up his
carriage and stand by his colors.

"But then a livery is so elegant and aristocratic," said I, "and it
shows that a servant is a servant."

That last was a strong argument, and I thought Mr. P. would have
nothing to say against it; but he rattled on for some time, asking me
what right I had to be aristocratic, or, in fact, anybody else;--went
over his eternal old talk about aping foreign habits, as if we hadn't
a right to adopt the good usages of all nations, and finally said that
the use of liveries among us was not only a "pure peacock absurdity,"
as he called it, but that no genuine American would ever ask another
to assume a menial badge.

"Why!" said I, "is not an American servant a servant still?"

"Most undoubtedly," he said; "and when a man is a servant, let him
serve faithfully; and in this country especially, where to-morrow he
may be served, and not the servant, let him not be ashamed of
serving. But, Mrs. Potiphar, I beg you to observe that a servant's
livery is not, like a general's uniform the badge of honorable
service, but of menial service. Of course, a servant may be as
honorable as a general, and his work quite as necessary and well
done. But, for all that, it is not so respected nor coveted a
situation, I believe; and, in social estimation, a man suffers by
wearing a livery, as he never would if he wore none. And while in
countries in which a man is proud of being a servant (as every man may
well be of being a good one), and never looks to anything else, nor
desires any change, a livery may be very proper to the state of
society, and very agreeable to his own feelings, it is quite another
thing in a society constituted upon altogether different principles,
where the servant of to-day is the senator of to-morrow. Besides that,
which I suppose is too fine-spun for you, livery is a remnant of a
feudal state, of which we abolish every trace as fast as we can. That
which is represented by livery is not consonant with our principles."

How the man runs on, when he gets going this way! I said, in answer to
all this flourish, that I considered a livery very much the thing;
that European families had liveries and American families might have
liveries;--that there was an end of it, and I meant to have
one. Besides if it is a matter of family, I should like to know who
has a better right? There was Mr. Potiphar's grandfather, to be sure,
was only a skilful blacksmith and a good citizen, as Mr. P. says, who
brought up a family in the fear of the Lord.

How oddly he puts those things!

But _my_ ancestors, as you know, are a different matter. Starr
Mole, who interests himself in genealogies, and knows the family name
and crest of all the English nobility, has "climbed our family tree,"
as Staggers says, and finds that I am lineally descended from one of
those two brothers who came over in some of those old times, in some
of those old ships, and settled in some of those old places somewhere.
So you see, dear Caroline, if birth gives any one a right to coats of
arms and liveries, and all those things, I feel myself sufficiently
entitled to have them.

But I don't care anything about that. The Gnus, and Croesuses, and
Silkes, and the Settum Downes, have their coats of arms, and crests,
and liveries, and I am not going to be behind, I tell you. Mr. P.
ought to remember that a great many of these families were famous
before they came to this country; and there is a kind of interest in
having on your ring, for instance, the same crest that your ancestor
two or three centuries ago had upon her ring. One day I was quite
wrought up about the matter, and I said as much to him.

"Certainly," said he, "certainly; you are quite right. If I had Sir
Philip Sidney to my ancestor, I should wear his crest upon my ring,
and glory in my relationship, and I hope I should be a better man for
it. I wouldn't put his arms upon my carriage, however, because that
would mean nothing but ostentation. It would be merely a flourish of
trumpets to say that I was his descendant, and nobody would know that,
either, if my name chanced to be Boggs. In my library I might hang a
copy of the family escutcheon as a matter of interest and curiosity to
myself, for I'm sure I shouldn't understand it. Do you suppose
Mrs. Gnu knows what _gules argent_ are? A man may be as proud of
his family as he chooses, and, if he has noble ancestors, with good
reason. But there is no sense in parading that pride. It is an
affectation, the more foolish that it achieves nothing--no more credit
at Stewart's--no more real respect in society. Besides, Polly, who
were Mrs. Gnu's ancestors, or Mrs. Croesus's, or Mrs. Settum Downe's?
Good, quiet, honest, and humble people, who did their work, and rest
from their labors. Centuries ago, in England, some drops of blood
from 'noble' veins may have mingled with the blood of the forefathers;
or even, the founder of the family name may be historically
famous. What then? Is Mrs. Gnu's family ostentation less absurd? Do
you understand the meaning of her crest, and coats of arms, and
liveries? Do you suppose she does herself? But in forty-nine cases out
of fifty, there is nothing but a similarity of name upon which to
found all this flourish of aristocracy."

My dear old Pot is getting rather prosy, Carrie. So when he had
finished that long speech, during which I was looking at the lovely
fashion plates in Harper, I said:

"What colors do you think I'd better have?"

He looked at me with that singular expression, and went out suddenly,
as if he were afraid he might say something.

He had scarcely gone before I heard:

"My dear Mrs. Potiphar, the sight of you is refreshing as Hermon's

I colored a little; Mr. Cheese says such things so softly. But I said
good morning, and then asked him about liveries, etc.

He raised his hand to his cravat, (it was the most snowy lawn, Carrie,
and tied in a splendid bow.)

"Is not this a livery, dear Mrs. Potiphar?"

And then he went off into one of those pretty talks, in what
Mr. P. calls the "language of artificial flowers," and wound up by
quoting Scripture,--"Servants, obey your masters."

That was enough for me. So I told Mr. Cheese that as he had already
assisted me in colors once, I should be most glad to have him do so
again. What a time we had, to be sure, talking of colors, and cloths,
and gaiters, and buttons, and knee-breeches, and waistcoats, and
plush, and coats, and lace, and hatbands, and gloves, and cravats, and
cords, and tassels, and hats. Oh! it was delightful. You can't fancy
how heartily the Rev. Cream entered into the matter. He was quite
enthusiastic, and at last he said, with so much expression, "Dear
Mrs. Potiphar, why not have a _chasseur?_"

I thought it was some kind of French dish for lunch, so I said:

"I am so sorry, but we haven't any in the house."

"Oh," said he, "but you could hire one, you know."

Then I thought it must be a musical instrument--a Panharmonicon, or
something of that kind, so I said in a general way--

"I am not very, very fond of it."

"But it would be so fine to have him standing on the back of the
carriage, his plumes waving in the wind, and his lace and polished
belts flashing in the sun, as you whirled down Broadway."

Of course I knew then that he was speaking of those military gentlemen
who ride behind carriages, especially upon the Continent, as Margaret
tells me, and who in Paris are very useful to keep the savages and
wild beasts at bay in the _Champ Elysees_, for you know they are
intended as a guard.

But I knew Mr. P. would be firm about that, so I asked Mr. Cheese not
to kindle my imagination with the _Chasseur_.

We concluded finally to have only one full-sized footman, and a fat

"The corpulence is essential, dear Mrs. Potiphar," said Mr. Cheese. "I
have been much abroad; I have mingled, I trust, in good, which is to
say, Christian society: and I must say, that few things struck me more
upon my return than that the ladies who drive very handsome carriages,
with footmen, etc., in livery, should permit such thin coachmen upon
the box. I really believe that Mrs. Settum Downe's coachman doesn't
weigh more than a hundred and thirty pounds, which is ridiculous. A
lady might as well hire a footman with insufficient calves, as a
coachman who weighs less than two hundred and ten. That is the
minimum. Besides, I don't observe any wigs upon the coachmen. Now, if
a lady sets up her carriage with the family crest and fine liveries,
why, I should like to know, is the wig of the coachman omitted, and
his cocked hat also? It is a kind of shabby, half-ashamed way of doing
things--a garbled glory. The cock-hatted, knee-breeched,
paste-buckled, horse-hair-wigged coachman, one of the institutions of
the aristocracy. If we don't have him complete, we somehow make
ourselves ridiculous. If we do have him complete, why then"--

Here Mr. Cheese coughed a little, and patted his mouth with his
cambric. But what he said was very true. I _should_ like to come
out with the wig--I mean upon the coachman; it would so put down the
Settum Downes. But I'm sure old Pot wouldn't have it. He lets me do a
great deal. But there is a line which I feel he won't let me pass. I
mentioned my fears to Mr. Cheese.

"Well," he said, "Mr. Potiphar may be right. I remember an expression
of my carnal days about 'coming it too strong.' which seems to me to
be applicable just here."

After a little more talk, I determined to have red plush breeches,
with a black cord at the side--white stockings--low shoes with large
buckles--a yellow waistcoat, with large buttons--lappels to the
pockets--and a purple coat, very full and fine, bound with gold
lace--and the hat banded with a full gold rogette. Don't you think
that would look well in Hyde Park? And, darling Carrie, why shouldn't
we have in Broadway what they have in Hyde Park?

When Mr. P. came in, I told him all about it. He laughed a good deal,
and said, "What next?" So I am not sure that he would be so very hard
upon the wig. The next morning I had appointed to see the new footman,
and as Mr. P. went out he turned and said to me, "Is your footman
coming to-day?"

"Yes," I answered.

"Well," said he, "don't forget the calves. You know that everything in
the matter of livery depends upon the calves."

And he went out laughing silently to himself, with--actually,
Carrie--a tear in his eye.

But it was true, wasn't it? I remember in all the books and pictures
how much is said about the calves. In advertisements, etc., it is
stated that none but well-developed calves need apply, at least it is
so in England, and, if I have a livery, I am not going to stop
half-way. My duty was very clear. When Mr. Cheese came in, I said I
felt awkward in asking a servant about his calves,--it sounded so
queerly. But I confessed that it was necessary.

"Yes, the path of duty is not always smooth, dear Mrs. Potiphar. It is
often thickly strewn with thorns," said he, as he sank back in the
_fautteuil_, and put down his _petit verre of Marasquin_.

Just after he had gone the new footman was announced. I assure you,
although it is ridiculous, I felt quite nervous. But when he came in,
I said calmly--

"Well, James, I am glad you have come."

"Please, ma'am, my name is Henry," said he.

I was astonished at his taking me up so, and said, decidedly--"James,
the name of my footman is always James. You may call yourself what
you please, I shall always call you James."

The idea of the man's undertaking to arrange my servants' names for

Well, he showed me his references, which were very good, and I was
quite satisfied. But there was the terrible calf business that must be
attended to. I put it off a great while, but I had to begin.

"Well, James!"--and there I stopped.

"Yes, ma'am," said he.

"I wish--yes--ah!"--and I stopped again.

"Yes, ma'am," said he.

"James, I wish you had come in knee-breeches."

"Ma'am?" said he in great surprise.

"In knee-breeches, James," repeated I.

"What be they, ma'am? what for, ma'am?" said he, a little frightened,
as I thought.

"Oh! nothing, nothing; but--but--"

"Yes, ma'am," said James.

"But--but, I want to see--to see--"

"What ma'am?" said James.

"Your legs," gasped I; and the path _was_ thorny enough, Carrie,
I can tell you. I had a terrible time explaining to him what I meant,
and all about the liveries, etc. Dear me! what a pity these things are
not understood: and then we should never have this trouble about
explanations. However, I couldn't make him agree to wear the
livery. He said:

"I'll try to be a good servant, ma'am, but I cannot put on those
things and make a fool of myself. I hope you won't insist, for I am
very anxious to get a place."

Think of his dictating to me. I told him that I did not permit my
servants to impose conditions upon me (that's one of Mrs. Croesus's
sayings), that I was willing to pay him good wages and treat him well,
but that my James must wear my livery. He looked very sorry, said that
he should like the place very much,--that he was satisfied with the
wages, and was sure that he should please me, but he could not put on
those things. We were both determined, and so parted. I think we were
both sorry; for I should have to go all through the calf-business
again, and he lost a good place.

However, Caroline dear, I have my livery and my footman, and am as
good as anybody. It's very splendid when I go to Stewart's to have the
red plush and the purple, and the white calves springing down to open
the door, and to see people look, and say, "I wonder who that is?" And
everybody bows so nicely, and the clerks are so polite, and Mrs. Gnu
is melting with envy on the other side, and Mrs. Croesus goes about
saying, "Dear little woman, that Mrs. Potiphar, but so weak! Pity,
pity!" And Mrs. Settum Downe says, "Is that the Potiphar livery? Ah,
yes, Mr. Potiphar's grandfather used to shoe my grandfather's
horses!"--(as if to be useful in the world, were a disgrace,--as
Mr. P. says) and young Downe, and Boosey, and Timon Croesus come up
and stand about so gentlemanly, and say, "Well Mrs. Potiphar, are we
to have no more charming parties this season?"--and Boosey says, in
his droll way, "Let's keep the ball a-rolling!" That young man is
always ready with a witticism. Then I step out and James throws open
the door, and the young men raise their hats, and the new crowd says,
"I wonder who that is!" and the plush and purple, and calves spring up
behind, and I drive home to dinner.

Now, Carrie, dear, isn't that nice?

Well, I don't know how it is--but things are so queer. Sometimes when
I wake up in the morning, in my room, which I have had tapestried with
fluted rose silk, and lie thinking, under the lace curtains; although
I may have been at one of Mrs. Gnu's splendid parties the night
before, and am going to Mrs. Silke's to dinner, and to the opera and
Mrs. Settum Downe's in the evening, and have nothing to do all the
day but go to Stewart's, or Martelle's or Lefevre's, and shop, and pay
morning calls;--do you know, as I say, that sometimes I hear an old
familiar tune played upon a hand-organ far away in some street, and it
seems to me in that half-drowsy state under the laces, that I hear the
girls and boys singing it in the fields where we used to play. It is a
kind of dream, I suppose, but often, as I listen, I am sure that I
hear Henry's voice again that used to ring so gayly among the old
trees, and I walk with him in the sunlight to the bank by the river,
and he throws in the flower--as he really did--and says, with a laugh,
"If it goes this side of the stump I am saved; if the other, I am
lost;" and then he looks at me as if I had anything to do with it, and
the flower drifts slowly off and off, and goes the other side of the
old stump, and we walk homeward silently, until Henry laughs out, and
says, "Thank heaven, my fate is not a flower;" and I swear to love him
for ever and ever, and marry him, and live in a dingy little old room
in some of the dark and dirty streets in the city.

Then I doze again: but presently the music steals into my sleep, and I
see him as I saw him last standing in his pulpit, so calm and noble,
and drawing the strong men as well as the weak women by his earnest
persuasion; and after service he smiles upon me kindly, and says,
"This is my wife, and the wife, who looks like the Madonna in that
picture of Andrea Del Sarto's, which you liked so at the gallery,
leads us to a little house buried in roses, looking upon a broad and
lovely landscape," and Henry whispers to me as a beautiful boy bounds
into the room, "Mrs. Potiphar, I am very happy."

I doze again until Adele comes in and opens the shutters. I do not
hear the music any more; but those days I do somehow seem to hear it
all the time. Of course, Mr. P. is gone long before I wake, so he
knows nothing about all this. I generally come in at night after he is
asleep, and he is up and has his breakfast, and goes down town before
I wake in the morning. He comes home to dinner, but he is apt to be
silent; and after dinner he takes his nap in the parlor over his
newspaper, while I go up and let Adele dress my hair for the
evening. Sometimes Mr. P. groans into a clean shirt and goes with me
to the ball; but not often. When I come home, as I said, he is asleep,
so I don't see a great deal of him, except in the summer, when I am at
Saratoga or Newport; and then, not so much, after all, for he usually
only passes Sunday, and I must be a good Christian, you know, and go
to church. On the whole, we have not a very intimate acquaintance; but
I have a great respect for him. He told me the other day that he
should make at least thirty thousand dollars this year.

My darling Carrie--I am very sorry I can't write you a longer
letter. I want to consult you about wearing gold powder like the new
Empress. It would kill Mrs. Croesus if you and I should be the first
to come out in it; and don't you think the effect would be fine, when
we were dancing, to shower the gold mist around us! How it would
sparkle upon the gentlemen's black coats! ("Yes," says Mr. P., "and
how finely Gauche Boosey, and Timon Croesus, and young Downe will look
in silk tights and small clothes!") They say it's genuine gold ground
up. I have already sent for a white velvet and lace--the Empress's
bridal dress, you know. That foolish old P. asked me if I had sent for
the Emperor and the Bank of France too.

"Men ask such absurd questions," said I.

"Mrs. Potiphar, I never asked but one utterly absurd question in my
life," said he, and marched out of the house.

_Au revoir, chère Caroline_. I have a thousand things to say, but
I know you must be tired to death.

Fondly yours,


P. S.--Our little Fred. is quite down with the scarlet fever. Potiphar
says I mustn't expose myself, so I don't go into the room; but
Mrs. Jollup, the nurse, tells me through the keyhole how he is.
Mr. P. sleeps in the room next the nursery, so as not to carry the
infection to me. He looks very solemn as he walks down town. I hope it
won't spoil Fred's complexion. I should be so sorry to have him a
little fright! Poor little thing!

P. S. 2d.--Isn't it funny about the music?


Well, my new house is finished--and so am I. I hope Mrs. Potiphar is
satisfied. Everybody agrees that it is "palatial." The daily papers
have had columns of description, and I am, evidently, according to
their authority, "munificent," "tasteful," "enterprising," and

Amen! but what business have I with palatial residences? What more can
I possibly want, than a spacious, comfortable house? Do _I_ want
buhl _escritoires_? Do I want or _molu_ things? Do I know
anything about pictures and statues? In the name of heaven do I want
rose-pink bed-curtains to give my grizzly old phiz a delicate "uroral
hue," as Cream Cheese says of Mrs. P.'s complexion? Because I have made
fifty thousand this last year in Timbuctoo bonds, must I convert it
all into a house, so large that it will not hold me comfortably,--so
splendid that I might as well live in a porcelain vase, for the
trouble of taking care of it,--so prodigiously "palatial" that I have
to skulk into my private room, put on my slippers, close the door,
shut myself up with myself, and wonder why I married Mrs. Potiphar?

This house is her doing. Before I married her, I would have worn
yellow silk breeches on 'Change if she had commanded me--for love. Now
I would build her two houses twice as large as this, if she required
it--for peace. It's all over. When I came home from China I was the
desirable Mr. Potiphar, and every evening was a field-day for me, in
which I reviewed all the matrimonial forces. It is astonishing, now I
come to think of it, how skilfully Brigadier-General Mrs. Pettitoes
deployed those daughters of hers; how vigorously Mrs. Tabby led on her
forlorn hope; and how unweariedly, Murat-like, Mrs. De Famille charged
at the head of her cavalry. They deserve to be made Marshals of
France, all of them. And I am sure, that if women ought ever to
receive honorary testimonials, it is for having "married a daughter

That's a pretty phrase! The mammas marry, the misses are married.

And yet, I don't see why I say so. I fear I am getting sour. For
certainly, Polly's mother didn't marry Polly to me. I fell in love
with her, the rest followed. Old Gnu says that it's true Polly's
mother didn't marry her, but she did marry herself, to me.


"Do you really think, Paul Potiphar," said he, a few months ago, when
I was troubled about Polly's getting a livery, "that your wife was in
love with you, a dry old chip from China? Don't you hear her say
whenever any of her friends are engaged, that they 'have done very
well!' and made a 'capital match!' and have you any doubt of her
meaning? Don't you know that this is the only country in which the
word 'money' must never be named in the young female ear; and in whose
best society--not universally nor without exception, of course not;
Paul, don't be a fool--money makes marriages? When you were engaged,
'the world' said that it was a 'capital thing' for Polly. Did that
mean that you were a good, generous, intelligent, friendly, and
patient man, who would be the companion for life she ought to have?
You know, as well as I do, and as all the people who said it know,
that it meant you were worth a few hundred thousands, that you could
build a splendid house, keep horses and chariots, and live in
style. You and I are sensible men, Paul, and we take the world as we
find it; and know that if a man wants a good dinner he must pay for
it. We don't quarrel with this state of things. How can it be helped?
But we need not virtuously pretend it's something else. When my wife,
being then a gay girl, first smiled at me, and looked at me, and smelt
at the flowers I sent her in an unutterable manner, and proved to me
that she didn't love me by the efforts she made to show that she did,
why, I was foolishly smitten with her, and married her. I knew that
she did not marry me, but sundry shares in the Patagonia and Nova
Zembla Consolidation, and a few hundred house lots upon the
island. What then? I wanted her, she was willing to take me,--being
sensible enough to know that the stock and the lots had an
incumbrance. _Voila tout,_ as young Boosey says. Your wife wants
you to build a house. You'd better build it. It's the easiest
way. Make up your mind to Mrs. Potiphar, my dear Paul, and thank
heaven you've no daughters to be married off by that estimable woman."

Why does a man build a house? To live in, I suppose--to have a
home. But is a fine house a home? I mean, is a "palatial residence,"
with Mrs. Potiphar at the head of it, the "home" of which we all dream
more or less, and for which we ardently long as we grow older? A
house, I take it, is a retreat to which a man hurries from business,
and in which he is compensated by the tenderness and thoughtful regard
of a woman, and the play of his children, for the rough rubs with
men. I know it is a silly view of the case, but I'm getting old and
can't help it. Mrs. Potiphar is perfectly right when she says:

"You men are intolerable. After attending to your own affairs all day,
and being free from the fuss of housekeeping, you expect to come home
and shuffle into your slippers, and snooze over the evening paper--if
it were possible to snooze over the exciting and respectable evening
journal you take--while we are to sew, and talk with you if you are
talkative, and darn the stockings, and make tea. You come home tired,
and likely enough, surly, and gloom about like a thundercloud if
dinner isn't ready for you the instant you are ready for it, and then
sit mum and eat it; and snap at the children, and show yourselves the
selfish, ugly things you are. Am _I_ to have no fun, never go to
the opera, never go to a ball, never have a party at home? Men are
tyrants, Mr. Potiphar. They are ogres who entice us poor girls into
their castles, and then eat up our happiness and scold us while they

Well, I suppose it is so. I suppose I am an ogre and enticed Polly
into my castle. But she didn't find it large enough, and teased me to
build another. I suppose she does sit with me in the evening, and
sew, and make tea, and wait upon me. I suppose she does, but I've not
a clear idea of it. I know it's unkind of me, when I have been hard
at work all day, trying to make and secure the money that gives her
and her family everything they want, and which wearies me body and
soul, to expect her to let me stay at home, and be quiet. I know I
ought to dress and go into Gnu's house, and smirk at his wife, and
stand up in a black suit before him attired in the same way, and talk
about the same stocks that we discussed down town in the morning in
colored trowsers. That's a social duty, I suppose. And I ought to see
various slight young gentlemen whirl my wife around the room, and hear
them tell her when they stop, that it's very warm. That's another
social duty, I suppose. And I must smile when the same young gentlemen
put their elbows into my stomach, and hop on my feet in order to
extend the circle of the dance. I'm sure Mrs. P. is right. She does
very right to ask, "Have we no social duties, I should like to know?"

And when we have performed these social duties in Gnu's house, how
mean it is, how "it looks," not to build a larger house for him and
Mrs. Gnu to come and perform their social duties in. I give it up.
There's no doubt of it.

One day Polly said to me:

"Mr. Potiphar, we're getting down town."

"What do you mean, my dear?"

"Why, everybody is building above us, and there are actually shops in
the next street. Singe, the pastry-cook, has hired Mrs. Croesus's old

"I know it. Old Croesus told me so some time ago; and he said how
sorry he was to go. 'Why, Potiphar,' said he, 'I really hoped when I
built there, that I should stay, and not go out of the house, finally,
until I went into no other. I have lived there long enough to love the
place, and have some associations with it; and my family have grown up
in it, and love the old house too. It was our _home_. When any of
us said 'home' we meant not the family only, but the house in which
the family lived, where the children were all born, and where two have
died, and my old mother, too. I'm in a new house now, and have lost my
reckoning entirely. I don't know the house; I've no associations with
it. The house is new, the furniture is new, and my feelings are
new. It's a farce for me to begin again, in this way. But my wife
says it's all right, that everybody does it, and wants to know how it
can be helped; and, as I don't want to argue the matter, I look amen.'
That's the way Mr. Croesus submits to his new house, Mrs. Potiphar."

She doesn't understand it. Poor child! how should she? She, and
Mrs. Croesus, and Mrs. Gnu, and even Mrs. Settum Downe, are all as
nomadic as Bedouin Arabs. The Rev. Cream Cheese says, that he sees in
this constant migration from one house to another, a striking
resemblance to the "tents of a night," spoken of in Scripture. He
imparts this religious consolation to me when I grumble. He says, that
it prevents a too-closely clinging affection to temporary abodes. One
day, at dinner, that audacious wag, Boosey, asked him if the "many
manthuns" mentioned in the Bible, were not as true of mortal as of
immortal life. Mrs. Potiphar grew purple, and Mr. Cheese looked at
Boosey in the most serious manner over the top of his champagne-glass.
I am glad to say that Polly has properly rebuked Gauche Boosey for his
irreligion, by not asking him to her Saturday evening _matinees

There was no escape from the house, however. It must be built. It was
not only Mrs. Potiphar that persisted, but the spirit of the age and
of the country. One can't live among shops. When Pearl street comes to
Park Place, Park Place must run for its life up to Thirtieth street. I
know it can't be helped, but I protested, and I will protest. If I've
got to go, I'll have my grumble. My wife says:

"I'm ashamed of you, Potiphar. Do you pretend to be an American, and
not give way willingly to the march of improvement? You had better
talk with Mr. Cream Cheese upon the 'genius of the country.' You are
really unpatriotic, you show nothing of the enterprising spirit of
your time." "Yes," I answer. "That's pretty from you; you are
patriotic aren't you, with your liveries and illimitable expenses, and
your low bows to money, and your immense intimacy with all lords and
ladies that honor the city by visiting it. You are prodigiously
patriotic with your inane imitations of a splendor impossible to you
in the nature of things. You are the ideal American woman, aren't you,
Mrs. Potiphar?"

Then I run, for I'm afraid of myself, as much as of her. I am sick of
this universal plea of patriotism. It is used to excuse all the
follies that outrage it. I am not patriotic if I do not do this and
that, which, if done, is a ludicrous caricature of something
foreign. I am not up to the time if I persist in having my own comfort
in my own way. I try to resist the irresistible march of improvement,
if I decline to build a great house, which, when it is built, is a
puny copy of a bad model. I am very unpatriotic if I am not trying to
outspend foreign noblemen, and if I don't affect, without education,
or taste, or habit, what is only beautiful, when it is the result of
the three.

However, this is merely my grumble. I knew, the first morning
Mrs. Potiphar spoke of a new house, that I must build it. What she
said was perfectly true; we were getting down town, there was no doubt
of the growing inconvenience of our situation. It was becoming a
dusty noisy region. The congregation of the Rev. Far Niente had sold
their church and moved up town. Now doesn't it really seem as if we
were a cross between the Arabs who dwell in tents and those who live
in cities, for we are migratory in the city? A directory is a more
imperative annual necessity here than in any other civilized
region. My wife says it is a constant pleasure to her to go round and
see the new houses and the new furniture of her new friends, every
year. I saw that I must submit. But I determined to make little
occasional stands against it. So one day I said:

"Polly, do you know that the wives of all the noblemen who will be
your very dear and intimate friends and models when you go abroad,
always live in the same houses in London, and Paris, and Rome, and
Vienna? Do you know that Northumberland House is so called because it
is the hereditary town mansion of the Duke, and that the son and

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