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THE CREME DE LA CREME.
devote them to the less romantic end of writing poetry. Ah! sir, it is quite gratifying to me to know, while writing these paragraphs, that they will excite in your sensitive heart high and generous emotions, suited to so touching a theme.
N a spacious salon, with all the unostentatious elegance which wealth, rank and taste can bestow, is assembled, beneath brilliant lamps, and reclining on voluptuous sofas, the cream of all the beauty and gallantry of England. Precious stones are flashing in the light; and bright eyes sparkling, and flushed cheeks glowing on every side. Here a whisper of musical voices is heard in the soft murmur of confidence; and there words of gallantry, and flattery, and gentleness, insensibly melt into sighs. Forms of chiseled gracefulness are gliding about; and when the sound of music begins to creep over the scene, swelling, and dying away like the breath of evening, light footsteps are heard just audibly to rustle, and fairy fingers floating on the waves of the mazy dance, beat softly to the pulse of melody.
The young and blushing countess is fluttering by the side of the dashing captain; and ever and anon, as her white hand touching his, a thrill of delight passes over her form. There, a boy, who would be esteemed awkward if he had not lately come to a dukedom, is blundering and swelling before a proud beauty, whose heart rebels against maternal injunctions, and spurns with contempt the clumsy attentions of her vain admirer; and by their side a graceful Prémier is moving gallantly to the voluptuous waltz of a high-born youthful duchess. Yonder is a prudent mother, whose schemes in providing her daughter with an advantageous settlement have all been frustrated, and in whose guarded countenance jealousy and chagrin are but half concealed. Here glances by the form of a young marchioness—and such a form! swelling with exultation and triumph as she bears away from her tearful rival a young and gallant fortune.
In this place is never heard the sound of loud mirth and hilarity; all is gentle and regulated; every emotion is subdued; and whatever it be, it is expressed on the countenance only by a smile. Here every one is bent upon conquest; and every avenue to the heart is guarded with unrelenting severity. I scarce need tell one so familiar with the gay world as yourself, that all this is necessary.
THE SPLENDORS AND MISHAPS OF A BALL.
BUT still, theite ser setning more ally, le around the dancing
UT still, there are scenes here occasionally, which in other assemblies
arena, a rope is drawn for the purpose of preventing encroachments upon those within, not very unlike what you may have seen in your plebeian days at a menagerie; and the "perfumed courtiers" lead their exquisite partners into the ring, as in the afore-mentioned days you may have observed the Shetland pony led in by Dandy Jack. It sometimes happens in the flush and excitement of the gallopade (for the gallopade and waltz are now the only things danced at Almack's, though Lord Byron, whose moral tastes have never been condemned for their purity, thought the waltz should be banished from virtuous society), that cases are not unfrequent, in the full tide of the dance, of the more spirited beaux dashing themselves carelessly against the rope, and by the rebound being thrown prostrate upon the floor.
This, of itself, would be but a slight misfortune; but it is often followed by others of a more serious nature. Those nearest the fallen dancer are not always able to stop themselves at once upon the polished floor, and frequently numbers of young ladies are either dragged down by their companions (for it is proverbial that a sinking man will hold fast to a trifle), or stumble over those already fallen.
Here, then, is a delightful scene for the staid gravity of the assembly: duchesses, marchionesses, captains, dukes, and premiers, all huddled together in one grand promiscuous pile of-rank and beauty. Slight screams are heard; and blushes, and smiles, and tears, are seen confusedly mingling in the faces of the scrambling unfortunates. Some hitherto slighted rival exults in the sudden shame of her tormentor; while the fallen ones retire from the ring in the deepest mortification and chagrin. The music, arrested for a moment by the confusion, now breaks forth again in voluptuous softness, and the rustle of flying feet begins again to steal upon the ear.
Such scenes as this are at times witnessed in these famous salons, where the severity of elegance has banished all ostentation of wealth. The simplicity of its entertainments excludes all idea of luxury, and almost of comfort. Of course, gaudiness is not tolerated here, for that is something which those who have no other recommendation than mere gold (a vulgar thing) can put on. But it is not the society, or the intercourse, which gives value to an admission to this circle: the very fact of admission is all that is prized, as this is a tacit award of eminence in the world of fashion. It is a sort of test to try the purity of nobility,
whether it be the unalloyed ancient metal, or only a showy compound of modern times. It separates the former from the latter by a broad and plain line of distinction. The young and the sanguine are here brought together, and matrimonial alliances are rarely formed out of the exclusive circle in which they move. Thus is an aristocracy refined and perpetuated, which has but little sympathy with the rest of the world.
IKE all establishments claiming for themselves peculiar superiority, Almack's has been many times violently assailed. It exercises, in fact, an authority really more oppressive and unjust than any the throne ever dares assume. It shuts out hundreds and thousands from the standing and consideration to which they are justly entitled in society; and so omnipotent is the tyranny of aristocratic opinion, that its seal of disapprobation once fixed upon the name of an ambitious aspirant, disgraces and obscures him in public estimation forever. Of course, all the jealousy and rancour of disappointed ambition are arrayed against it; for such as can never share in its honors are deeply stung by its contempt. So deeply have certain persons felt this galling yoke, that a combination has even been contemplated, for the purpose of breaking its power by parliamentary interference.
But do not suppose, dear sir, that this indicates any advancement of the coarse principles of Democracy among these parliamentary reformers. Oh, no! it proceeds from quite another motive than this; they wish to rend, because they cannot rule the halls of Almack's. Besides, it was soon discovered that the Imperial Parliament was itself one of the chief supporters of Almack's; and felt that any innovation upon so venerable an institution was an invasion of the time-honored prerogatives of the English aristocracy.
The power of legislation is sometimes directed to sad purposes; and although in this instance the evil is doubtless enormous, yet we can hardly suppress a smile when we hear legislators talking seriously about turning the supreme power of a mighty nation into a regulator of fashions and master of ceremonies. Destroy Almack's! The fair ladies who are so happy as to resort there have woven their charm for too many noble lords and right honorable members of the House of Commons, ever to be disturbed by "an act entitled an act to abolish the right of certain distinguished families to associate, waltz, gallopade, and tumble in the ring with whomsoever they please."
Indeed, it is an institution which addresses itself to a strong principle of the human heart-the vanity of man; and although it may make thou
AN OMNIBUS NIGHT-SCENE.
sands wretched, thousands more will hope on for its favor and the flattery it brings. It can never be abolished until Englishmen shall lose their reverence for rank, and scorn the idea that a few distinguished ladies should hold in their hands all the means of human enjoyment; until they shall learn to esteem other consequences than such as ease, titles and idleness bestow, and to honor only those who add something to the stock of human intelligence, and make the world better by their influence; OR, until a quarrel, which cannot be hushed, shall involve the whole establishment in ruin.
Woman was the last and most perfect work of God. But if she came from the hand of the Creator the sweetest, she is also capable of becoming the sourest of all beings. It happily is not often we find her in such imperfect state, and for this we should be thankful. But should the lovely divinities of Almack's enchanted halls ever have the peace of their "Board of Red Cloth" broken by a serious contention, this gorgeous temple of fashion will come down with a crash that will be a warning to the exquisites of all future generations. If Almack's ever falls, "great will be the fall thereof."
HEN I left Lord -'s, it was twelve o'clock. I hurried on through Hyde Park, and found an omnibus standing before Apsley House (the Duke of Wellington's), waiting for passengers for the East End. A thick fog hung over London, and a storm seemed to be coming on. The night was dark and gloomy. By the light of a neighboring lamp, I perceived a lady in an omnibus, who was not only unattended, but there was no other person in the carriage.
Her face, on which the lamp shone brightly, was as pale as marble; but her features were very beautiful. She was dressed as superbly as though she had just come from a ball at Almack's. There was a look of deep distress on her countenance; such a look as we never forget after it is once seen. The large blue vein on her forehead swelled out as if ready to burst. We rode on for a mile through the streets, now nearly deserted and silent, without speaking. In the presence of what appeared to me such great anguish, I could not think of words I dared to utter. In the light which shone in from the lamps as we passed along, her face wore an ashy paleness; and on that face there was an expression of such utter loneliness and desertion, of such evident sinking from rank and prostration of earthly hopes, that I needed but one glance to convince me, that she had fallen from the gay and heartless circle of fashion.
I ventured to ask if I could render her any service in a ride, at that
THE MANIAC MOTHER.
late hour. She replied, "Oh! sir, whoever you are, for God's sake don't speak to me; I only want to die; you can't help me now."
As she uttered these words, she burst into tears. We rode on in silence, broken at intervals by her sobs and sighs. We passed through Temple Bar and reached St. Paul's, where I was to get out. But I was determined to go as far as the omnibus went, if necessary, to know whether my fellow-passenger was a maniac, or what. When we came to the Bank, the coachman stopped and inquired where we would get out. Again I asked if I could render her any assistance. "Yes, sir, you can, if you have any pity. Let me get out anywhere. I care not where I go if I can only find some place to lay my head."
I assisted her in getting out of the omnibus. She fell as she stepped down, and I caught her with one arm and her-child with the other. This new-born infant was wrapped in a Cashmere shawl—its only swaddling-clothes. The mother asked me to lead her to a place where she could sit down-the omnibus drove on, and not a human being was in sight. Near by was a flight of stone steps, upon which she was scarcely seated, when she fainted away.
lamp was near us; it was past one o'clock; the rain had begun to fall heavily upon the pavements, and, save the feeble cry of the infant in my arms, and the distant rumbling of the omnibus, no sound was to be heard. I shouted for a policeman, knowing that one must not be far off, and down the street I heard his answer, followed by the heavy quick fall of his feet.
I inquired for a boarding-house. He said we must pass down two or three streets towards the Thames, to find one, and he would assist us.
"I will carry the lady," said he, "if you will spread this India-rubber cape (a garment which all policeman wear when it rains) over the child, and take care of it."
I spoke to the mother, whom I had raised from the step when she fainted, and had supported till now; and, as she partly recovered, the first words she spoke were, "Oh! where is my child-my child? · Oh! God of heaven, has he stolen my child?"
I told her the child was safe in my arms, and protected from the rain. "Oh! then give him to me." She seized the babe, and, pressing it close to her heart, asked us to leave her. I said, "We will take you to a house where you will be comfortable."
"God bless you," she answered, “if you will."