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SKETCHES OF SOCIETY AND MANNERS IN LONDON
From Sir Charles Darnley, to the Marquis de Vermont.
Paris. character, and wore an appropriate MY DEAR MARQUIS,
garb. A lovely Duchess held in In your last letter, you have her arms a little girl, scarcely six criticized somewhat severely the months old, who was clad in the dinner and quadrille parties of Lon- full attire of a superannuated lady don, not to speak of your com- . of the last century, with a fly cap, ments on the matrimonial specula- long ruffles, stíft stays, and green tions of our mammas and misses. spectacles. Besides an infant HerI am about to make a generous re- cules, a baby Alexander, and a pigturn by giving you an account of my Achilles, we had Presidents an an entertainment at Paris, of which mortier of the parliament of Paris, I can only speak in terms of un- who (though the eldest was not qualified praise. You have no doubt more than eight years of age,) preheard, that Bals Costumés or in other served the full appearance of a gras words balls, at which the company wity so becoming the robes of magisappear in fancy dresses, though not terial office. in masks, have been much, the fa- We had smart little Abbés, scarcely shion during the present winter in three feet high, who aped not unthe French capital.
successfully the effeminate manners Mde. de -, (who you know and pert loquacity of those once is celebrated for contriving new me- well-known members of French sothods of enlivening her house), de- ciety. We had Monks whose pil. termined that the juvenile branches lowed rotundity reminded us of the of her acquaintance should partake jolly friars of former days. We of a diversion, which appeared to had miniature dames presenteés de be so popular among their elders. l'ancien régime, with trains two She accordingly issued cards for a thirds longer than the persons of “ Bal Costumé, donné aux enfans de the wearers, high toupies, high ses amis.” This lady, who, by similar feathers, long lappets, powdered attractions, has the talent ofdrawing heads, and brilliant jewels. We into her circle the most distinguish. had also Marèchaux de France, both ed inhabitants, as well as visitors of of the old and new school ; Cardi. Paris, collected on this occasion, be- nals, Statesmen, Legislators, Finansides almost every French person ciers, Merchants, Peasants, Turks, and foreigner of renown, eighty of Jews, running footmen, flower girls, their children; and no expense had savants, et savantes, all correctly been spared, either in the dresses dressed and correctly acted, though of these youthful exhibitors, or in very few of the exhibitors had the pleasures prepared for them. reached their tenth birth day. But The whole entertainment was more the most striking feature of the novel, more gay, and more charac- . whole evening was the performance teristic than any thing of the kind of a real quadrille, (such as the which I have yet witnessed. In a large courtiers of Louis XIV. were in the and elegant saloon, brilliantly light- habit of dancing), by a party of ed and decked out on the occasion, youthful masqueraders, correctly with every possible additional orna- dressed after the best pictures of ment, accompanied by their respective parents(who were still in the full Before they made their appearenjoyment of manly vigour, or the ance, papers, of which the followbloom of female beauty) appeared ing is a literal copy, were disthe destined representatives of some tributed among the company, in of your most illustrious houses, all order to prepare them for the comof whom personated an assumed ing sight.
Mademoiselle de Montpensier.
Compositeurs de la Musique.
Lully, Rameau, etc.
While these bills were dispersing forward I could not help casting an about the room, a well-chosen band eye on the brilliant circle of specof musicians (also dressed in cha- tators which was formed round racter) strack up the tune of an an- the dancers ; and in those, who comcient march, wben, preceded by their posed it, I recognised more than one pages, the four boys, who represented immediate descendant of those illusthe four Seigneurs, made their ap: trious visitors to the Hotel de Ranpearance, accoutred in long and bouillet, whom we now saw before laced coats, black wigs, with long us as in miniature, and this circumringlets which fell down their stance added no trifling interest to shoulders; stockings with red clocks, the scene which was representing. which were tied above the knee, and When the dance, was finished the hats à Henri Ir. They moved music changed to a march, the forward from an adjoining room pages came forward and returned with becoming solemnity, each give the swords, in a submissive attitude ing his hand to his allotted partner. similar to that in which they had The young ladies who played the received them, to their respective parts of the celebrated women, al- Seigneurs ; who, after renewing their ready named, were no less appro bows to the company and their partpriately dressed. They wore gowns ners, gave the latter their hands, with long waists, powdered hair, and conducted them out of the room rouged cheeks, high heels, &c. Pro- with the same solemnity which they ceeding forward in measured time, had observed on entering it. the yoathful dancers took their I must now mention as a curious places in the centre of the saloon. instance of national character early The pages now with bended knee ap- acquired, (for certainly you are the proached their respective lords, re- first actors in the world that these ceived their swords, and then after young people on being called upon several bows retired. The Seigneurs to repeat the whole of this exhibition, began their task by making a pro, at the request of an illustrious foand reverence to the company as- stranger who came too late to see sembled, and then repeated the same the first performance, acbieved the secompliment to their partners indi- cond task required from them with vidually.
equal propriety, and without losing The inşic now changed to the air for a moment that self-possession appropriate to the quadrille, wbich and command of countenance which was admirably executed, with its had already excited so much apancient figare and ancient steps; nor plause. did the exhibitors lay aside for one I should mention, before I conminute the gravity which they had clude this imperfect sketch of a most thought it right to assume. amusing evening, that at ten o'clock While the performance was going the eighty children, who had apEvr. Mag. Jan. 1823.
peared en costume adjourned to the hint from these good women, not to eating-room where a splendid repast make themselves sick by eating too had been prepared for them. much; a piece of advice which, like
I was very much pleased with the most counsels, seemed to be bus politeness of the little Frenchmen, little attended to. who, instead of rushing forward as Among the marry circumstances so many English boys would have which threw a charm round this done, selected their favourite belles, gala, I must add that the mothers of and led them to the supper table. the juvenile exhibitors were still
Nor did they forget to put their young themselves, and contained in napkins through their button-holes, their number some of the bandin doing which they reminded me of somest women at Paris. Their my friend, the bon-vivant at Beaut- beauty, animated by viewing the vilier'sy who never begins his meal performances and inerry faces of till this ceremony is performed,
their children, was seen to great Here, however, their regard for advantage; but I must do them the good manners seemed to cease for justice to say, that I believe they no roturiers' sorrs could have eaten were all too much occupied at this more ravenously than did these chil. moment with the charms of their dren of la haute Noblesse. They were offspring to think of their own. waited on by their bonnes (or murses) Altogether, few things I have seen who wore their provincial dresses, in France have pleased me more which added another curious fea- than this little fête, for it displayed ture to the scene. I smiled at at once a union of innocence, gaity, remarking, that not a few Marshals and maternal affection. of France, Cardinals, and Presidents
Farewell. of Parliament, received a friendly
From the Marquis de Vermont to Sir Charles Darnley, Bart,
London. the aggregate number of those, which
issue from the united presses of the I fest, my dear Darnley, that rest of the civilized world; and, you will think me very ill-natured, certainly, information is no where but, having promised to give my more generally diffused, yet science opinion candidly and without dis- and letters are very rarely made guise, I must confess that I am, the subjects of conversation. The every day, more and more sur. English are the liberal patrons and prised at the contradictions which professed admirers of musical talent, I discover in the character of your and, at an immense expense, tempt countrymen. They have the repu- to their shores the most celebrated tation of being fond of retirement, performers of Italy; yet neither at yet they are for ever in public; the Opera-House, nor at public or they are said to be simple in their private concerts, is it possible to habits yet their establishments, enforce that necessary silence, withtheir equipages, their tables, their out which the charms of soft sounds plate, and their jewels, display the cannot be enjoyed. Your ladies are most ruinous contempt of pruden- said to be domestic; yet, as I have tial considerations. They boast of had occasion before to observe, they the advantages they enjoy of living waste their mornings in the lounges under a government of law and of Hyde Park or Bond Street, and Jiberty; ; yet, when' a disposition is their nights in crowded assemblies, displayed by other countries to where the youngest and most beautistruggle for similar blessings, they ful of them, after exhibitiug their support and justify their oppres- only half-veiled persons to the gaze sors. They cultivate literature more of five hundred spectators in the than all the nations of Europe, quadrille or less delicate waltz, and I believe the books published seem to feel no sense of impropriety yearly in London - greatly exceed in seating themselves with theis
partners in some distant corner of tlengen, and no less 'scandal spoken the room, far removed from the eye by the ladies. of their husbands or mothers, where, But of all your contradictions, without a blusk, they listen to all it appears to me, that the greatest the silly nonsense which passion or is that deference (I am almost disfolly whispers, and vanity and in- posed to say homage), which is paid experience so greedily derour. to rank in this country. The writers
You are strict moralists, and se- on the British Constitution boast, verely conderon our Government for and boast with reason, that all Engcheeking some of the evils of gam- lishmen are eqnal in the eyes of ing, by taking it under its direc, the law, and that though your Peers tioa; and, as vice cannot be avoided have supdry privileges, these priin a great city, for making it at vileges are less beneficial to themParis available to beneficial pur- selves than to the public; that they. poses, in applying the profits of the constituting your only real nobility, Salon and other similar establish- are not a caste or exclusive orderments to the support of our hospi- marked and separated from the rest tals and houses of relief for suffer- of the people by an insuperable baring poverty. Yet your Parliament rier : that most of them before yearly sanctions the drawing of a they became Peers were CoinmonLottery-of all kinds of gaming ers, while their children remain decidedly the most pernicious, and sach, during their life-time, and one by which the lowest orders of bave no legal superiority over the society are lared to their rain by rest of their fellow-subjects. Well, an irresistible bait. In spite, too, in spite of these assertions, whick of the pretended strictness of your are certainly founded on truth, I manners, the most abandoned women know no country in which the are allowed to throng your streets, hierarchy of rank’ is so rigidly oband to fill the lobbies and upper served. boxes of your national theatres. I should, a few years since, have
You are a religious nation, and attributed this circumstance to the particularly rigid in the rules you valae set every where on that which lay down for the observance of the is rare. But when we consider the Sabbath. ledeed, I have often heard vast number of Peers created by Englishmen complain of the little George the Third, and more partirespect paid to that day at Paris, cularly under the administration of though the amusements which you Mr. Pitt-wben we recollect the vast condemn, and which we think inno- augmentation which the Order of eent, are not suffered to commence the Bath lately received, and the till after the hour at which the countless Knights and Baronets churches are closed. Well-in spite whom the military and naval achieve of all the extreme severity ofopinion, ments of the last war have been I remark many contradictions in the occasion of decorating with tiyour manner of “ keeping holy the tles, it can no longer be said, that seventh day." Your play - houses Softy names are scarce, even in Engand shops are shut, but your eating- Jand. Indeed, I never go into comhouses of all deseriptions are thrown pany withont being jostled by nuopen. It is the day in the week merous Englishmen, bearing some chosen preferably to all others for of these courtly denominations, or country excursions; and those who decked out in one or more of those remain in town loiter away several badges of distinction, which mark hours on foot, on horseback, or in the members of a chivalrous order. carriages, while the evening service Besides these, also, there are abunis still performing, at no great dis- dance of foreign noblesse, who, in the tance from the promenade in which respect paid them here, receive the they take their exercise-and while full value of the exchange for their yoá hold it criminal to ask your continental honours. friends to card parties or balls, A propos.-When I first arrived Lords, Ministers, Judges, and Bi- in England, finding myself freshops, give dinners on Sundays; quently placed by the lady of the and at those dinners, I believe there house at the tables where I dined, is no less wine drank by the gen. I attributed this politeness to the
general urbanity of your country long before I understood the jargon men towards strangers, and was far of fashionable life. When I was from suspecting what I have since told that at a house at which I was discovered, that I owe all this distinc- about to visit, that I should find “a tion: to the title which I happen to delightful party,” I expected to bear:
meet ladies of graceful nianders or I believe you are sufficiently ac- extraordinary beauty, and men of quainted with our manners to know sense, wit, and information. Think -that a man's importance (even ac- then of my disappointment, when, in cording to the etiquette of the old going to one of these promised decourt) depends principally on the lightful parties, I found the follow-antiquity of his family, and that ing company : three or four Dowa-unembers of noble houses are indiscri- gers long past the meridian of life, minately called Marquises, Counts, and more remarkable for their conViscounts, Barons, or Chevaliers, tempt of all that is estimable in the without the difference of appellation female character, than for any of producing any in their rank. It is, those qualities which throw a charm however, to the accidental circum- round the presence of truly amiable stance of ný possessing the first of and truly agrecable women; half a these denominations that I am in- dozen Lords, who could talk of debted for the precedence so unde- nothing but their horses, their dogs, servedly bestowed.
or their amours, except when the M. le Marquis is translated into flavour of the wines, or the excelthe English Lord Marquis, and treat- lence of the sauces, claimed the aded as such. I am given every where miration of their epicurean taste; the pas after Dukes; and, indeed, ( an Earl's younger son, much taken often blush at being received in this notice of at this time, he having -manner, while, perhaps, a country- lately paid considerable damages for man of mine, over whom I have no crim. con. with the wife of his most pretension to arrogate the slightest intimate friend ; another “ Honorsuperiority, is placed at the bottom able,” who, after ruining a host of of the table, because his title of tradesmen (while he indulged in the “Chevalier" is considered only tan- most undue extravagances) had just tamount to that of a simple Knight. been discharged from the King's Nothing has surprised me more al- Bench Prison under the Insolvent 'together than observing in a coun. Debtor's Act, and a dashing Baronet
try, celebrated for the liberality of lately deprived of his countnission, its institutions, so servile an atten- for having deprived a brother officer tion to distinctions of this kind. To of a considerable sum at the gaming collect together as many great people table; and lastly, of a Comic Actor as possible seems the ambition of the from one of the Theatres, who, donor of an entertainment, while knowing the price which he was exJittle attention is paid to the moral pected to pay for his dinner, encharacter, talents, or acquirements deavoured by the grossest buffoonery of the company. I before told you to raise the drooping spirits of the how extraordinary it appeared to high-titled, but very unprincipled, me, when I was first invited to an and very tiresome personages, who English table, to see the guests composed this “ delightful party." marshalled to their places according I make a similar remark respectto the strictest etiquette of heraldic ing those motley crowds in which precedence; but, in my experience of you pass your nights, rather than your customs and usages, I find that your evenings.
When invited to the gratification of vanity, and not one of these entertainments, after the enjoyment of society, is the bu- waiting a considerable time in -siness of all such meetings; and as approaching the door of the house at Paris we try to form a circle of in which the assembly is given, friends or of persons of congenial at no, little risk to the safety of habits, so in Lonon your aim is, to my carriage, and with some to that give yourselves a borrowed import- of my person, when I at last make ance by the stars and titles of your my way into this much talked of guests. Indeed, though well ac- gala, what do I find ? A mob of quainted with your language, it was six or seven hundred persons, all