materials. We see the change that other laws and other ideas produce, and the popular spirit which has elevated the character of the people, has civilized the hackney coaches, widened the streets, and saved two hundred per annum of the lives of his majesty's subjects. We see what new ideas and new laws have changed, but we see also how much new ideas and laws have left unaltered. The wish to outvie, the desire to please, the fondnesss for decoration, the easy transition from one passion or one pursuit to another, the amour-propre, the fickleness of the Parisian, are still as visible as they were under the Grand Monarque: while, alas! the morals of society (if I may venture to say so) even yet remind you of the saying of Montesquieu," "Que le Français ne parle jamais de sa femme, parce qu'il a peur d'en parler devant les gens qui la connaissent mieux que lui." I have said that the Parisian is almost as fickle as he was. During the old hierarchy of ranks and professions, he could be fickle in little but his pleasures. The career which conducted him to the grave was traced at his cradle, and if he were born a footman, all he could hope wasto die a butler. The life of the Parisian has changed; you may see it in the aspect of Paris itself. A new spirit,—a spirit of commerce, of gain, of business, has made the city and its citizens different from what they were: the Bourse is the monument of the epoch; even the firework and the dance have been driven from their old resort, and lo! Beaujon and Tivoli § are destroyed by a building speculation. But the same character which presided over the amusements has entered into the affairs of this volatile and light-hearted people, and among the causes of that distress so severely felt in 1830, we had to remark the careless, unreflecting, and variable disposition which induced the capitalist now to enter into a business with which he was wholly unacquainted; now to transport his capital, suddenly and without reflection, from one branch of industry to another ;-impatient of delay, uncalculating of

[ocr errors]

* "We see," says Mercier, who wrote just previous to the revolution of eighty-nine, we see at every step we take in the mud, that the people who go on foot have no share in the government."

Two hundred was the average calculation of persons run over in the streets of Paris: this species of amusement was much iu fashion during the latter days of the old regime.

S Public gardens.

consequences, and incessantly tormented by the unproductive appetite for novelty and adventure.* Du reste, Paris might still pass for a vast hotel. There are eight hundred cafés and one thousand restaurants, and here you are served on silver, amidst gilding, and painting, and glass; while the garçon who says, Que voulez-vous, Monsieur? presents a carte with upwards of two hundred articles,+ and lo! there are still cafés and estaminets, taverns and the frequenters of taverns, and it is at night, as you see these places, brilliant with light, filled with guests, surrounded by loungers, that you catch the character of Paris, such as it is, such as it was a century ago, when tempted by Law with those prints of Louisiana, in which a people, as the beau idéal of happiness, were represented indulging themselves in the sun; rich without labour, and deriving most of their pleasures from their senses. In this city there are one hundred and ninety-two S places of public amusement,—of amusement for the people, without counting the innumerable guinguettes at the barriers where the populace usually hold their Sunday revels. To those who are fond of facts, the manners of Paris may be thus described :

There are twenty thousand persons every night at the theatres; five public libraries are constantly full; and one hundred cabinets de lecture. You will find about an equal number of celebrated dancing masters, and of celebrated teachers of mathematics; ** and the municipality pays one-third more for its fêtes than it does for its religion. ++

A passion for enjoyment, a contempt for life without pleasure,

* M. Beres "Causes du Malaise, 1831."

In 1819 Paris received 801,524 hectolitres of wine, 70,819 oxen, 6,481 cows, 67,719 calves, 329,000 sheep, 64,822 pigs and wild boars, 1,267,364 kilogrammes of dry cheese, and above 479,000 pounds of bread per day, or 113,880,000 kilogrammes per year; add to this 323,610 hectolitres of potatoes. Besides which were sold chickens, ducks, game, &c. to the amount of 7,601,402 francs, butter to the amount of 7,105,531 fr. eggs, 3,676,302 fr.— See note (in Appendix, under Paris), for principal articles of consumption before the revolution of eighty-nine, and for a bill of fare at a restaurant's.

One of the devices of Law to favour the success of his scheme was to publish these prints, addressed to the passions and dispositions of the populace he seduced.

§ A calculation in 1817, since which they are much augmented.

** I have taken this from "Le Livre d'Adresses," "livre,” says Fontenelle, "qui contient le plus de vérités."

++ See account of the Préfet de la Seine.

a want of religion and morality, fill the gambling-house, the Morgue, and the Enfans trouvés. Such have been the effects. of the revolution!.... No; the revolution has had little to do with these misfortunes. Before the revolution there were forty thousand prostitutes,* there are now six thousand. Before the revolution there were fifteen licensed maisons de jeu, there are now eight. Before the revolution, observes Mercier, "all the money of the provinces passed to the capital, and all the money of the capital passed to its courtezans." Before the revolution, says Chamfort, I remember to have seen a man who quitted the ladies at the opera, because they had no more honour than the ladies of the world. It is not then to be lamented that political events have changed the manners of the Parisians so much, but that they have changed their manners so little; this is the subject for lamentation. There is a change, however, to which political events have no doubt contributed, but which, during the later years of the old government, time and the character of the French were tending to produce. The gradual fusion of the different classes, which ancient usages had kept apart, would, without the shock that blended and confused all ranks violently together, have naturally given to one set of persons many of the ideas and habits of another. You see no longer in Paris a nobility that lives upon credit, and boasts of its ruin with ostentation. The families that still inhabit the great hotels of the Faubourg St. Germain are more orderly, more economical, more moral in their habits than heretofore. But, as in a voluptuous people the habits of the lower classes mount up to the higher, so in a vain nation the habits of the higher classes descend more naturally to the lower. The manners of the old aristocracy then have had a greater effect upon the manners of the middling classes, than the manners of the middling classes have had upon those of the aristocracy. Among the nobility of the stock exchange, the office and the counter, there reigns a luxury at present, which, sometimes sighed for by such persons, was rarely seen of old. If you want a proof of this, you have the best, you have the theatres, where the antique scenery, the

* This calculation is given by Mirabeau.

On vit sur crédit . . . on publie avec ostentation qu'on est ruiné. . .— See Mercier, Tableaux de Paris.

scenery which represented the apartments of the aristocracy, and the bourgeoisie of the old regime, too costly for the first, too meagre for the last,--is obliged to be laid aside, in order to give place to new decorations, where Monsieur Magnon and * Monsieur de Montmorency, the rich notaire and the rich noble, equally display an elegant opulence unaccompanied by pomp. Wealth has lost its ancient and aristocratic splendour, but, in becoming more citizenlike in its air, it has become more complete and finished in its details. "There was greater state in my time among the rich," said an old gentleman to me the other day, "more horses, more plate, more servants,—but the table-cloth was not so fine and so clean, the rooms were not so well lighted. The bourgeoisie, however, was a different race, -they lived frugally and laid by their money, not with the idea of becoming gentlemen themselves, but with the hope and expectation that their great grandchildren might become so. People rose gradually; the son of a shopkeeper purchased a charge, his son purchased one higher, and thus by degrees the family which had begun at the shop rose to the magistracy and the Parliament." The diffusion of knowledge, the division of fortunes, have descended and spread tastes formerly more exaggerated and more confined. The few have lost a habit of extravagance, the many have gained a habit of expense. There is a smaller number of persons who squander away their fortune,-there is a smaller number of persons who save. In this, as in everything else, the striking characteristic of Paris, of Paris in 1834,-is the kind of universal likeness* that reigns throughout it. The great mass of Parisians (whether we observe their habits, their manners, or their language) are so many casts struck from the came coin. The last revolution seems to have completed the decree of Procrastes, and every one appears before us cut and stretched to the same measure.


[ocr errors]

The grand seigneur on his charger, covered with pearls and dressed in a coat that cost him the price of an election (57,000 francs), was seen no more after the early days of the reign of Louis XIV. The archbishop with his ecclesiastical pomp,the courtier with his coach and six, his splendid liveries and

See Bassompierre.

his running footmen, disappeared shortly after '89. The marshal of the empire with his fierce familiarity,-his prancing horses and his military magnificence, bade adieu to Paris in 1817. The old provincial noble, stiff in the rattling carriage. magnificently empanelled, proud of his long genealogy, his written discourse, the smile of the minister, and the praise of the Quotidienne, has vanished from the streets since 1830and lo! before you are the almost undistinguishable mass of eighty thousand national guards, and fifteen thousand electors. In this community are confounded journalists, generals, bankers, barbers, the richest capitalist and the poorest patentee,all classes are comprised in one immense middle class,—a class not, like the middle class of England, merely occupied in making money, and born of parents who have spent their lives in the same pursuit, but a middle class of all degrees and all professions, a middle class that does not stand between the gentry and the people, but between the mob and the monarch. In the streets, the walks, the theatres,—this class,-sauntering on the boulevards, — laughing loud at the Variétés- undressed at the opera-spreads every where its own easy and unceremonious air; and Paris is fashioned to its habits, as it was formerly to the habits of the spendthrift and the sober bourgeois; and the same causes that have carried more seriousness into one portion of society have carried more amusement into another. Few are poor,-few are rich; many are anxious to enjoy; and every thing is contrived to favour this combination of poverty and pleasure. There are many places where a person can live upon as little, but there is no place where a person can live so magnificently upon a little as Paris. It is not the necessaries that are cheap, but the superabundances. Monsieur Bontin, an old bachelor, whose few remaining locks are carefully adjusted, prefers enjoying his rent of sixty napoleons a year in idleness, to gaining six times as much by an occupation. You conclude immediately that M. Bontin is a man who has acquired in the world the best rules of philosophy, that he is a sample of unsophisticated tastes, and that it is precisely the same thing to him whether he dine upon a suprême de volaille at the restaurant's, or crunch a hard piece of dry bread in solitary discomfort. Here is the mistake-Monsieur Bontin dines not at Véry's, but at La Place des Petits Pères ;-this is all the

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »