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It is rare now a days, I acknowledge, to meet with a Frenchman with the air which Lawrence Sterne was so enchanted with during the first month, and so wearied with at the expiration of the first year, which he spent in France, That look and gesture of the petit marquis, that sort of studied elegance, which, at first affected by the court, became, at last, natural to the nation, exist no longer, except among two or three grands seigneurs in the Faubourg St. Germain, and as many beggars usually to be found on the Boulevards. To ask with grace, to beg with as little self-humility as possible: here perchance is the fundamental idea which led, in the two extremes of society, to the same results : but things vicious in their origin are sometimes agreeable in their practice.
Hail, ye small sweet courtesies of life, far smoother do ye make the road of it-like grace and beauty which beget inclination at first sight, 'tis ye who open the door and let the stranger in.” I had the Sentimental Journey in my hand-it was open just at this passage, when I landed not very long ago on the quay of that town which Horace Walpole tells us caused him more astonishment than any other he had met with in his travels. I mean Calais. “Hail, ye small sweet courtesies of life," was I still muttering to myself as gently pushing by a spruce little man, who had already scratched my nose, and nearly poked, out my eyes, with cards of “ Hôtel .." I attempted to pass on towards the inn of Mons. Dessin. “Nom de Dieu," said the Commissionaire ! as I touched his elbow, . “ nom de Dieu, Monsieur, je suis Français, il ne faut pas me pousser, moi je suis Francais," -and this he said, contracting his brow, and touching a moustache that only wanted years and black wax to make it truly formidable: I thought that he was going to offer me his own card instead of Mr. Meurice's. This indeed would have been little more than what happened to a friend of mine not long ago. He was going last year from Dieppe to Paris. He slept at Rouen, and on quitting the house the following morning, found fault with some articles in the bill presented to him. “ Surely there is some mistake here,” said he, pointing to the account. “ Mistake, sir," said the aubergiste, adjusting his shoulders with the important air of a man who was going to burthen them with a quarrel* mistake, sir, what do you mean,-a mistake-do you think
I charge a sou more than is just ? Do you mean to say that ? Je suis officier, monsieur, officier Francais, et j'insiste pour que vous me rendiez raison !” Now, it is undoubtedly very unpleasant to an Englishman, who has the same idea of a duel that a certain French marquise had of a lover, when, on her death-bed, sbe said to her grand-daughter, “ Je ne vous dis pas, ma chère, de ne point avoir d'amans, je me rappelle de ma jeunesse. Il faut seulement n'en prendre jamais qui soient au dessous de votre état.” It is doubtless very unpleasant to an Englishman, who cares very little about fighting, but a great deal about the person he fights with, to have his host present him a bill in one hand, and a pistol in the other. In one of the islands, which we ought to discover, whenever the king sneezes all his courtiers are expected to sneeze also : the country of course imitates the court, and the empire is at once affected with a general cold. Sneezing here, then, becomes an art and an accomplishment. One person prizes himself on sneezing more gracefully than another, and, by a matter of general consent, all nations who have not an harmonious manner of vibrating their nostrils are justly condemned as savages and barbarians. There is no doubt that the people of this island are right; and there is no doubt that we are right in considering every people with different usages from ourselves, of very uncivilized and uncomfortable behaviour. We then decidedly are the people who ought justly to be deemed the most polite.
For instance-you arrive at Paris : how striking the dif" ference between the reception you receive at your hotel, and that you would find in London! In London, arrive in your carriage! (that I grant is necessary)—the landlord meets you at the door, surrounded by his anxious attendants: he bows profoundly when you alight,-calls loudly for everything you want, and seems shocked at the idea of your waiting an instant for the merest trifle you can possibly imagine that you desire. Now try your Paris hotel ! you enter the court-yard--the proprietor, if he happen to be there, receives you with careless indifference, and either accompanies you saunteringly himself, or orders some one to accompany you to the apartment, which, on first seeing you, he determined you should have, It is useless to expect another. If you find any fault with
this apartment, if you express any wish that it had this little thing, that it had not that, do not for one moment imagine that your host is likely to say with an eager air that he will see what can be done—that he would do a great deal to please so respectable a gentleman.” In short, do not suppose him for one moment likely to pour forth any of those little civilities with which the lips of your English innkeeper would overflow. On the contrary; be prepared for his lifting up his eyes, and shrugging up his shoulders (the shrug is not the courtier-like shrug of antique days), and telling you that the apartment is as you see it, that it is for Monsieur to make up his mind whether he take it or not.” The whole is the affair of the guest, and remains a matter of perfect indifference to the host. Your landlady, it is true, is not quite so haughty on these occasions. But you are indebted for her smile rather to the coquetry of the beauty, than to the civility of the bostess: she will tell you, adjusting her head-dress in the mirror standing upon the chimney-piece in the little salon she recommends—" que Monsieur s'y trouvera fort bien, qu'un milord Anglais, qu'un prince Russe, ou qu'un colonel de --ieme régiment de dragons, a occupé cette même chambre”—and that there is just by, an excellent restaurateur, and a cabinet de lecture—and then-her head-dress being quite in order—the lady expanding her arms with a gentle smile, says—“Mais après tout, c'est à Monsieur de se décider.” It is this which makes your French gentleman so loud in praise of English politeness. One was expatiating to me the other day on the admirable manners of the English.
“I went,” said he, “ to the Duke of Devonshire's, dans mon pauvre fiacre: never shall I forget the respect with which a stately gentleman, gorgeously apparelled, opened the creaking door, let down the steps, and-courtesy of very courtesies! -picked, actually picked, the dirty straws of the ignominious vehicle that I descended from, off my shoes and stockings.” This occurred to the French gentleman at the Duke of Devonshire's. But let your English gentleman visit a French grand seigneur! He enters the anti-chamber from the grand escalier. The servants are at a game of dominos, from which his entrance hardly disturbs them, and fortunate is he if any one conducts him with a careless lazy air to the salon. So, if you go to Boivin's, or if you go to Howel's and James's, with what politeness, with what celerity, with what respect your orders are received, at the great man's of Waterloo Placewith what an easy nonchalance you are treated in the Rue de la Paix! All this is quite true; but there are things more shocking than all this. I know a gentleman, who called the other day on a French lady of his acquaintance, who was under the hands of her coiffeur. The artist of the hair was there, armed cap-à-pie, in all the glories of national-guardism, brandishing his comb with the grace and the dexterity with which he would have wielded a sword, and recounting, during the operation of the toilette—now a story of Monsieur son Capitaine—now an anecdote, equally interesting, of Monsieur son Colonel-now a tale of Monsieur son Roi,“ that excellent man, on whom he was going to mount guard that very evening." My unhappy friend's face still bore the most awful aspect of dismay, as he told his story. “By G-d, there's a country for you!" said he ; “ can property be safe for a moment in such a country? There can be no religion, no morality, with such manners—I shall order post-horses immediately.”
I did not wonder at my friend—at his horror for so fearful a familiarity;—what are our parents always, and no doubt wisely, repeating to us !-- You should learn, my dear, to keep a certain kind of persons at their proper distance.""
In no circumstance are we to forget this important lesson. If the clouds hurled their thunders upon our heads, if the world tumbled topsy turvy about our ears,
“Si fractus illabitur orbis,"
it is to find the well-bred Englishman as it would have found the just Roman--and, above all things, it is not to derange the imperturbable disdain with which he is enfeoffed to his inferiors.-Lady D. was going to Scotland : a violent storm arose. Her ladyship was calmly dressing her hair, when the steward knocked at the cabin door. “My lady,” said the man, “I think it right to tell you there is every chance of our being drowned.” “Do not talk to me, you impertinent fellow, about drowning,” said her aristocratical ladyship, perfectly unmoved _" that's the captain's business, and not mine."
Our great idea of civility, is, that the person who is poor should be exceedingly civil to the person who is wealthy : and this is the difference between the neighbouring nations. Your Frenchman admits no one to be quite his equal-your Englishman worships every one richer than himself as undeniably bis superior. Judge us from our servants and our shopkeepers, it is true we are the politest people in the world. The servants, who are paid well, and the shopkeepers, who sell high, scrape, and cringe, and smile. There is no country where those who have wealth are treated so politely by those to whom it goes ; but at the same time there is no country where those who are well off live on such cold, and suspicious, and ill-natured, and uncivil terms among themselves.
The rich man who travels in France murmurs at every inn and at every shop; not only is he treated no better for being a rich man-he is treated worse in many places, from the idea, that because he is rich he is likely to give himself airs. But, if the lower classes are more rude to the higher classes than with us, the higher classes in France are far less rude to one another. The dandy who did not look at an old acquaintance, or who looked impertinently at a stranger, would have his nose pulled, and his body run through with a small sword-or damaged by a pistol bullet-before the evening were well over. Where every man wishes to be higher than he is, there you find people insolent to their fellows, and exacting obsequiousness from their inferiors-where men will allow no one to be superior to themselves, there you see them neither civil to those above them, nor impertinent to those beneath them, nor yet very courteous to those in the same station. The manners, checquered in one country by softness and insolence, are not sufficiently courteous and gentle in the other. Time was in France (it existed in England to a later date), when politeness was thought to consist in placing every one at his ease. A quiet sense of their own dignity rendered persons insensible to the fear of its being momentarily forgotten. Upon these days rested the shadow of a by-gone chivalry, which accounted conrtesy as one of the virtues. The civility of that epoch, as contrasted with the civility of ours, was not the civility of the domestic or the tradesman, meant to pamper the pride of their employer, but the civility of the noble and the gentleman, meant