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duced a considerable change in the language of the writers, and in the conversation of the society of Paris. The latter has even lost that epigrammatic tone of speaking, that dry and peculiar inflexion of the voice formerly general, now hardly preserved by any but by M. de Talleyrand, and which, arising from the habit of uttering witticisms, will frequently by itself pass for wit : but yet in no other society does one hear the same sharp and clever hits, the same pointed and philosophic aphorisms, the same happy and elegant turns of expression that one even yet meets in the society of Paris. So much for conversation—while literature, by the power, the pomp, and ostentatious expressions that it has acquired of late years, has enriched, but not lost its ancient genius. Wit is still the talent which in every department has the most success—for instance, who is the most popular prose writer of the modern day? P. Courier. Who is the most popular poet? Béranger. Who is the most popular dramatist ? Scribe. Who is the most popular orator? Thiers.
GAIETY AND FRIVOLITV.
The Place de Vendôme during the Regency and at the time of Law.—The ca
lamities of that time darkening every thing else, did not darken the gaiety of France.-Saying of M. de Rennes.-Is gaiety happiness ?-Why the French were formerly so frivolous.-Little change in manner till the restoration.--Character of the Directory.--Aim of Bonaparte .-Warlike gaiety of the empire.-The return of the Bourbons.—The Constitutional Governnient established the first great change.— Tables of Dupin.—The French character changed, but not so much changed as he would infer.-The institutions of a country cannot change its former character, without that character operating upon existing institutions. The influence of climate and race.-The French, if they do preserve a constitution, will still be gay.-Wise legislators improve what is good rather than eradicate what is bad in the character of a people.- Montesquieu in one extreme; Bentham in the other.
An old soldier is now standing by the column of the Place de Vendôme, and the carriage of a deputy is traversing the Square-the carriage rolls along quickly, for the deputy expects to be too late for the budget. I think I could paint the place of Louis le Grand in livelier colours :-Lo! there are tents: not the tents of war—the canvass is too white and delicate -- There are tents-beneath the canopy of which you will find the cups of Venice, and the chains of Malta, and the cloths of Persia, and the silks of Ind; and the avenues between are soft to the feet, for they are spread with the richest and most moss-like carpets, and at every corner you are offered the juice of the orange or the citron; and if your pulse flag, it may be stimulated by the vintage of Champagne, and if your lip be feverish, it may be cooled by the ice of the Pyrennees; and by night and by day, the musician, and the courtezan, and the juggler forbid the festivity to repose ; and the gay seigneurs, and the gentle and graceful ladies of the riotous court of France, form part of the many-coloured group, which, reader, I would bring before you! What is the business for which these tents are pitched ? What cause bas collected this crowd of musicians, courtezans, and jugglers? And why are the great ladies, and the high dignitaries, who in days of state are to be seen in the royal chambers of the Regent, among the indolent loungers and the noisy speculators of yon unhallowed place ? Yea, speculators—for that scene, gay and brilliant as it appears to you, is the sombre and fatal spot from which bankruptcy is departing to every corner of the kingdom: it is there that, already degraded by a frantic avarice, a once chivalric people-amidst all the symbols of mirth and wealth, and flushed with the shameful passions of the Stock Exchange,* are witnessing, like the Hunchback's brother, in the Arabian story, the transformation of their gold into dry and withered leaves, which the wind, as so many signs and tokens of an avenging Providence, will soon scatter over the most fertile provinces of France. Thus was it :--but the nation had not merely to regret its gold ; --the honour, which Montesquieu calls the education of a monarchy," and which, of such a monarchy as that of the French, was the vital principle, the only moral and enduring force that honour sunk beneath the projects of Law, and the sentiment—which was the fortune of the ancient
During the infatuation of Law and towards its decline, the Stock Exchange, to use a modern term, was transferred from the Rue Quincampoix to the Place de Vendôme, which exhibited a scene similar to that I have painted.
régime-never ceased to languish after being exposed to the infection which breathed amidst the flowers and the festivities of that voluptuous and terrible bazaar.
So much for ancient France—for France during the elegant reign of tyranny and pleasure. So much for France when she was careless and gay in all times and in all places ; treating the lightest matters with an air of importance, the gravest with a passion for amusement. So much for France with her joyous dance and her dark Bastille, her bankrupt exchequer and her shameless court. Then was the moment to have known her! Then was the moment to have known her-if you wish to have known a country which, already bound to the altar, was decorated with the garlands of the victim. Then was there wit and gaiety, but neither virtue, nor character, nor greatness. The majesty of the monarchy had followed the independence of the nobility—both were gone. The martial enterprize of the league no longer mingled with the masked debauch- a cold system of licentiousness had succeeded the valiant follies of the French. Dead was the chivalry of that intoxicating time, when : the smile of beauty was the graceful incentive to rebellion ; when the conflict was sought rather to vary the amusements of society, than to change the destinies of the people; while the art of the Roman gladiator rose to its perfection, and death was studied for the purpose of dying-in an agreeable position. The reign of the Regent emasculated the character, chilled the enthusiasm, blunted the honour-but, black as were the wings of pestilence and ruin, it did not for an instant darken the gaiety of the French. Amidst all her changes, that gaiety remained the characteristic of olden France, and with that gaiety there was a frivolity, a light and friyolous air, which sat naturally on the philosopher as on the fop-which was in manners even where it was not in ideas—which was on the surface of society where it was not at the core. Never was France more gay than when our graceful and plaintive poet* wandered with his pipe by the banks of the Loire. But are gaiety and happiness terms necessarily synonymous ? ......
Madame de Sévigné gives us her conversation with a certain M. de Rennes, who did not choose to trim his beard until a
trial which affected him was decided. "I should be a great fool," said the gentleman, “ to take any pains about my head until I know whom it belongs to. The king disputes it with me; when I know whose head it is, then, indeed, if it be my head, I'll take care of it.” Now, the uncertainty which M. de Rennes felt about his head, was just that uncertainty which the French, during the days of the Bastille, felt about their understanding, and which made them neglect the cultivation of its more stern and bold and masculine characteristics. The right to exercise those higher faculties, which so far from withdrawing us from happiness are generally devoted to the study of how happiness, in its more comprehensive sense, may best he procured—the right to exercise those faculties was almost prohibited by not being defined. Much liberty of opinion was exercised, undoubtedly, by a few men in the eighteenth century, whose influence was the greater from the novelty of the task they undertook. But of these men, the most exalted passed many of his years in exile; nor let it be forgotten, that it was to the composition of a bad opera that the moralist of Geneva owed his most signal and perhaps his most gratifying success. Voltaire, the wit, the poet, the cynic, was also, as eminently, courtier, and aimed his shafts against the throne, the aristocracy, and the altar, under the shelter of royal correspondences and courtly friendships; the most popular writer of the day, because he was the least pedantic--the deep portent of his thoughts was passed by on account of the grace and gaiety with which he delivered them; and princes had the “good taste” to pardon the popular principles of a philosopher, who preached with the easy sprightliness of a page. The only grave career, during the old monarchy was—the church : and so the only men of commanding capacity who appeared at that time appeared in the uniform of Rome. But the road even to clerical honours lay through the boudoirs of the court : and the proud and stately Richelieu is said to have danced in a harlequin's costume before Anne of Austria--in the vain attempt to gain the favours of that haughty princess. “En Espagne,” said a French philosopher of the eighteenth century,* " En Espagne on demande-est-ce un
grand de la première classe? En Allemagne---peut-il entrer dans les chaptires? En France-est-il bien à la cour ? En Angleterre-Quel homme est-il ?” England was then the only country in which a man was valued for himself; because England' was the only country at that time in which a man who possessed the advantages which placed him in a publie career, could seize, command, and hold, without the aid and assistance of any one, a situation measured by his own abisities. The more lofty, and independent, and grave pursuits, were those which led to the highest honours and the greatest esteem: and this gave a lofty and independent air, a more than natural gravity to the grave and serious character of our people. The objects of ambitious men were the same in France and in England--power and distinction. Ambitious men know no other objects : but the paths which led to these objects were different—different in a manner which rendered the grave and serious people more grave and serious, and the gay and frivolous people more gay and frivolous. One ceases to be astonished at the importance which Louis XIV. gave to the arrangement of a cotillon, as one remembers that he was regulating the political career of his court—"Society," as I have said in the preceding chapter, was at that time the road to ambition," and all the gaieties and graces of society were studied, as wit more especially was studied not merely for the sake of being amiable in the world, but for the sake of rising in it.
“Ce jeune homme ira loin!” said an old marquis in the later days of Louis XIV; "ses manières sont parfaites, et il danse fort bien." This was the court-the resort of noble adventurers, avid of fortune and honours, which were only to be obtained by the smile of the sovereign-a smile which was very frequently the simple reflection of that to be solicited from the sovereign's mistress. This was the court--and the capital imitated the court, and chose their magistrates for their manners; and the provinces imitated the capital, and voted the most money to the governors who gave them the best balls.* But if one class was gay and frivolous, very frequently as the best means of obtaining power, another was equally frivolous
Madame de Sévigné,