Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

you recollect, endeavoured to do away at once with her embarrassment. What is the matter, Mademoiselle ?' said he; "why are you out of spirits ? What is there extraordinary in the accident that has happened to us? We loved one another—we love one another no longer. Constancy is not the virtue of our age. We had much better forget the past, and assume the ordinary manners of the world.--- What a pretty little dog you have got ! And thus,” says Madame de Sévigné, “ ended this belle passion."

How many modern anecdotes do I remember of the same description! It was but the other day that a lady called upon a friend whom she found in despair at the fickleness of men. Surprised at this extraordinary display of af. fliction : “Be comforted,” said the lady to her friend; "be comforted, for heaven's sake; after all, these misfortunes are soon replaced and forgotten. You remember Monsieur Che treated me in the same way; for the first week I was disconsolate, it is true --but now mon Dieu !--I have almost forgotten that he ever existed.”—“Ah! my dear," said the lady, who was in the wane of her beauty, and whom these soothing words failed to console, “there is, alas ! this great difference between us

Monsieur C— was your first lover-Monsieur R— is my last !

Love, that cordial, heart-in-heart kind of love which our English poets have sometimes so beautifully depicted, is not to be found in France. In every step of a French “amour,” you are overpowered by words, you are adored, idolized; but in all the graceful positions into which gallantry throws itself, as amidst all the phrases it pours forth, there wants that quiet and simple air, that del p, and tender, and touching, and thrilling tone which tell you beyond denial, that the heart your own yearns to is really and truly yours. The love which you find in France is the love made for society-not for solitude: it is that love which befits the dazzling salon, the satined boudoir; it is that love which mixes with intrigue, with action, with politics, and affairs ; it is that love which pleases, and never absorbs ; which builds no fairy palace of its own, but which scatters over the trodden paths of life more flowers than a severer people find there.

With this love the history of France is full. So completely is it national, that the most gallant reigns have never failed to be the most popular. The name of Henri IV. is hardly more historical than that of the fair Gabrielle; nor has it ever been stated, in diminution of the

respect still paid to this wise and beloved king, that his paramour accompanied him in the council, kissed him publicly before his court, and publicly received his caresses. No: the French saw nothing in this but that which was tout Français ; and the only point which they consider of importance is, that the belle Gabrielle was really belle. On this point, considering their monarch's mistress as their own, they are inexorable; and nothing tended so much to depopularize Louis XIV. as his matrimonial intrigue with the ugly old widow of Scarron. Nor is it in the amours of their monarchs only that the French take an interest. Where is the great man in France whose fame is not associated with that of some softer being-of some softer being, who has not indeed engrossed his existence, but who has smoothed and rounded the rough and angular passages of public and literary life?

Where is the Voltaire without his Madame de Châtelet ? and yet, what was the nature of the poet's love for the lady whose death-bed he wept over, saying—“ Ce grossier St. Lambert l'a tuée en lui faisant un enfant ?"

Where is the Mirabeau without his Sophie de Ruffay ? and yet, what was the patriot's passion for his mistress whom he sacrificed to the pay

ment of his debts, and with whose adoration he blended the nightmare reveries of a satyr's mind ?*

How many gentle episodes throw their softening colours on the sanguinary superstitions of the League-on the turbulent and factious gatherings of the Fronde-on the fierce energies and infernal horrors of the revolution ? How gracefully, in defiance of Robespierre, did the gallantry which decorated the court survive in the prison, and sigh forth its spirit on the scaffold !

I shall elsewhere have to speak of the power which women still exercise in France over public affairs. Here I shall merely observe, that though not so great as it was, it is still considerable ; nor when we speak of the influences of our own aristocracy may it be amiss to remember that influences something similar, and equally illegitimate, may exist among a people of equals, when a cause is to be found in ancient manners and national character.

* See the publication written at the same time as “ Les lettres à Sophie.”

111

VANITY.

Story of Escousse and Lebras-French Vanity not only

ridiculous-Cause of union-Do any thing with a Frenchman by saying, "Français, soyez Français !" --French passion for equality because France is “ toute marquise”--Story of a traveller sixty years ago-A fortunate prince in France easily despoticBonaparte's exemplification of the force of a national passion-His proclamation on landing from Elba—Vanity causes fine names, gave force to old corporations, gives force to modern associations-Applied to the nation vanity not ridiculous; applied to individuals ridiculous-Old men and old women gratify one another by appearing to make loveThe principle of making a fortune by spending it - The general effects of vanity.

The beautiful song to be found in the note at the bottom of the next page-was the tribute paid by M. Béranger to two youthful poets who destroyed themselves after the failure of a small piece at the Gaieté.'

66 Je t'attends à onze heures et demie," writes M. Escousse to his

« VorigeDoorgaan »