Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

towards the inn of Mons. Dessin. 66 Nom de D..," said the Commissionnaire! as I touched his elbow, “ nom de D.., Monsieur, Je suis Français! il ne faut pas me pousser, moi ... je suis Français !"--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 Français et j'insiste sur ce 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, she said

to her grand-daughter, “ Je ne vous dis pas ma chère, de ne point avoir d'amans, je me rappelle 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 much less about fighting, tban 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 difference between the reception

you receive at your hôtel, 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 every thing 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 hôtel ! 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 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

find any

shrug of ancient 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 hostess : 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 du —ième régiment de dragons, a occupé cette même chambre”—and that there is just by an excellent ‘restaurateur,' and aʻcabinet 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 à 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 gentle

man, 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 conduct 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 Place—with 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

« VorigeDoorgaan »