Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

magistrate—“ Now, your honour, vot does your honour say after that?" says the chimney sweeper.

In France there is not even a shocking, or humiliating idea attached to these sexual improprieties. The woman, says la Bruyère, who has only one lover, says she is not a coquette. The woman who has more than one lover says she is only a coquette. To have a lover is the natural and simple thing—nor is it necessary that you should have a violent passion to excuse the frailty. Mademoiselle de Lenclos, whose opinions have descended in all their force and simplicity to the present generation, says, “What attaches you to your lover is not always love--a conformity of ideas, of tastes, the habit of seeing him, the desire to escape yourself, la nécessité d'avoir quelque galanterie. “Gallantry”—that is the word which, in spite of all our social refinement, we have hardly yet a right understanding of. I remember in some novel of Crébillon a scene in which the lady gently repulses the addresses of a gentleman who is laying what we should call violent hands on her, by the remark, that she did not love him—“ Nay,” but says the gentleman nothing abashed, “ if you only give what I ask to love, what do you keep for friendship?” Gallantry

VOL. I.

F

Bayerische
Staatsbibliothek

MUNCHEN

is a kind of light, and affectionate, and unplatonic friendship, which just suits the amiable and frivolous nature of the French.

There is nothing of passion in it-never expect a folly! Not one lady in a hundred would quit the husband she deceives for the lover whom (soi-disant) she adores. As to the gentleman-I remember a case the other day: Madame de hating her husband rather more than it is usual to hate a husband, or liking her lover rather better than it is usual to like a lover, proposed an elopement. The lover, when able to recover from the astonishment into which he was thrown by so startling and singular a proposition-having moreover satisfied himself that his mistress was really in earnest-put on a more serious aspect than usual.

“ Your husband is, as you know, ma chère,” said he, “my best friend. I will live with you and love you as long as you like, under his roof -that is no breach of friendship; but I cannot do M. de — so cruel and unfriendly a thing as to run away with you.”* In Italy love is fierce, passionate, impregnated with the sun: in England as in Germany, love is sentimental, ideal. It is not the offspring of the heart, but

This is a fact.

of the imagination. A poet on the banks of the Rhine is irresistible---a lord on the banks of the Thames is the same. The lord indeed is a kind of poet-a hallowed and mystic being to a people who are always dreaming of lords, and scheming to be ladies. The world of fancy to British dames and damsels is the world of fashion : Almack's and Devonshire House are the “fata morgana” of the proudest and the highest—but every village has “its set,” round which is drawn a magic circle; and dear and seductive are the secret and undefinable, and frequently unattainable charms of those within the circle to those without it. You never heard in England of a clergyman's daughter seduced by a baker's son-of a baker's daughter seduced by a chimney sweeper's boy.

The gay attorney seduces the baker's daughter; the clergyman's only child runs away with the Honourable Augustus , who is heir, or younger brother to the heir, of the great house where the races are given to the neighbourhood.

When the Italian woman takes a lover, she indulges a desperate passion ; when the English woman takes a lover, it is frequently to gratify a restless longing after rank; when a French woman takes a lover, it is most commonly to get an agreeable and in

teresting companion. As Italy is the land of turbulent emotion—as England is the land of aristocratic pretension---so France is, " par excellence,” the land of conversation ; and an assiduous courtship is very frequently a series of bons-mots. It is very possibly the kind of gentle elegance which pervades these relations, that makes the French so peculiarly indulgent to them; you hear of none of the fatal effects of jealous indignation-of the husband or the lover poniarded in the dim-lit street ;* you hear of no damages and no elopements; the honour of the marriage-bed is never brought before your eyes in the clear, and comprehensive, and unmistakeable shape of £20,000. You see a very well dressed gentleman particularly civil and attentive to a very well dressed

you call of a morning, you find him sitting by her work-table; if she stay at home of an evening for the migraine,' you find him seated by her sofa ; if you meet her in the world, you find him talking with her husband;

lady. If

* These connexions, however, produce more crimes, than, judging from appearances, you would conceive. Adultery, as it will be shown, causes many of the poisonings—but it is the wife who kills her husbandnot from jealousy, but disgust-not because she loves ---but because she wants to get rid of–him.

a stranger, or a provincial says, “ Pray, what relation is Monsieur to Madame ?" He is told quietly, “ Monsieur is Madame —'s lover.” This gallantry, which is nothing more nor less than a great sociability, a great love of company and conversation, pervades every class of persons, and produces consequences, no doubt, which a love of conversation can hardly justify.

In a country where fortunes are small, marriages, though far more frequent than with us, have still their limits, and only take place between persons who can together make up a sufficient income. A vast variety of single ladies, therefore, of decent family, though without fortune, still remain, who are usually guilty of the indiscretion of a lover, even though they have no husband to deceive. Many of these cannot be called s-mp-s in our sense of things, and are honest women in their own. They take unto themselves an affection, to which they remain tolerably faithful, as long as it is understood that the liaison continues. The quiet young banker, the quiet young stockbroker, the quiet young lawyer, live until they are rich enough to marry in some connexion of this description. Sanctioned by custom, these left-handed marriages are to be found with a certain respectability appertaining

« VorigeDoorgaan »