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dery—the epicurean Ninon—the dear and agreeable Sévigné—the lettered and voluptuous Marion de Lorme —the virtuous Chéron—the celebrated and learned Dacier-the amiable Staal (Mademoiselle Delaunaythe unfortunate Duchâtelet—the witty Dudeffand—the graceful Deshouillières ? Such are the familiar names of a past generation. Have we not those of D’Abrantes, Gay, Girardin, Tastu, Allart, Dudevant (G. Sand), in our own?
Go to France, and you will find that even costume itself is not considered an insuperable barrier between the sexes. Certes, any good citizen of London would be strangely surprised if he found her Majesty Queen Adelaide amid the most retired recesses of Windsor Park skipping over the daisies and buttercups in a pair of breeches! and yet, so lately, when royalty in France was more essentially a spectacle, and every eye was turned on the unfortunate family again passing into exile, it struck no one with astonishment, no one with disgust, that the mother of Henry V. should appear masqueraded as one of her pages.
More is contained in a fact of this sort than we generally suppose! Besides, there are various examples (the Chevalier d'Eon is one of the most notorious) where French women have not only attired themselves as males, but actually pursued through life a masculine career. Never have the French armies been engaged in the neighbourhood of France without there being found many
of those females, of those delicate and fragile females, whom one sees in the “salons" of Paris, slain on the field of battle, to which they had been led, not so much by a violent passion for their lovers (French women do not love so violently) as by a passion for that action and adventure which they are willing to seek even in a camp.
At the battle of Jemmappes, Dumourier had for his aids-de-camp two of the most beautiful, the most delicate, and accomplished young women in society of the
• See the description of the Duchesse de Berri's dress.
time ; equally chaste and warlike, these modern Ca. millas felt a veneration for the profession of arms; they delighted in the smoke of the cannon and the sound of the trumpet. Often, a general told me, in the most desperate cries of the battle, he has heard their slender but animated voices reproaching flight and urging to the charge; “Où allez-vous, soldats? ce n'est pas là l'ennemi! En avant! suivez !”—and you might have seen their waving plumes and amazonian garb amid the thickest of the fire. In the duel of the Marquise de B
you see, in the time of Louvet, and in the romance of Faublas, the manners and the disposition, the reckless and the daring character, of the ladies of the court previous to the Revolution. It happens that a similar event actually occurred to my knowledge not many years ago. Charged with infidelity to her lover by a person who falsely boasted of her favours, a lady challenged the slanderer under an assumed
and wounded him desperately in the rencounter.
It is to this bold and restless disposition, favoured by past institutions, that you must attribute the independence which French women assert, and the power which they have enjoyed and still maintain ; aided, no doubt, by the general character of their nation, which denies many of the more stern and governing qualities of the mind to the men.
But let it not be supposed that if a French woman possess power, she holds it in carelessness or indolence that it costs her no pains to procure
possession, or to secure its continuance.
How is it possible that an English woman, such as we ordinarily find the English women of London society -how is it possible that such a woman should possess the slightest influence over a man three degrees removed from dandyism and the Guards? What are her objects of interest but the most trumpery and insignificant? What are her topics of conversation but the most ridiculous and insipid ? Not only does she lower down her mind to the level of the emptiest-pated of
the male creatures that she meets, but she actually persuades herself, and is actually persuaded, that it is charming and feminine, &c. to do so. She will talk to you about hunting and shooting, that is not unfeminine ! oh no! But politics, the higher paths of literature, the stir and action of life, in which all men worth any thing, and from whom she could borrow any real influence, are plunged, of these she knows nothing, thinks nothing ; in these she is not interested at all; and only wonders that an intellectual being can have any other ambition than to get what she calls good invitations to the stupidest, and hottest, and dullest of the stupid, hot, and dull drawing-rooms of London. There are of course reasons for all this; and I agree with a late work* in asserting one of these reasons to be the practice which all England insists upon as so innocent, so virtuous, so modest, so disinterested, viz. :bringing out,” as it is called, a young woman at sixteen, who is ushered into a vast variety of crowded rooms with this injunction : “ There, go ; hunt about, and get a good,” which means a rich,“ husband.”
This command—for miss is greatly bored with papa and mamma, and the country-house, and the country parsonis,—very readily obeyed. Away she startsdances with this man, sighs to that; and as her education has not been neglected, she ventures, perhaps, at the first onset, to give vent to a few of those ideas which her governess, or her reading, or the solitude of her early life have given birth to. Wo upon her! The rich young man who has such a fine property in --shire, and who is really so very good-looking, and
well dressed, opens his eyes, shrugs up his shoulders, turns pale, turns red, and looks very stupid and very confused, and at the first opportunity glides away, muttering to an acquaintance, “ I say, what a d-d blue that girl is.” Never mind, my good young lady! In a second season, you will be as simple and as silly as your chaperon can desire. Do but go on
* England and the English.
-a constant succession of balls and parties, and listless conversations, will soon make you all the most plotting mother can desire—and all I regret is, that when you have at last succeeded in the wearisome aim of your youth, when you have fixed the fate of some wealthy, and perhaps titled booby, a constant habit of dulness will have been generated from the stupidity that was necessary to secure him.
Of late years this misfortune has been increasing : because of late years fortune and rank have been more entirely separated from talent and education ; to such a degree indeed has it increased—that no man, after his reason has burst its leading-strings, ever now exposes himself to the insufferable ennui of general society.
In England, then, the persons who are engaged in those pursuits which give public influence, fly, as from a pestilence, what is called a life of pleasure, and which, instead of being a relaxation to a set of thinking and active human creatures, has become a business to a class of persons who have neither thought nor capability for action.
When a woman comes into the world in France, she comes into the world with no pursuit that distracts her from its general objects. Her own position is fixed. She is married, not sold, as the English people believe-not sold in any degree more than an English young lady is sold—though she has not been seen panting from party to party in quest of a buyer. *
Young women, ihen, come into society in France with a fixed position there, and are generally interested in the subjects of general interest to the world. The
* A marriage takes place in France under the following circumstances : -The friends of the two parties agree, that if the young people like one another, a very suitable connection might be formed. The young people then meet, and, if they are to each other's taste, the match takes place; and surely this is as sentimental, and as delicate as teaching a young lady every thing that can solicit a declaration of marriage, and which, you may depend upon it, she does not forget afterward, when any declaration she receives must be a decla. ration of love.
persons and the pursuits that they find most distinguished, are the persons and the pursuits that most attract their attention. Educated besides, not with the idea that they are to catch a husband, but that they are to have a husband, as a matter of course, caught for them—a husband whom they are not obliged to seduce by any forced and false expressions of affection -but to take quietly from their friends, as a friend, they occupy themselves at once with this husband's interests, with this husband's occupations, and never imagine that they are to share his confidence, but on the ground that they understand his pursuits—whoever be their lover, their husband is their companion.*
I was talking one evening with the master of the house where I had been dining, on some subject of trade and politics, which I engaged in unwillingly, in the idea that it was not very likely to interest the lady. I was soon rather astonished, I confess, to find her enter into the conversation with a knowledge of detail and a right perception of general principles which I did not expect.
“ How do you think,” said she to! me, when I afterward expressed my surprise, “ that I could meet my husband every evening at dinner, if I were not able to talk on the topics on which he has been employed in the morning ?" An English fine lady would have settled the question very differently, by affirming, as an undeniable proposition, that politics and such stuff were great bores, and that a man, to be agreeable, must talk of balls and operas, and dress.
But it is not only in high society and in good society, in the “salon” and in the “ boudoir,” that you find the female in France take an important position. It is the same in the comptoir, in the café, and at the shop. She is there also the great personage, keeps the accounts, keeps the money, regulates and super
Matrimonial morality is not high in France. I grant it. But this proceeds from a variety of causes with which the system of giving in marriage (a system which prevails all over the Continent, and in countries where the ladies are quite as faithful as our own), bas nothing in the world to do.