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intends the business. Go even into a sword-maker's or a gun-maker's ; it is as likely as not that you will be attended to by a female, who will handle the sword and recommend the gun ; and there is a mixture of womanly gentleness and masculine decision in the little creature—so easy, so unembarrassed, so prettily dressed, and so delicately shaped-that you are at a loss to reconcile with all your preconceived notions of effrontery on the one hand and effeminacy on the other.
There is generally some trait in the domestic habits of a country which may seem at a casual glance unimportant, but which is connected more closely than you imagine with the whole social system that custom, history, and character have established.
If I wanted an illustration of this, I would take the still-prevailing custom that banishes women from the dinner-table in England as soon as a certain state of hilarity, or a certain seriousness of conversation becomes visible. A profound observer sees in this little fact alone a distinction which must affect the laws, the morality, the crimes, and the amusements of a whole population. He sees at once that the one sex is not a free participator in the plans, and the projects, and the pleasures of the other. He sees at once how this fact extends itself over our society and our statutebook, our prisons and our public houses ; and many of the differences that he finds between the French and the English--differences sometimes to the advan. tage of one people, sometimes to the advantage of the other—he is prepared to account for by the different relations that exist in France and in England between the two sexes. Let it be crime, or pleasure, conspiracy, assassination, or debauch-whatever takes place in France, be sure that the influence of woman has been felt upon it, that the passions of woman have been mingled up with it ;* for the same feelings and
* Vidocq's Memoirs abound in proofs of this.
the same energies which make us capable of great things, propel us on to bad; and if we wish to find the most innocent, I fear we must seek for them, as in Paraguay, among the weakest of mankind.
There is a remarkable female phenomenon in France, which contrasts itself with what occurs in almost every other country. In England, it is a melancholy fact, that many of the miserable creatures who at midnight parade the streets, and whose only joy is purchased for a penny at Mr. Thomson's gin-shop, have fallen, perchance, but a few months since, from situations of comfort, honesty, and respectability. In France, the woman who begins with the most disgusting occupation on the Boulevards, usually contrives, year after year, to ascend one step after another into a more creditable position.* The hope and the desire to rise never forsake her ; notwithstanding her vanity and her desire for dress, and her passion for pleasure, she husbands her unhappy earnings. There is a kind of virtue and order mingling with the extravagance and vice which form part of her profession. The aged mother, or the little sister, is never forgotten. She has not that first horror of depravity which is found among our chaster females ; but she falls not at once, nor does she ever fall lower than necessity obliges her. Without education, she contrives to pick up a certain train of thought, a finesse, and a justness of ideas--a thorough knowledge of life and of character
A great many of the furnished hotels in Paris are kept by women of this description; some of these hotels belong to them; for whenever they have money sufficient, they always invest it in property of this description.
The commonest of Madame Leroi's little apprentices has an air, and a manner, and a tone that approach her to good society; a mind of natural distinction, which elevates her at once above the artificial lessons of good breeding, and makes her, grammar and orthography excepted, just what you find the fine lady; you see that the clay of which both are made is of equal fineness, and that it is only by an accident that the one has been moulded into a marquise, the other into a milliner. There is hardly an example of a French woman, suddenly elevated, who has not taken, as it were by instinct, the manners belonging to her new situation. Madame du Barry was as remarkable for her elegance as the Duchesse de Berri. Vol. II.-E
-and, what perhaps is most surprising of all, a tact, a delicacy, and elegance of manners, which it is perfectly marvellous that she should have preserved much more that she should have collected from the wretchedness and filth which her life has been dragged through. In the lowest state of infamy and misery, she cherishes and displays feelings you would have thought incompatible with such a state; and as one has wept over the virtues and the frailties of the dear, and the beautiful, and imaginary Marie l'Escaut, so there are real heroines in Vidocq, whom our sympathy and our affection accompany to the galleys.
Such are the women of France! The laws and habits of a constitutional government will in a certain degree affect their character--will in a certain degree diminish their influence; but that character is too long confirmed, that influence is too widely spread, for the legislation which affects them on the one hand, not to be affected by them on the other; and it would take a revolution more terrible than any we have yet seen, to keep the deputy at the Chamber after six o'clock in the evening, and to bring his wife to the conviction that she was not a fit companion for him after dinner. Still, undoubtedly there has been a change, not as much in the habits of domestic, as in the habits of political life; and though the husband and the lover are still under feminine sway, the state is at all events comparatively free from female caprice. Is it on aecount of the power they possess, or because that power appears rather on the decline, that the more sturdy heroines of the day have raised the old standard of the immortal Jeanne, and with the famous device, “ Notre bannière étant au peril, il faut qu'elle soit à l'honneur,"* march to what they call the deliverance of female kind ?
I was present in the Rue Taranne at one of the weekly meetings which take place among these highspirited ladies; and I own that, as I cast my eye round the room upon the unprepossessing countenances of the feminine apostles who preached the new doctrine of masculine obedience, I could at all events perfectly conceive that there were some conditions between the sexes which they would naturally desire to see altered.
* Motto of Jeanne d'Arc.
An old gentleman, a member of the “institut," and decorated with a red riband--an old gentleman, a very kind and amiable, but debile-looking old gentleman, was raising a tremulous and affrighted voice in the vain endeavour to calm the eloquent passions of his agitated audience, who, after having commenced, in an orderly manner enough, by most timidly reading three or four cold and learned discourses, were now extemporizing a confusion of clamours and contradictions, which justified in some sort their pretensions to a seat in their national assembly.
These most independent dames could no longer, it appeared, support the idea of being presided over by any thing that approached, even as much as the unhappy old academician, to the form and propensities of a man. And the question they called upon him to propose was, his retreat from the post of honour that he occupied, in favour of some one of the sage and moderate crew who, mounted on the chairs, on the table, vociferating, threatening, applauding, reminded one of the furies of Thrace, witho giving one the least idea of the music of Orpheus. What became of that ancient gentleman--where he is--whether--his eyes torn from their sockets, his tongue from his mouth, his hair from his head, his limbs from his body--he has joined in unhappy fractions the great substance and spirit of the universe--Heaven knows! I shudder to inquire—but, on leaving him, I certainly felt far more impressed with pity for his situation than for that of the complaining ladies over whom he presided.*
* It would be unjust, however, not to acknowledge that there were many ideas just and reasonable enough in the written discourses with which the evening's proceedings commenced. The orators on this occasion were, for the most part, governesses, who, as I understand, under the pretext of addressing themselves to the subject of education, to which the room and the president are dedicated, give vent to their notions as to the pursuits and the occupations to which the society ought properly to devote themselves.
The cry of this society, however, has found an echo even in the Royal Academy of Music, where you may see the “ revolt of the women” spreading confusion amid the vast and beautiful galleries of the Alhambra. But if you really wish to find female power in that proud situation of pre-eminence in which the Parisian philosophesses” wish to place it, go to the Ambigu Comique !... there you find
LE ROYAUME DES FEMMES.
Pièce fantastique en Deux Actes. Two French travellers, carried rather farther in a balloon than they had any idea of journeying, arrive at this powerful and enlightened kingdom, in which, strange to say, the language of France, by some miracle, is spoken. Here every thing is changed which under an abominable tyranny has flourished elsewhere-and the queen, at the head of a very lady-like garde nationale, reminds her brave sisters in arms that the fate of their country, of their husbands, of their children, is in their hands, and that it is for them to protect a sex feeble and without defence. *
I will not dismiss the subject of this meeting, without mentioning one proposition made that evening by a lady, and with which I must say I heartily concur, viz. that the members of this sect should be distinguished by-as she expressed herself—"a piece of red or blue riband, or some other badge of distinction."
“ Fænum habet in cornu, hunc tu,” good reader, “caveto!"
* Nellora entre en scène; son costume est dans le même style que les autres, mais beaucoup plus riche, elle a une couronne sur la tête. Mouvement des femmes analogue à celui de nos soldats lorsqu'ils présentent les armes.
Nellora, après un salut affectueux de Rodolphe, se tournant vers les femmes. Mesdames et braves camarades, je suis contente de votre zèle, de votre bonne tenue ... le sort de la patrie, celui de vos maris et de vos enfans est entre vos mains c'est à vous de protéger un sexe faible et sans défense. Air d'Adolphe Adam. (Introduction de Casimir.)
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