Thus is the feudal staff wholly transformed, from the lowest to the highest grades. Taking in at one glance its 30 or 40,000 palaces, mansions, manors and abbeys, what a brilliant and engaging scene France presents! She is one vast drawing-room, and I detect only drawing room company. Everywhere the rude chieftains once possessing authority have become the masters of households administering favors. Their society is that in which, before fully admiring a great general, the question is asked, "is he amiable?" Undoubtedly they still wear swords, and are brave through pride and tradition, and they know how to die, especially in duels and according to form. But worldly traits have hidden the ancient military groundwork; at the end of the eighteenth century their genius is to be wellbred and their employment consists in entertaining or in being entertained.
[Footnote 2101: "Memoires de Laporte" (1632). "M. d'Epernon came to Bordeaux, where he found His Eminence very ill. He visited him regularly every morning, having two hundred guards to accompany him to the door of his chamber."—"Memoires de Retz." "We came to the audience, M. de Beaufort and myself; with a corps of nobles which might number three hundred gentlemen; MM. the princes had with them nearly a thousand gentlemen."—All the memoirs of the time show on every page that these escorts were necessary to make or repel sudden attacks.]
[Footnote 2102: Mercier, "Tableau de Paris." IX. 3.]
[Footnote 2103: Leroi, "Histoire de Versailles," Il. 21. (70,000 fixed population and 10,000 floating population according to the registers of the mayoralty.)]
[Footnote 2104: Warroquier, "Etat de la France" (1789). The list of persons presented at court between 1779 and 1789, contains 463 men and 414 women. Vol. II. p. 515.]
[Footnote 2105: People were run over almost every day in Paris by the fashionable vehicles, it being the habit of the great to ride very fast.]
[Footnote 2106: 153,222,827 livres, 10 sous, 3 deniers. ( "Souvenirs d'un page de la cour de Louis XVI.," by the Count d'Hezecques, p. 142.)—In 1690, before the chapel and the theater were constructed, it had already cost 100,000,000, (St. Simon, XII. 514. Memoirs of Marinier, clerk of the king's buildings.)]
[Footnote 2107: Museum of Engravings, National Library. "Histoire de France par estampes," passim, and particularly the plans and views of Versailles, by Aveline; also, "the drawing of a collation given by M. le Prince in the Labyrinth of Chantilly," Aug. 29, 1687.]
[Footnote 2108: Memoirs, I. 221. He was presented at court February 19, 1787.]
[Footnote 2109: For these details cf. Warroquier, vol. I. passim.—Archives imperiales, O1, 710 bis, the king's household, expenditure of 1771.—D'Argenson, February 25, 1752.—In 1772 three millions are expended on the installation of the Count d'Artois. A suite of rooms for Mme. Adelaide cost 800,000 livres.]
[Footnote 2110: Marie Antoinette, "Correspondance secrete," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, III.192. Letter of Mercy, January 25, 1779.—Warroquier, in 1789, mentions only fifteen places in the house-hold of Madame Royale. This, along with other indications, shows the inadequacy of official statements.]
[Footnote 2111: The number ascertainable after the reductions of 1775 and 1776, and before those of 1787. See Warroquier, vol. I.—Necker, "Administration des Finances," II. 119.]
[Footnote 2112: "La Maison du Roi en 1786," colored engravings in the Museum of Engravings.]
[Footnote 2113: Archives nationales, O1, 738. Report by M. Tessier (1780), on the large and small stables. The queen's stables comprise 75 vehicles and 330 horses. These are the veritable figures taken from secret manuscript reports, showing the inadequacy of official statements. The Versailles Almanach of 1775, for instance, states that there were only 335 men in the stables while we see that in reality the number was four or five times as many.—"Previous to all the reforms, says a witness, I believe that the number of the king's horses amounted to 3,000." (D'Hezecques, "Souvenirs d'un page de Louis XVI.," p. 121.]
[Footnote 2114: La Maison du Roi justifiee par un soldat citoyen," (1786) according to Statements published by the government.—"La future maison du roi" (1790). "The two stables cost in 1786, the larger one 4,207,606 livres, and the smaller 3,509,402 livres, a total of 7,717,058 livres, of which 486,546 were for the purchase of horses.]
[Footnote 2115: On my arrival at Versailles (1786), there were 150 pages, not including those of the princes of the blood who lived at Paris. A page's coat cost 1,500 livres, (crimson velvet embroidered with gold on all the seams, and a hat with feather and Spanish point lace.)" D'Hezecques, ibid., 112.]
[Footnote 2116: Archives nationales, O1, 778. Memorandum on the hunting-train between 1760 and 1792 and especially the report of 1786.]
[Footnote 2117: Mercier, "Tableau de Paris," vol. I. p. 11; vol. V. p. 62.—D'Hezecques, ibid. 253.—"Journal de Louis XVI," published by Nicolardot, passim.]
[Footnote 2118: Warroquier, vol. I. passim. Household of the Queen: for the chapel 22 persons, the faculty 6. That of Monsieur, the chapel 22, the faculty 21. That of Madame, the chapel 20, the faculty 9. That of the Comte d'Artois, the chapel 20, the faculty 28. That of the Comtesse d'Artois, the chapel 19, the faculty 17. That of the Duc d'Orleans, the chapel 6, the faculty 19.]
[Footnote 2119: Archives national, O1, Report by M. Mesnard de Choisy, (March, 1780).—They cause a reform (August 17, 1780).—"La Maison du roi justifiee" (1789), p. 24. In 1788 the expenses of the table are reduced to 2,870,999 livres, of which 600,000 livres are appropriated to Mesdames for their table.]
[Footnote 2120: D'Hezecques, ibid.. 212. Under Louis XVI. there were two chair-carriers to the king, who came every morning, in velvet coats and with swords by their sides, to inspect and empty the object of their functions; this post was worth to each one 20,000 livres per annum.]
[Footnote 2121: In 1787, Louis XVI. either demolishes or orders to be sold, Madrid, la Muette and Choisy; his acquisitions, however, Saint-Cloud, Ile-Adam and Rambouillet, greatly surpassing his reforms.]
[Footnote 2122: Necker; "Compte-rendu," II. 452.—Archives nationales, 01, 738. p.62 and 64, O1 2805, O1 736.—"La Maison du roi Justifiee" (1789). Constructions in 1775, 3,924,400, in 1786, 4,000,000, in 1788, 3,077,000 livres.—Furniture in 1788, 1,700,000 livres.]
[Footnote 2123: Here are some of the casual expenses. (Archives nationales, O1, 2805). On the birth of the Duc de Bourgogne in 1751, 604,477 livres. For the Dauphin's marriage in 1770, 1,267,770 livres. For the marriage of the Comte d'Artois in 1773, 2,016,221 livres. For the coronation in 1775, 835,862 livre,. For plays, concerts and balls in 1778, 481,744 livres, and in 1779, 382,986 livres.]
[Footnote 2124: Warroquier, vol. I. ibid.,—"Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy. Letter of Mercy, Sept. 16, 1773. "The multitude of people of various occupations following the king on his travels resembles the progress of an army."]
[Footnote 2125: The civil households of the king, queen, and Mme. Elisabeth, of Mesdames, and Mme. Royale, 25,700,000.—To the king's brothers and sisters-in-law, 8,040,000.—The king's military household, 7,681,000, (Necker, "Compte-rendu," II. 119). From 1774 to 1788 the expenditure on the households of the king and his family varies from 32 to 36 millions, not including the military household, ("La Maison du roi justiftiee"). In 1789 the households of the king, queen, Dauphin, royal children and of Mesdames, cost 25 millions.—Those of Monsieur and Madame, 3,656,000; those of the Count and Countess d'Artois, 3,656,000; those of the Dukes de Berri and d'Angouleme, 700,000; salaries continued to persons formerly in the princes' service, 228,000. The total is 33,240,000.—To this must be added the king's military household and two millions in the princes' appanages. (A general account of fixed incomes and expenditure on the first of May, 1789, rendered by the minister of finances to the committee on finances of the National Assembly.)]
[Footnote 2126: Warroquier, ibid,(1789) vol. I., passim.]
[Footnote 2127: An expression of the Comte d'Artois on introducing the officers of his household to his wife.]
[Footnote 2128: The number of light-horsemen and of gendarmes was reduced in 1775 and in 1776; both bodies were suppressed in 1787.]
[Footnote 2129: The President of the 5th French Republic founded by General de Gaulle is even today the source of numerous appointments of great importance. (SR.)]
[Footnote 2130: Saint-Simon, "Memoires," XVI. 456. This need of being always surrounded continues up to the last moment; in 1791, the queen exclaimed bitterly, speaking of the nobility, "when any proceeding of ours displeases them they are sulky; no one comes to my table; the king retires alone; we have to suffer for our misfortunes." (Mme. Campan, II. 177.)]
[Footnote 2131: Duc de Levis, "Souvenirs et Portraits," 29.—Mme. de Maintenon, "Correspondance."]
[Footnote 2132: M. de V—who was promised a king's lieutenancy or command, yields it to one of Mme. de Pompadour's proteges, obtaining in lieu of it the part of the exempt in "Tartuffe," played by the seigniors before the king in the small cabinet. (Mme. de Hausset, 168). "M. de V,—thanked Madame as if she had made him a duke."]
[Footnote 2133: "Paris, Versailles et les provinces au dix-huitieme siecle," II. 160, 168.—Mercier, "Tableau de Paris," IV. 150.—De Segur, "Memoires," I. 16.]
[Footnote 2134: "Marie Antoinette," by D'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 27, 255, 281. "—Gustave III." by Geffroy, November, 1786, bulletin of Mme. de Stael.—D'Hezecques, ibid.. 231.—Archives nationales, 01, 736, a letter by M. Amelot, September 23, 1780.—De Luynes, XV. 260, 367; XVI. 163 ladies, of which 42 are in service, appear and courtesy to the king. 160 men and more than 100 ladies pay their respects to the Dauphin and Dauphine.]
[Footnote 2135: Cochin. Engravings of a masked ball, of a dress ball, of the king and queen at play, of the interior of the theater (1745). Customes of Moreau (1777). Mme. de Genlis, "Dictionaire des etiquettes," the article parure.]
[Footnote 2136: "The difference between the tone and language of the court and the town was about as perceptible as that between Paris and the provinces." (De Tilly, "Memoires," I. 153.)]
[Footnote 2137: The following is an example of the compulsory inactivity of the nobles—a dinner of Queen Marie Leczinska at Fontainebleau: "I was introduced into a superb hall where I found about a dozen courtiers promenading about and a table set for as many persons, which was nevertheless prepared for but one person. . . . The queen sat own while the twelve courtiers took their positions in a semi-circle ten steps from the table; I stood alongside of them imitating their deferential silence. Her Majesty began to eat very fast, keeping her eyes fixed on the plate. Finding one of the dishes to her taste she returned to it, and then, running her eye around the circle, she said "Monsieur de Lowenthal?"—On hearing this name a fine-looking man advanced, bowing, and replied, "Madame?"—"I find that this ragout is fricasse chicken."—"I believe it is' Madame."—On making this answer, in the gravest manner, the marshal, retiring backwards, resumed his position, while the queen finished her dinner, never uttering another word and going back to her room the same way as she came." (Memoirs of Casanova.)]
[Footnote 2138: "Under Louis XVI, who arose at seven or eight o'clock, the lever took place at half-past eleven unless hunting or ceremonies required it earlier." There is the same ceremonial at eleven, again in the evening on retiring, and also during the day, when he changes his boots. (D'Hezecque, 161.)]
[Footnote 2139: Warroquier, I. 94. Compare corresponding detail under Louis XVI in Saint-Simon XIII. 88.]
[Footnote 2140: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 217.]
[Footnote 2141: In all changes of the coat the left arm of the king is appropriated by the wardrobe and the right arm to the "chambre."]
[Footnote 2142: The queen breakfasts in bed, and "there are ten or twelve persons present at this first reception or entree. . . " The grand receptions taking place at the dressing hour. "This reception comprises the princes of the blood, the captains of the guards and most of the grand-officers." The same ceremony occurs with the chemise as with the king's shirt. One winter day Mme. Campan offers the chemise to the queen, when a lady of honor enters, removes her gloves and takes the chemise in her hands. A movement at the door and the Duchess of Orleans comes in, takes off her gloves, and receives the chemise. Another movement and it is the Comtesse d'Artois whose privilege it is to hand the chemise. Meanwhile the queen sits there shivering with her arms crossed on her breast and muttering, "It is dreadful, what importunity!" (Mme. Campan, II. 217; III. 309-316).]
[Footnote 2143: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 223 (August 15, 1774).]
[Footnote 2144: Count D'Hezecques, ibid., p. 7.]
[Footnote 2145: Duc de Lauzun, "Memoires," 51.—Mme. de Genlis, "Memoires," ch. XII.: "Our husbands, regularly on that day (Saturday) slept at Versailles, to hunt the next day with the king."]
[Footnote 2146: The State dinner takes place every Sunday.—La nef is a piece of plate at the center of the table containing between scented cushions, the napkins used by the king.—The essai is the tasting of each dish by the gentlemen servants and officers of the table before the king partakes of it. And the same with the beverages.—It requires four persons to serve the king with a glass of wine and water.]
[Footnote 2147: When the ladies of the king's court, and especially the princesses, pass before the king's bed they have to make an obeisance; the palace officials salute the nef on passing that.—A priest or sacristan does the same thing on passing before the altar.]
[Footnote 2148: De Luynes, IX, 75,79, 105. (August, 1748, October 1748).]
[Footnote 2149: The king is at Marly, and here is a list of the excursions he is to make before going to Compiegne. (De Luynes, XIV, 163, May, 1755) "Sunday, June 1st, to Choisy until Monday evening.—Tuesday, the 3rd to Trianon, until Wednesday.—Thursday, the 5th, return to Trianon where he will remain until after supper on Saturday.—Monday, the 9th, to Crecy, until Friday, 13th.—Return to Crecy the 16th, until the 21st.—St. July 1st to la Muette, the 2nd, to Compiegne."]
[Footnote 2150: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, I. 19 (July 12, 1770). I. 265 (January 23, 1771). I. III. (October 18, 1770).]
[Footnote 2151: Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II, 270 (October 18, 1774). II, 395 (November 15, 1775). II, 295 (February 20, 1775). III, 25 (February 11, 1777). III, 119 (October 17, 1777). III, 409 (March 18, 1780).]
[Footnote 2152: Mme. Campan, I. 147.]
[Footnote 2153: Nicolardot, "Journal de Louis XVI," 129.]
[Footnote 2154: D'Hezecques ibid. 253.—Arthur Young, I. 215.]
[Footnote 2155: List of pensions paid to members of the royal family in 1771. Duc d'Orleans, 150,000. Prince de Conde, 100,000. Comte de Clermont, 70,000. Duc de Bourbon, 60,000. Prince de Conti, 60,000. Comte de la Marche, 60,000. Dowager-Countess de Conti, 50,000. Duc de Penthievre, 50,000. Princess de Lamballe, 50,000. Duchess de Bourbon, 50,000. (Archives Nationales. O1. 710, bis).]
[Footnote 2156: Beugnot, I. 77. Mme. de Genlis, "Memoires," ch. XVII. De Goncourt, "La Femme au dix-huitieme siecle," 52.—Champfort, "Caracteres et Anecdotes."]
[Footnote 2157: De Luynes, XVI. 57 (May, 1757). In the army of Westphalia the Count d'Estrees, commander-in-chief; had twenty-seven secretaries, and Grimm was the twenty-eighth.—When the Duc de Richelieu set out for his government of Guyenne he was obliged to have relays of a hundred horses along the entire road.]
[Footnote 2158: De Luynes, XVI. 186 (October, 1757).]
[Footnote 2159: De Goncourt, ibid., 73, 75.]
[Footnote 2160: Mme. d'Epinay, "Memoires." Ed. Boiteau, I. 306 (1751).]
[Footnote 2161: St. Simon, XII. 457, and Dangeau, VI. 408. The Marshal de Boufflers at the camp of Compiegne (September, 1698) had every night and morning two tables for twenty and twenty-five persons, besides extra tables; 72 cooks, 340 domestics, 400 dozens of napkins, 80 dozens of silver plates, 6 dozens of porcelain plates. Fourteen relays of horses brought fruits and liquors daily from Paris; every day an express brought fish, poultry and game from Ghent, Brussels, Dunkirk, Dieppe and Calais. Fifty dozens bottles of wine were drunk on ordinary days and eighty dozens during the visits of the king and the princes.]
[Footnote 2162: De Luynes, XIV. 149.]
[Footnote 2163: Abbe Georgel, "Memoires," 216.]
[Footnote 2164: Sainte-Beuve, "Causeries du lundi," VIII. 63, the texts of two witnesses, MM. de Genlis and Roland.]
[Footnote 2165: De Luynes, XV. 455, and XVI. 219 (1757). "The Marshal de Belle-Isle contracted an indebtedness amounting to 1,200,000 livres, one-quarter of it for building great piles of houses for his own pleasure and the rest in the king's service. The king, to indemnify him, gives him 400,000 livres on the salt revenue, and 80,000 livres income on the company privileged to refine the precious metals."]
[Footnote 2166: Report of fixed incomes and expenditures, May 1st, 1789, p. 633.—These figures, it must be noted, must be doubled to have their actual equivalent.]
[Footnote 2167: Mme. de Genlis, "Dict. des Etiquettes," I. 349.]
[Footnote 2168: Barbier, "Journal," III, 211 (December, 1750).]
[Footnote 2169: Aubertin, "L'Esprit public au dix-huitieme siecle," 255.]
[Footnote 2170: Mme. de Genlis, "Adele et Theodore." III. 54.]
[Footnote 2171: Duc de Levis, 68. The same thing is found, previous to the late reform, in the English army.—Cf. Voltaire, "Entretiens entre A, B, C," 15th entretien. "A regiment is not the reward for services but rather for the sum which the parents of a young man advance in order that he may go to the provinces for three months in the year and keep open house."]
[Footnote 2172: Beugnot, I. 79.]
[Footnote 2173: Merlin de Thionville, "Vie et correspondances." Account of his visit to the chartreuse of Val St. Pierre in Thierarche.]
[Footnote 2174: Mme. de Genlis, "Memoires," ch. 7.]
[Footnote 2175: Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 15.]
[Footnote 2176: Mme. de Genlis, 26, ch. I. Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 62.]
[Footnote 2177: De Lauzun, "Memoires," 257.]
[Footnote 2178: Marquis de Valfons, "Memoires," 60.—De Levis, 156.—Mme. d'Oberkirk, I, 127, II, 360.]
[Footnote 2179: Beugnot, I, 71.—Hippeau, "Le Gouvernement de Normandie," passim.]
[Footnote 2180: An occupation explained farther on, page 145.—TR.]
[Footnote 2181: Mme. de Genlis, "Memoires," passim. "Dict. des Etiquettes," I. 348.]
[Footnote 2182: Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 395.—The Baron and Baroness de Sotenville in Moliere are people well brought up although provincial and pedantic.]
CHAPTER II. DRAWING ROOM LIFE.
Perfect only in France.—Reasons for this derived from the French character.—Reasons derived from the tone of the court.—This life becomes more and more agreeable and absorbing.
Similar circumstances have led other aristocracies in Europe to nearly similar ways and habits. There also the monarchy has given birth to the court and the court to a refined society. But the development of this rare plant has been only partial. The soil was unfavorable and the seed was not of the right sort. In Spain, the king stands shrouded in etiquette like a mummy in its wrappings, while a too rigid pride, incapable of yielding to the amenities of the worldly order of things, ends in a sentiment of morbidity and in insane display. In Italy, under petty despotic sovereigns, and most of them strangers, the constant state of danger and of hereditary distrust, after having tied all tongues, turns all hearts towards the secret delights of love and towards the mute gratification of the fine arts. In Germany and in England, a cold temperament, dull and rebellious to culture, keeps man, up to the close of the last century, within the Germanic habits of solitude, inebriety and brutality. In France, on the contrary, all things combine to make the social sentiment flourish; in this the national genius harmonizes with the political regime, the plant appearing to be selected for the soil beforehand.
The Frenchman loves company through instinct, and the reason is that he does well and easily whatever society calls upon him to do. He has not the false shame which renders his northern neighbors awkward, nor the powerful passions which absorb his neighbors of the south. Talking is no effort to him, having none of the natural timidity which begets constraint, and with no constant preoccupation to overcome. He accordingly converses at his ease, ever on the alert, and conversation affords him extreme pleasure. For the happiness which he requires is of a peculiar kind: delicate, light, rapid, incessantly renewed and varied, in which his intellect, his vanity, all his emotional and sympathetic faculties find nourishment; and this quality of happiness is provided for him only in society and in conversation. Sensitive as he is, personal attention, consideration, cordiality, delicate flattery, constitute his natal atmosphere, outside which he breathes with difficulty. He would suffer almost as much in being impolite as in encountering impoliteness in others. For his instincts of kindliness and vanity there is an exquisite charm in the habit of being amiable, and this is all the greater because it proves contagious. When we afford pleasure to others there is a desire to please us, and what we bestow in deference is returned in attentions. In company of this kind one can talk, for to talk is to amuse another in being oneself amused, a Frenchman finding no pleasure equal to it. Lively and sinuous, conversation to him is like the flying of a bird; he wings his way from idea to idea, alert, excited by the inspiration of others, darting forward, wheeling round and unexpectedly returning, now up, now down, now skimming the ground, now aloft on the peaks, without sinking into quagmires, or getting entangled in the briers, and claiming nothing of the thousands of objects he slightly grazes but the diversity and the gaiety of their aspects.
Thus endowed, and thus disposed, he is made for a regime which, for ten hours a day, brings men together; natural feeling in accord with the social order of things renders the drawing room perfect. The king, at the head of all, sets the example. Louis XIV had every qualification for the master of a household: a taste for pomp and hospitality, condescension accompanied with dignity, the art of playing on the self-esteem of others and of maintaining his own position, chivalrous gallantry, tact, and even charms of intellectual expression. "His address was perfect; whether it was necessary to jest, or he was in a playful humor, or deigned to tell a story, it was ever with infinite grace, and a noble refined air which I have found only in him." "Never was man so naturally polite, nor of such circumspect politeness, so powerful by degrees, nor who better discriminated age, worth, and rank, both in his replies and in his deportment. . . . His salutations, more or less marked, but always slight, were of incomparable grace and majesty. . . . He was admirable in the different acknowledgments of salutes at the head of the army and at reviews. . . . But especially toward women, there was nothing like it. . . . Never did he pass the most insignificant woman without taking off his hat to her; and I mean chambermaids whom he knew to be such. . . Never did he chance to say anything disobliging to anybody. . . . Never before company anything mistimed or venturesome, but even to the smallest gesture, his walk, his bearing, his features, all were proper, respectful, noble, grand, majestic, and thoroughly natural."
Such is the model, and, nearly or remotely, it is imitated up to the end of the ancient regime. If it undergoes any change, it is only to become more sociable. In the eighteenth century, except on great ceremonial occasions, it is seen descending step by step from its pedestal. It no longer imposes "that stillness around it which lets one hear a fly walk." "Sire," said the Marshal de Richelieu, who had seen three reigns, addressing Louis XVI, "under Louis XIV no one dared utter a word; under Louis XV people whispered; under your Majesty they talk aloud." If authority is a loser, society is the gainer; etiquette, insensibly relaxed, allows the introduction of ease and cheerfulness. Henceforth the great, less concerned in overawing than in pleasing, cast off stateliness like an uncomfortable and ridiculous garment, "seeking respect less than applause. It no longer suffices to be affable; one has to appear amiable at any cost with one's inferiors as with one's equals." The French princes, says again a contemporary lady, "are dying with fear of being deficient in favors." Even around the throne "the style is free and playful." The grave and disciplined court of Louis XIV became at the end of the century, under the smiles of the youthful queen, the most seductive and gayest of drawing-rooms. Through this universal relaxation, a worldly existence gets to be perfect. "He who has not lived before 1789," says Talleyrand at a later period, "knows nothing of the charm of living." It was too great; no other way of living was appreciated; it engrossed man wholly. When society becomes so attractive, people live for it alone.
II. Social Life Has Priority.
Subordination of it to other interests and duties. —Indifference to public affairs.—They are merely a subject of jest.—Neglect of private affairs.—Disorder in the household and abuse of money.
There is neither leisure nor taste for other matters, even for things which are of most concern to man, such as public affairs, the household, and the family.—With respect to the first, I have already stated that people abstain from them, and are indifferent; the administration of things, whether local or general, is out of their hands and no longer interests them. They only allude to it in jest; events of the most serious consequence form the subject of witticisms. After the edict of the Abbe Terray, which half ruined the state creditors, a spectator, too much crowded in the theater, cried out, "Ah, how unfortunate that our good Abbe Terray is not here to cut us down one-half!" Everybody laughs and applauds. All Paris the following day, is consoled for public ruin by repeating the phrase.—Alliances, battles, taxation, treaties, ministries, coups d'etat, the entire history of the country, is put into epigrams and songs. One day, in an assembly of young people belonging to the court, one of them, as the current witticism was passing around, raised his hands in delight and exclaimed, "How can one help being pleased with great events, even with disturbances, when they provide us with such amusing witticisms!" Thereupon the sarcasms circulate, and every disaster in France is turned into nonsense. A song on the battle of Hochstaedt was pronounced poor, and some one in this connection said "I am sorry that battle was lost—the song is so worthless."—Even when eliminating from this trait all that belongs to the sway of impulse and the license of paradox, there remains the stamp of an age in which the State is almost nothing and society almost everything. We may on this principle divine what order of talent was required in the ministers. M. Necker, having given a magnificent supper with serious and comic opera, "finds that this festivity is worth more to him in credit, favor, and stability than all his financial schemes put together. . . . His last arrangement concerning the vingtieme was only talked about for one day, while everybody is still talking about his fete; at Paris, as well as in Versailles, its attractions are dwelt on in detail, people emphatically declaring that Monsieur and Mme. Necker are a grace to society." Good society devoted to pleasure imposes on those in office the obligation of providing pleasures for it. It might also say, in a half-serious, half-ironical tone, with Voltaire, "that the gods created kings only to give fetes every day, provided they varied; that life is too short to make any other use of it; that lawsuits, intrigues, warfare, and the quarrels of priests, which consume human life, are absurd and horrible things; that man is born only to enjoy himself;" and that among the essential things we must put the "superfluous" in the first rank.
According to this, we can easily foresee that they will be as little concerned with their private affairs as with public affairs. Housekeeping, the management of property, domestic economy, are in their eyes vulgar, insipid in the highest degree, and only suited to an intendant or a butler. Of what use are such persons if we must have such cares? Life is no longer a festival if one has to provide the ways and means. Comforts, luxuries, the agreeable must flow naturally and greet our lips of their own accord. As a matter of course and without his intervention, a man belonging to this world should find gold always in his pocket, a handsome coat on his toilet table, powdered valets in his antechamber, a gilded coach at his door, a fine dinner on his table, so that he may reserve all his attention to be expended in favors on the guests in his drawing-room. Such a mode of living is not to be maintained without waste, and the domestics, left to themselves, make the most of it. What matter is it, so long as they perform their duties? Moreover, everybody must live, and it is pleasant to have contented and obsequious faces around one.—Hence the first houses in the kingdom are given up to pillage. Louis XV, on a hunting expedition one day, accompanied by the Duc de Choiseul, inquired of him how much he thought the carriage in which they were seated had cost. M. de Choiseul replied that he should consider himself fortunate to get one like it for 5,000 or 6,000 francs; but, "His Majesty paying for it as a king, and not always paying cash, might have paid 8,000 francs for it."—"You are wide of the mark," rejoined the king, "for this vehicle, as you see it, cost me 30,000 francs. . . . The robberies in my household are enormous, but it is impossible to put a stop to them."—So the great help themselves as well as the little, either in money, or in kind, or in services. There are in the king's household fifty-four horses for the grand equerry, thirty-eight of them being for Mme. de Brionne, the administratrix of the office of the stables during her son's minority; there are two hundred and fifteen grooms on duty, and about as many horses kept at the king's expense for various other persons, entire strangers to the department. What a nest of parasites on this one branch of the royal tree! Elsewhere I find Madame Elisabeth, so moderate, consuming fish amounting to 30,000 francs per annum; meat and game to 70,000 francs; candles to 60,000 francs; Mesdames burn white and yellow candles to the amount of 215,068 francs; the light for the queen comes to 157,109 francs. The street at Versailles is still shown, formerly lined with stalls, to which the king's valets resorted to nourish Versailles by the sale of his dessert. There is no article from which the domestic insects do not manage to scrape and glean something. The king is supposed to drink orgeat and lemonade to the value of 2,190 francs. "The grand broth, day and night," which Mme. Royale, aged six years, sometimes drinks, costs 5,201 francs per annum. Towards the end of the preceding reign the femmes-de-chambre enumerate in the Dauphine's outlay "four pairs of shoes per week; three ells of ribbon per diem, to tie her dressing-gown; two ells of taffeta per diem, to cover the basket in which she keeps her gloves and fan." A few years earlier the king paid 200,000 francs for coffee, lemonade, chocolate, barley-water, and water-ices; several persons were inscribed on the list for ten or twelve cups a day, while it was estimated that the coffee, milk and bread each morning for each lady of the bed-chamber cost 2,000 francs per annum. We can readily understand how, in households thus managed, the purveyors are willing to wait. They wait so well that often under Louis XV they refuse to provide and "hide themselves." Even the delay is so regular that, at last; they are obliged to pay them five per cent. interest on their advances; at this rate, in 1778, after all Turgot's economic reforms, the king still owes nearly 800,000 livres to his wine merchant, and nearly three millions and a half to his purveyor. The same disorder exists in the houses which surround the throne. "Mme. de Guemenee owes 60,000 livres to her shoe-maker, 16,000 livres to her paper-hanger, and the rest in proportion." Another lady, whom the Marquis de Mirabeau sees with hired horses, replies at his look of astonishment, "It is not because there are not seventy horses in our stables, but none of them are able to walk to day." Mme. de Montmorin, on ascertaining that her husband's debts are greater than his property, thinks she can save her dowry of 200,000 livres, but is informed that she had given security for a tailor's bill, which, "incredible and ridiculous to say, amounts to the sum of 180,000 livres." "One of the decided manias of these days," says Mme. d'Oberkirk, "is to be ruined in everything and by everything." "The two brothers Villemer build country cottages at from 500,000 to 600,000 livres; one of them keeps forty horses to ride occasionally in the Bois de Boulogne on horseback." In one night M. de Chenonceaux, son of M. et Mme. Dupin, loses at play 700,000 livres. "M. de Chenonceaux and M. de Francueil ran through seven or eight millions at this epoch. " "The Duc de Lauzun, at the age of twenty-six, after having run through the capital of 100,000 crowns revenue, is prosecuted by his creditors for nearly two millions of indebtedness." "M. le Prince de Conti lacks bread and wood, although with an income of 600,000 livres," for the reason that "he buys and builds wildly on all sides." Where would be the pleasure if these people were reasonable? What kind of a seignior is he who studies the price of things? And how can the exquisite be reached if one grudges money? Money, accordingly, must flow and flow on until it is exhausted, first by the innumerable secret or tolerated bleedings through domestic abuses, and next in broad streams of the master's own prodigality, through structures, furniture, toilets, hospitality, gallantry, and pleasures. The Comte d'Artois, that he may give the queen a fete, demolishes, rebuilds, arranges, and furnishes Bagatelle from top to bottom, employing nine hundred workmen, day and night, and, as there is no time to go any distance for lime, plaster, and cut stone, he sends patrols of the Swiss guards on the highways to seize, pay for, and immediately bring in all carts thus loaded. The Marshal de Soubise, entertaining the king one day at dinner and over night, in his country house, expends 200,000 livres. Mme. de Matignon makes a contract to be furnished every day with a new head-dress at 24,000 livres per annum. Cardinal de Rohan has an alb bordered with point lace, which is valued at more than 100,000 livres, while his kitchen utensils are of massive silver.—Nothing is more natural, considering their ideas of money; hoarded and piled up, instead of being a fertilizing stream, it is a useless marsh exhaling bad odors. The queen, having presented the Dauphin with a carriage whose silver-gilt trappings are decked with rubies and sapphires, naively exclaims, "Has not the king added 200,000 livres to my treasury? That is no reason for keeping them!" They would rather throw it out of the window. Which was actually done by the Marshal de Richelieu with a purse he had given to his grandson, and which the lad, not knowing how to use, brought back intact. Money, on this occasion, was at least of service to the passing street-sweeper that picked it up. But had there been no passer-by to pick it up, it would have been thrown into the river. One day Mme. de B—, being with the Prince de Conti, hinted that she would like a miniature of her canary bird set in a ring. The Prince offers to have it made. His offer is accepted, but on condition that the miniature be set plain and without jewels. Accordingly the miniature is placed in a simple rim of gold. But, to cover over the painting, a large diamond, made very thin, serves as a glass. Mme. de B—, having returned the diamond, "M. le Prince de Conti had it ground to powder which he used to dry the ink of the note he wrote to Mme. de B—on the subject." This pinch of powder cost 4 or 5,000 livres, but we may divine the turn and tone of the note. The extreme of profusion must accompany the height of gallantry, the man of the world being so much the more important according to his contempt for money.
III. Universal Pleasure Seeking.
Moral divorce of husband and wife.—Gallantry.—Separation of parents and children.—Education, its object and omissions.—The tone of servants and purveyors.—Pleasure seeking universal.
In a drawing room the woman who receives the least attention from a man is his own wife, and she returns the compliment. Hence at a time like this, when people live for society and in society, there is no place for conjugal intimacy.—Moreover, when a married couple occupy an exalted position they are separated by custom and decorum. Each party has his or her own household, or at least their own apartments, servants, equipage, receptions and distinct society, and, as entertainment entails ceremony, they stand towards each other in deference to their rank on the footing of polite strangers. They are each announced in each other's apartment; they address each other "Madame, Monsieur," and not alone in public, but in private; they shrug their shoulders when, sixty leagues out from Paris, they encounter in some old chateau a provincial wife ignorant enough to say "my dear" to her husband before company.—Already separated at the fireside, the two lives diverge beyond it at an ever increasing radius. The husband has a government of his own: his private command, his private regiment, his post at court, which keeps him absent from home; only in his declining years does his wife consent to follow him into garrison or into the provinces. And rather is this the case because she is herself occupied, and as seriously as himself; often with a position near a princess, and always with an important circle of company which she must maintain. At this epoch woman is as active as man, following the same career, and with the same resources, consisting of the flexible voice, the winning grace, the insinuating manner, the tact, the quick perception of the right moment, and the art of pleasing, demanding, and obtaining; there is not a lady at court who does not bestow regiments and benefices. Through this right the wife has her personal retinue of solicitors and proteges, also, like her husband, her friends, her enemies, her own ambitions, disappointments, and rancorous feeling; nothing could be more effectual in the disruption of a household than this similarity of occupation and this division of interests.—The tie thus loosened ends by being sundered under the ascendancy of opinion. "It looks well not to live together," to grant each other every species of tolerance, and to devote oneself to society. Society, indeed, then fashions opinion, and through opinion it creates the morals which it requires.
Toward the middle of the century the husband and wife lodged under the same roof, but that was all. "They never saw each other, one never met them in the same carriage; they are never met in the same house; nor, with very good reason, are they ever together in public." Strong emotions would have seemed odd and even "ridiculous;" in any event unbecoming; it would have been as unacceptable as an earnest remark "aside" in the general current of light conversation. Each has a duty to all, and for a couple to entertain each other is isolation; in company there is no right to the tete-a-tete. It was hardly allowed for a few days to lovers. And even then it was regarded unfavorably; they were found too much occupied with each other. Their preoccupation spread around them an atmosphere of "constraint and ennui; one had to be upon one's guard and to check oneself." They were "dreaded." The exigencies of society are those of an absolute king, and admit of no partition. "If morals lost by this, society was infinitely the gainer," says M. de Bezenval, a contemporary; "having got rid of the annoyances and dullness caused by the husbands' presence, the freedom was extreme; the coquetry both of men and women kept up social vivacity and daily provided piquant adventures." Nobody is jealous, not even when in love. "People are mutually pleased and become attached; if one grows weary of the other, they part with as little concern as they came together. Should the sentiment revive they take to each other with as much vivacity as if it were the first time they had been engaged. They may again separate, but they never quarrel. As they have become enamored without love, they part without hate, deriving from the feeble desire they have inspired the advantage of being always ready to oblige." Appearances, moreover, are respected. An uninformed stranger would detect nothing to excite suspicion. An extreme curiosity, says Horace Walpole, or a great familiarity with things, is necessary to detect the slightest intimacy between the two sexes. No familiarity is allowed except under the guise of friendship, while the vocabulary of love is as much prohibited as its rites apparently are. Even with Crebillon fils, even with Laclos, at the most exciting moments, the terms their characters employ are circumspect and irreproachable. Whatever indecency there may be, it is never expressed in words, the sense of propriety in language imposing itself not only on the outbursts of passion, but again on the grossness of instincts. Thus do the sentiments which are naturally the strongest lose their point and sharpness; their rich and polished remains are converted into playthings for the drawing room, and, thus cast to and fro by the whitest hands, fall on the floor like a shuttlecock. We must, on this point, listen to the heroes of the epoch; their free and easy tone is inimitable, and it depicts both them and their actions. "I conducted myself," says the Duc de Lauzun, "very prudently, and even deferentially with Mme. de Lauzun; I knew Mme. de Cambis very openly, for whom I concerned myself very little; I kept the little Eugenie whom I loved a great deal; I played high, I paid my court to the king, and I hunted with him with great punctuality." He had for others, withal, that indulgence of which he himself stood in need. "He was asked what he would say if his wife (whom he had not seen for ten years) should write to him that she had just discovered that she was enceinte. He reflected a moment and then replied, 'I would write, and tell her that I was delighted that heaven had blessed our union; be careful of your health; I will call and pay my respects this evening.'" There are countless replies of the same sort, and I venture to say that, without having read them, one could not imagine to what a degree social art had overcome natural instincts.
"Here at Paris," writes Mme. d'Oberkirk, "I am no longer my own mistress. I scarcely have time to talk with my husband and to answer my letters. I do not know what women do that are accustomed to lead this life; they certainly have no families to look after, nor children to educate." At all events they act as if they had none, and the men likewise. Married people not living together live but rarely with their children, and the causes that disintegrate wedlock also disintegrate the family. In the first place there is the aristocratic tradition, which interposes a barrier between parents and children with a view to maintain a respectful distance. Although enfeebled and about to disappear, this tradition still subsists. The son says "Monsieur" to his father; the daughter comes "respectfully" to kiss her mother's hand at her toilet. A caress is rare and seems a favor; children generally, when with their parents, are silent, the sentiment that usually animates them being that of deferential timidity. At one time they were regarded as so many subjects, and up to a certain point they are so still; while the new exigencies of worldly life place them or keep them effectually aside. M. de Talleyrand stated that he had never slept under the same roof with his father and mother. And if they do sleep there, they are not the less neglected. "I was entrusted," says the Count de Tilly, "to valets; and to a kind of preceptor resembling these in more respects than one." During this time his father ran after women. "I have known him," adds the young man, "to have mistresses up to an advanced age; he was always adoring them and constantly abandoning them." The Duc de Lauzun finds it difficult to obtain a good tutor for his son; for this reason the latter writes, "he conferred the duty on one of my late mother's lackeys who could read and write tolerably well, and to whom the title of valet-de-chambre was given to insure greater consideration. They gave me the most fashionable teachers besides; but M. Roch (which was my mentor's name) was not qualified to arrange their lessons, or to qualify me to benefit by them. I was, moreover, like all the children of my age and of my station, dressed in the handsomest clothes to go out, and naked and dying with hunger in the house," and not through unkindness, but through household oversight, dissipation, and disorder, attention being given to things elsewhere. One might easily count the fathers who, like the Marshal de Belle-Isle, brought up their sons under their own eyes, and themselves attended to their education methodically, strictly, and with tenderness. As to the girls, they were placed in convents; relieved from this care, their parents only enjoy the greater freedom. Even when they retain charge of them they are scarcely more of a burden to them. Little Felicite de Saint-Aubin sees her parents "only on their waking up and at meal times." Their day is wholly taken up; the mother is making or receiving visits; the father is in his laboratory or engaged in hunting. Up to seven years of age the child passes her time with chambermaids who teach her only a little catechism, "with an infinite number of ghost stories." About this time she is taken care of; but in a way which well portrays the epoch. The Marquise, her mother, the author of mythological and pastoral operas, has a theater built in the chateau; a great crowd of company resorts to it from Bourbon-Lancy and Moulins; after rehearsing twelve weeks the little girl, with a quiver of arrows and blue wings, plays the part of Cupid, and the costume is so becoming she is allowed to wear it in common during the entire day for nine months. To finish the business they send for a dancing-fencing master, and, still wearing the Cupid costume, she takes lessons in fencing and in deportment. "The entire winter is devoted to playing comedy and tragedy." Sent out of the room after dinner, she is brought in again only to play on the harpsichord or to declaim the monologue of Alzire before a numerous assembly. Undoubtedly such extravagances are not customary; but the spirit of education is everywhere the same; that is to say, in the eyes of parents there is but one intelligible and rational existence, that of society, even for children, and the attentions bestowed on these are solely with a view to introduce them into it or to prepare them for it. Even in the last years of the ancient regime little boys have their hair powdered, "a pomatumed chignon (bourse), ringlets, and curls"; they wear the sword, the chapeau under the arm, a frill, and a coat with gilded cuffs; they kiss young ladies' hands with the air of little dandies. A lass of six years is bound up in a whalebone waist; her large hoop-petticoat supports a skirt covered with wreaths; she wears on her head a skillful combination of false curls, puffs, and knots, fastened with pins, and crowned with plumes, and so high that frequently "the chin is half way down to her feet"; sometimes they put rouge on her face. She is a miniature lady, and she knows it; she is fully up in her part, without effort or inconvenience, by force of habit; the unique, the perpetual instruction she gets is that on her deportment; it may be said with truth that the fulcrum of education in this country is the dancing-master. They could get along with him without any others; without him the others were of no use. For, without him, how could people go through easily, suitably, and gracefully the thousand and one actions of daily life, walking, sitting down, standing up, offering the arm, using the fan, listening and smiling, before eyes so experienced and before such a refined public? This is to be the great thing for them when they become men and women, and for this reason it is the thing of chief importance for them as children. Along with graces of attitude and of gesture, they already have those of the mind and of expression. Scarcely is their tongue loosened when they speak the polished language of their parents. The latter amuse themselves with them and use them as pretty dolls; the preaching of Rousseau, which, during the last third of the last century, brought children into fashion, produces no other effect. They are made to recite their lessons in public, to perform in proverbs, to take parts in pastorals. Their sallies are encouraged. They know how to turn a compliment, to invent a clever or affecting repartee, to be gallant, sensitive, and even spirituelle. The little Duc d'Angouleme, holding a book in his hand, receives Suffren, whom he addresses thus: "I was reading Plutarch and his illustrious men. You could not have entered more apropos." The children of M. de Sabran, a boy and a girl, one eight and the other nine, having taken lessons from the comedians Sainval and Larive, come to Versailles to play before the king and queen in Voltaire's "Oreste," and on the little fellow being interrogated about the classic authors, he replies to a lady, the mother of three charming girls, "Madame, Anacreon is the only poet I can think of here!" Another, of the same age, replies to a question of Prince Henry of Prussia with an agreeable impromptu in verse. To cause witticisms, trivialities, and mediocre verse to germinate in a brain eight years old, what a triumph for the culture of the day! It is the last characteristic of the regime which, after having stolen man away from public affairs, from his own affairs, from marriage, from the family, hands him over, with all his sentiments and all his faculties, to social worldliness, him and all that belong to him. Below him fine ways and forced politeness prevail, even with his servants and tradesmen. A Frontin has a gallant unconstrained air, and he turns a compliment. An Abigail needs only to be a kept mistress to become a lady. A shoemaker is a "monsieur in black," who says to a mother on saluting the daughter, "Madame, a charming young person, and I am more sensible than ever of the value of your kindness," on which the young girl, just out of a convent, takes him for a suitor and blushes scarlet. Undoubtedly less unsophisticated eyes would distinguish the difference between this pinchbeck louis d'or and a genuine one; but their resemblance suffices to show the universal action of the central mint-machinery which stamps both with the same effigy, the base metal and the refined gold.
The charm of this life.—Etiquette in the 18th Century.—Its perfection and its resources.—Taught and prescribed under feminine authority.
A society which obtains such ascendancy must possess some charm; in no country, indeed, and in no age has so perfect a social art rendered life so agreeable. Paris is the school-house of Europe, a school of urbanity to which the youth of Russia, Germany, and England resort to become civilized. Lord Chesterfield in his letters never tires of reminding his son of this, and of urging him into these drawing-rooms, which will remove "his Cambridge rust." Once familiar with them they are never abandoned, or if one is obliged to leave them, one always sighs for them. "Nothing is comparable," says Voltaire, "to the genial life one leads there in the bosom of the arts and of a calm and refined voluptuousness; strangers and monarchs have preferred this repose, so agreeably occupied in it and so enchanting to their own countries and thrones. The heart there softens and melts away like aromatics slowly dissolving in moderate heat, evaporating in delightful perfumes." Gustavus III, beaten by the Russians, declares that he will pass his last days in Paris in a house on the boulevards; and this is not merely complimentary, for he sends for plans and an estimate. A supper or an evening entertainment brings people two hundred leagues away. Some friends of the Prince de Ligne "leave Brussels after breakfast, reach the opera in Paris just in time to see the curtain rise, and, after the spectacle is over, return immediately to Brussels, traveling all night."—Of this delight, so eagerly sought, we have only imperfect copies, and we are obliged to revive it intellectually. It consists, in the first place, in the pleasure of living with perfectly polite people; there is no enjoyment more subtle, more lasting, more inexhaustible. Man's self-esteem or vanity being infinite, intelligent people are always able to produce some refinement of attention to gratify it. Worldly sensibility being infinite there is no imperceptible shade of it permitting indifference. After all, Man is still the greatest source of happiness or of misery to Man, and in those days this everflowing fountain brought to him sweetness instead of bitterness. Not only was it essential not to offend, but it was essential to please; one was expected to lose sight of oneself in others, to be always cordial and good-humored, to keep one's own vexations and grievances in one's own breast, to spare others melancholy ideas and to supply them with cheerful ideas.
"Was any one old in those days? It is the Revolution which brought old age into the world, Your grandfather, my child, was handsome, elegant, neat, gracious, perfumed, playful, amiable, affectionate, and good-tempered to the day of his death. People then knew how to live and how to die; there was no such thing as troublesome infirmities. If any one had the gout, 'he walked along all the same and made no faces; people well brought up concealed their sufferings. There was none of that absorption in business which spoils a man inwardly and dulls his brain. People knew how to ruin themselves without letting it appear, like good gamblers who lose their money without showing uneasiness or spite. A man would be carried half dead to a hunt. It was thought better to die at a ball or at the play than in one's bed, between four wax candles and horrid men in black. People were philosophers; they did not assume to be austere, but often were so without making a display of it. If one was discreet, it was through inclination and without pedantry or prudishness. People enjoyed this life, and when the hour of departure came they did not try to disgust others with living. The last request of my old husband was that I would survive him as long as possible and live as happily as I could."
When, especially, women are concerned it is not sufficient to be polite; it is important to be gallant. Each lady invited by the Prince de Conti to Ile-Adam "finds a carriage and horses at her disposal; she is free to give dinners every day in her own rooms to her own friends." Mme. de Civrac having to go to the springs, her friends undertake to divert her on the journey; they keep ahead of her a few posts, and, at every place where she rests for the night, they give her a little fete champetre disguised as villagers and in bourgeois attire, with bailiff and scrivener, and other masks all singing and reciting verses. A lady on the eve of Longchamp, knowing that the Vicomte de V—possesses two caleches, makes a request for one of them; it is disposed of; but he is careful not to decline, and immediately has one of the greatest elegance purchased to lend it for three hours; he is only too happy that anybody should wish to borrow from him, his prodigality appearing amiable but not astonishing. The reason is that women then were queens in the drawing-room; it is their right; this is the reason why, in the eighteenth century, they prescribe the law and the fashion in all things. Having formed the code of usages, it is quite natural that they should profit by it, and see that all its prescriptions are carried out. In this respect any circle "of the best company" is a superior tribunal, serving as a court of last appeal. The Marechale de Luxembourg is an authority; there is no point of manners which she does not justify with an ingenious argument. Any expression, any neglect of the standard, the slightest sign of pretension or of vanity incurs her disapprobation, from which there is no appeal, and the delinquent is for ever banished from refined society. Any subtle observation, any well-timed silence, an "oh" uttered in an appropriate place instead of an "Ah," secures from her, as from M. Talleyrand, a diploma of good breeding which is the commencement of fame and the promise of a fortune. Under such an "instructress" it is evident that deportment, gesture, language, every act or omission in this mundane sphere, becomes, like a picture or poem, a veritable work of art; that is to say, infinite in refinement, at once studied and easy, and so harmonious in its details that its perfection conceals the difficulty of combining them.
A great lady "receives ten persons with one courtesy, bestowing on each, through the head or by a glance, all that he is entitled to;" meaning by this the shade of regard due to each phase of position, consideration, and birth. "She has always to deal with easily irritated amour-propres; consequently the slightest deficiency in proportion would be promptly detected," But she is never mistaken, and never hesitates in these subtle distinctions; with incomparable tact, dexterity, and flexibility of tone, she regulates the degrees of her welcome. She has one "for women of condition, one for women of quality, one for women of the court, one for titled women, one for women of historic names, another for women of high birth personally, but married to men beneath them; another for women who by marriage have changed a common into a distinguished name; another still for women of reputable names in the law; and, finally, another for those whose relief consists chiefly of expensive houses and good suppers." A stranger would be amazed on seeing with what certain and adroit steps she circulates among so many watchful vanities without ever hurting or being hurt. "She knows how to express all through the style of her salutations; a varied style, extending through imperceptible gradations, from the accessory of a single shrug of the shoulder, almost an impertinence, to that noble and deferential reverence which so few women, even of the court, know how to do well; that slow bending forward, with lowered eyes and straightened figure, gradually recovering and modestly glancing at the person while gracefully raising the body up, altogether much more refined and more delicate than words, but very expressive as the means of manifesting respect."—This is but a single action, and very common; there are a hundred others, and of importance. Imagine, if it is possible, the degree of elegance and perfection to which they attained through good breeding. I select one at random, a duel between two princes of the blood, the Comte d'Artois and the Duc de Bourbon; the latter being the offended party, the former, his superior, had to offer him a meeting, "As soon as the Comte d'Artois saw him he leaped to the ground, and walking directly up to him, said to him smiling: 'Monsieur, the public pretends that we are seeking each other.' The Duc de Bourbon, removing his hat, replied, 'Monsieur, I am here to receive your orders.'—'To execute your own,' returned the Comte d'Artois, 'but you must allow me to return to my carriage.' He comes back with a sword, and the duel begins. After a certain time they are separated, the seconds deciding that honor is satisfied, 'It is not for me to express an opinion,' says the Comte d'Artois, 'Monsieur le Duc de Bourbon is to express his wishes; I am here only to receive his orders.'—'Monsieur,' responds the Duc de Bourbon, addressing the Comte d'Artois, meanwhile lowering the point of his sword, 'I am overcome with gratitude for your kindness, and shall never be insensible to the honor you have done me.'"—Could there be a more just and delicate sentiment of rank, position, and circumstance, and could a duel be surrounded with more graces? There is no situation, however thorny, which is not saved by politeness. Through habit, and a suitable expression, even in the face of the king, they conciliate resistance and respect. When Louis XV, having exiled the Parliament, caused it to be proclaimed through Mme. Du Barry that his mind was made up and that it would not be changed, "Ah, Madame," replied the Duc de Nivernais, "when the king said that he was looking at yourself."—"My dear Fontenelle," said one of his lady friends to him, placing her hand on his heart, "the brain is there likewise." Fontenelle smiled and made no reply. We see here, even with an academician, how truths are forced down, a drop of acid in a sugar-plum; the whole so thoroughly intermingled that the piquancy of the flavor only enhances its sweetness. Night after night, in each drawing-room, sugar-plums of this description are served up, two or three along with the drop of acidity, all the rest not less exquisite, but possessing only the sweetness and the perfume. Such is the art of social worldliness, an ingenious and delightful art, which, entering into all the details of speech and of action, transforms them into graces; which imposes on man not servility and falsehood, but civility and concern for others, and which, in exchange, extracts for him out of human society all the pleasure it can afford.
What constitutes happiness in the 18th Century.—The fascination of display.—Indolence, recreation, light conversation.
One can very well understand this kind of pleasure in a summary way, but how is it to be made apparent? Taken by themselves the pastimes of society are not to be described; they are too ephemeral; their charm arises from their accompaniments. A narrative of them would be but tasteless dregs, does the libretto of an opera give any idea of the opera itself?—If the reader would revive for himself this vanished world let him seek for it in those works that have preserved its externals or its accent, and first in the pictures and engravings of Watteau, Fragonard and the Saint-Aubins, and then in the novels and dramas of Voltaire and Marivaux, and even in Colle and Crebillon fils; then do we see the breathing figures and hear their voices, What bright, winning, intelligent faces beaming with pleasure and with the desire to please! What ease in bearing and in gesture! What piquant grace in the toilet, in the smile, in vivaciousness of expression, in the control of the fluted voice, in the coquetry of hidden meanings! How involuntarily we stop to look and listen! Attractiveness is everywhere, in the small spirituelle heads, in the slender hands, in the rumpled attire, in the pretty features, in the demeanor. The slightest gesture, a pouting or mutinous turn of the head, a plump little wrist peering from its nest of lace, a yielding waist bent over an embroidery frame, the rapid rustling of an opening fan, is a feast for the eyes and the intellect. It is indeed all daintiness, a delicate caress for delicate senses, extending to the external decoration of life, to the sinuous outlines, the showy drapery, and the refinements of comfort in the furniture and architecture. Fill your imagination with these accessories and with these figures and you will take as much interest in their amusements as they did. In such a place and in such company it suffices to be together to be content. Their indolence is no burden to them for they sport with existence.—At Chanteloup, the Duc de Choiseul, in disgrace, finds the fashionable world flocking to see him; nothing is done and yet no hours of the day are unoccupied. "The Duchess has only two hours' time to herself and these two hours are devoted to her toilet and her letters; the calculation is a simple one: she gets up at eleven; breakfasts at noon, and this is followed by conversation, which lasts three or four hours; dinner comes at six, after which there is play and the reading of the memoirs of Mme. de Maintenon." Ordinarily "the company remains together until two o'clock in the morning." Intellectual freedom is complete. There is no confusion, no anxiety. They play whist and tric-trac in the afternoon and faro in the evening. "They do to day what they did yesterday and what they will do to-morrow; the dinner-supper is to them the most important affair in life, and their only complaint in the world is of their digestion. Time goes so fast I always fancy that I arrived only the evening before." Sometimes they get up a little race and the ladies are disposed to take part in it, "for they are all very agile and able to run around the drawing room five or six times every day." But they prefer indoors to the open air; in these days true sunshine consists of candle-light and the finest sky is a painted ceiling; is there any other less subject to inclemencies or better adapted to conversation and merriment?—They accordingly chat and jest, in words with present friends, and by letters with absent friends. They lecture old Mme. du Deffant, who is too lively and whom they style the "little girl"; the young Duchesse, tender and sensible, is "her grandmamma." As for "grandpapa," M. de Choiseul, "a slight cold keeping him in bed he has fairy stories read to him all day long, a species of reading to which we are all given; we find them as probable as modern history. Do not imagine that he is unoccupied. He has had a tapestry frame put up in the drawing room at which he works, I cannot say with the greatest skill, but at least with the greatest assiduity. . . . Now, our delight is in flying a kite; grandpapa has never seen this sight and he is enraptured with it." The pastime, in itself, is nothing; it is resorted to according to opportunity or the taste of the hour, now taken up and now let alone, and the abbe soon writes: "I do not speak about our races because we race no more, nor of our readings because we do not read, nor of our promenades because we do not go out. What, then, do we do? Some play billiards, others dominoes, and others backgammon. We weave, we ravel and we unravel. Time pushes us on and we pay him back."
Other circles present the same spectacle. Every occupation being an amusement, a caprice or an impulse of fashion brings one into favor. At present, it is unraveling, every white hand at Paris, and in the chateaux, being busy in undoing trimmings, epaulettes and old stuffs, to pick out the gold and silver threads. They find in this employment the semblance of economy, an appearance of occupation, in any event something to keep them in countenance. On a circle of ladies being formed, a big unraveling bag in green taffeta is placed on the table, which belongs to the lady of the house; immediately all the ladies call for their bags and "voila les laquais en l'air" It is all the rage. They unravel every day and several hours in the day; some derive from it a hundred louis d'or per annum. The gentlemen are expected to provide the materials for the work; the Duc de Lauzun, accordingly, gives to Madame de V—a harp of natural size covered with gold thread; an enormous golden fleece, brought as a present from the Comte de Lowenthal, and which cost 2 or 3,000 francs, brings, picked to pieces, 5 or 600 francs. But they do not look into matters so closely. Some employment is essential for idle hands, some manual outlet for nervous activity; a humorous petulance breaks out in the middle of the pretended work. One day, when about going out, Madame de R—observes that the gold fringe on her dress would be capital for unraveling, whereupon, with a dash, she cuts one of the fringes off. Ten women suddenly surround a man wearing fringes, pull off his coat and put his fringes and laces into their bags, just as if a bold flock of tomtits, fluttering and chattering in the air, should suddenly dart on a jay to pluck out its feathers; thenceforth a man who enters a circle of women stands in danger of being stripped alive. All this pretty world has the same pastimes, the men as well as the women. Scarcely a man can be found without some drawing room accomplishment, some trifling way of keeping his mind and hands busy, and of filling up the vacant hour; almost all make rhymes, or act in private theatricals; many of them are musicians and painters of still-life subjects. M. de Choiseul, as we have just seen, works at tapestry; others embroider or make sword-knots. M. de Francueil is a good violinist and makes violins himself; and besides this he is "watchmaker, architect, turner, painter, locksmith, decorator, cook, poet, music-composer and he embroiders remarkably well." In this general state of inactivity it is essential "to know how to be pleasantly occupied in behalf of others as well as in one's own behalf." Madame de Pompadour is a musician, an actress, a painter and an engraver. Madame Adelaide learns watchmaking and plays on all instruments from a horn to the jew's-harp; not very well, it is true, but as well as a queen can sing, whose fine voice is ever only half in tune. But they make no pretensions. The thing is to amuse oneself and nothing more; high spirits and the amenities of the hour cover all. Rather read this capital fact of Madame de Lauzun at Chanteloup: "Do you know," writes the abbe, "that nobody possesses in a higher degree one quality you would never suspect of her, that of preparing scrambled eggs? This talent has been buried in the ground, she cannot recall the time she acquired it; I believe that she had it at her birth. Accident made it known, and immediately it was put to test. Yesterday morning, an hour for ever memorable in the history of eggs, the implements necessary for this great operation were all brought out, a heater, some gravy, some pepper and eggs. Behold Madame de Lauzun, at first blushing and in a tremor, soon with intrepid courage, breaking the eggs, beating them up in the pan, turning them over, now to the right, now to the left, now up and now down, with unexampled precision and success! Never was a more excellent dish eaten." What laughter and gaiety in the group comprised in this little scene. And, not long after, what madrigals and allusions! Gaiety here resembles a dancing ray of sunlight; it flickers over all things and reflects its grace on every object.
Gaiety in the 18th Century.—Its causes and effects.— Toleration and license.—Balls, fetes, hunts, banquets, pleasures.—Freedom of the magistrates and prelates.
The Frenchman's characteristic," says an English traveler in 1785, "is to be always gay;" and he remarks that he must be so because, in France, such is the tone of society and the only mode of pleasing the ladies, the sovereigns of society and the arbiters of good taste. Add to this the absence of the causes which produce modern dreariness, and which convert the sky above our heads into one of leaden gloom. There was no laborious, forced work in those days, no furious competition, no uncertain careers, no infinite perspectives. Ranks were clearly defined, ambitions limited, there was less envy. Man was not habitually dissatisfied, soured and preoccupied as he is nowadays. Few free passes were allowed where there was no right to pass; we think of nothing but advancement; they thought only of amusing themselves. An officer, instead of raging and storming over the army lists, busies himself in inventing some new disguise for a masked ball; a magistrate, instead of counting the convictions he has secured, provides a magnificent supper. At Paris, every afternoon in the left avenue of the Palais-Royal, "fine company, very richly dressed, gather under the large trees;" and in the evening "on leaving the opera at half-past eight, they go back there and remain until two o'clock in the morning." They have music in the open air by moonlight, Gavat singing, and the chevalier de Saint-George playing on the violin. At Moffontaine, "the Comte de Vaudreuil, Lebrun the poet, the chevalier de Coigny, so amiable and so gay, Brongniart, Robert, compose charades every night and wake each other up to repeat them." At Maupertuis in M. de Montesquiou's house, at Saint-Ouen with the Marshal de Noailles, at Genevilliers with the Comte de Vandreuil, at Rainay with the Duc d'Orleans, at Chantilly with the Prince de Conde, there is nothing but festivity. We read no biography of the day, no provincial document, no inventory, without hearing the tinkling of the universal carnival. At Monchoix, the residence of the Comte de Bede, Chateaubriand's uncle, "they had music, dancing and hunting, rollicking from morning to night, eating up both capital and income." At Aix and Marseilles, throughout the fashionable world, with the Comte de Valbelle, I find nothing but concerts, entertainment, balls, gallantries, and private theatricals with the Comtesse de Mirabeau for the leading performer. At Chateauroux, M. Dupin de Francueil entertains "a troop of musicians, lackeys, cooks, parasites, horses and dogs, bestowing everything lavishly, in amusements and in charity, wishing to be happy himself and everybody else around him," never casting up accounts, and going to ruin in the most delightful manner possible. Nothing arrests this gaiety, neither old age, exile, nor misfortune; in 1793 it still subsists in the prisons of the Republic. A man in place is not then made uncomfortable by his official coat, puffed up by his situation, obliged to maintain a dignified and important air, constrained under that assumed gravity which democratic envy imposes on us as if a ransom. In 1753, the parliamentarians, just exiled to Bourges, get up three companies of private theatricals and perform comedies, while one of them, M. Dupre de Saint-Maur, fights a rival with the sword. In 1787, when the entire parliament is banished to Troyes the bishop, M. de Barral, returns from his chateau de Saint-Lye expressly to receive it, presiding every evening at a dinner of forty persons. "There was no end to the fetes and dinners in the town; the president kept open house," a triple quantity of food being consumed in the eating-houses and so much wood burned in the kitchens, that the town came near being put on short allowance. Feasting and jollity is but little less in ordinary times. A parliamentarian, like a seignior, must do credit to his fortune. See the letters of the President des Brosses concerning society in Dijon; it reminds us of the abbey of Theleme; then contrast this with the same town today. In 1744, Monseigneur de Montigny, brother of the President de Bourbonne, apropos of the king's recovery, entertains the workmen, tradesmen and artisans in his employ to the number of eighty, another table being for his musicians and comedians, and a third for his clerks, secretaries, physicians, surgeons, attorneys and notaries; the crowd collects around a triumphal car covered with shepherdesses, shepherds and rustic divinities in theatrical costume; fountains flow with wine "as if it were water," and after supper the confectionery is thrown out of the windows. Each parliamentarian around him has his "little Versailles, a grand hotel between court and garden," This town, now so silent, then rang with the clatter of fine equipages. The profusion of the table is astonishing, "not only on gala days, but at the suppers of each week, and I could almost say, of each day."—Amidst all these fete-givers, the most illustrious of all, the President des Brosses, so grave on the magisterial bench, so intrepid in his remonstrances, so laborious, so learned, is an extraordinary stimulator of fun (boute-entrain), a genuine Gaul, with a sparkling, inexhaustible fund of salacious humor: with his friends he throws off his perruque, his gown, and even something more. Nobody dreams of being offended by it; nobody conceives that dress is an extinguisher, which is true of every species of dress, and of the gown in particular. "When I entered society, in 1785," writes a parliamentarian, "I found myself introduced in a certain way, alike to the wives and the mistresses of the friends of my family, passing Monday evening with one, and Tuesday evening with the other. And I was only eighteen, and I belonged to a family of magistrates." At Basville, at the residence of M. de Lamoignon, during the autumnal vacation and the Whitsuntide holidays, there are thirty persons at the table daily; there are three or four hunts a week, and the most prominent magistrates, M. de Lamoignon, M. Pasquier, M. de Rosambo, M. and Mme. d'Aguesseau, perform the "Barber of Seville" in the chateau theater.
As for the cassock, it enjoys the same freedom as the robe. At Saverne, at Clairvaux, at Le Mans and at other places, the prelates wear it as freely as a court dress. The revolutionary upheaval was necessary to make it a fixture on their bodies, and, afterwards, the hostile supervision of an organized party and the fear of constant danger. Up to 1789 the sky is too serene and the atmosphere too balmy to lead them to button it up to the neck. "Freedom, facilities, Monsieur l'Abbe," said the Cardinal de Rohan to his secretary, "without these this life would be a desert." This is what the good cardinal took care to avoid; on the contrary he had made Saverne an enchanting world according to Watteau, almost "a landing-place for Cythera." Six hundred peasants and keepers, ranged in a line a league long, form in the morning and beat up the surrounding country, while hunters, men and women, are posted at their stations. "For fear that the ladies might be frightened if left alone by themselves, the man whom they hated least was always left with them to make them feel at ease," and as nobody was allowed to leave his post before the signal "it was impossible to be surprised."—About one p.m. "the company gathered under a beautiful tent, on the bank of a stream or in some delightful place, where an exquisite dinner was served up, and, as everybody had to be made happy, each peasant received a pound of meat, two of bread and half a bottle of wine, they, as well as the ladies, only asking to begin it all over again." The accommodating prelate might certainly have replied to scrupulous people along with Voltaire, that "nothing wrong can happen in good society." In fact, so he did and in appropriate terms. One day, a lady accompanied by a young officer, having come on a visit, and being obliged to keep them over night, his valet comes and whispers to him that there is no more room.—"'Is the bath-room occupied?'—'No, Monseigneur!'—'Are there not two beds there?'—'Yes, Monseigneur, but they are both in the same chamber, and that officer. . . '—'Very well, didn't they come together? Narrow people like you always see something wrong. You will find that they will get along well together; there is not the slightest reason to consider the matter.'" And really nobody did object, either the officer or the lady.—At Granselve, in the Gard, the Bernardines are still more hospitable. People resort to the fete of St. Bernard which lasts a couple of weeks; during this time they dance, and hunt, and act comedies, "the tables being ready at all hours." The quarters of the ladies are provided with every requisite for the toilet; they lack nothing, and it is even said that it was not necessary for any of them to bring their officer.—I might cite twenty prelates not less gallant, the second Cardinal de Rohan, the hero of the necklace, M. de Jarente, bishop of Orleans, who keeps the record of benefices, the young M. de Grimaldi, bishop of Le Mans, M. de Breteuil, bishop of Montauban, M. de Cice, archbishop of Bordeaux, the Cardinal de Montmorency, grand-almoner, M. de Talleyrand, bishop of Autun, M. de Conzie, bishop of Arras, and, in the first rank, the Abbe de Saint-Germain des Pres, Comte de Clermont, prince of the blood, who, with an income of 370,000 francs succeeds in ruining himself twice, who performs in comedies in his town and country residences, who writes to Colle in a pompous style and, who, in his abbatial mansion at Berny, installs Mademoiselle Leduc, a dancer, to do the honors of his table.—There is no hypocrisy. In the house of M. Trudaine, four bishops attend the performance of a piece by Colle entitled "Les accidents ou les Abbes," the substance of which, says Colle himself, is so free that he did not dare print it along with his other pieces. A little later, Beaumarchais, on reading his "Marriage of Figaro" at the Marechal de Richelieu's domicile, not expurgated, much more crude and coarse than it is today, has bishops and archbishops for his auditors, and these, he says, "after being infinitely amused by it, did me the honor to assure me that they would state that there was not a single word in it offensive to good morals": thus was the piece accepted against reasons of State, against the king's will, and through the connivance of all those most interested in suppressing it. "There is something more irrational than my piece, and that is its success," said its author. The attraction was too strong. People devoted to pleasure could not dispense with the liveliest comedy of the age. They came to applaud a satire on themselves; and better still, they themselves acted in it.—When a prevalent taste is in fashion, it leads, like a powerful passion, to extreme extravagance; the offered pleasure must, at any price, be had. Faced with a momentary pleasure gratification, it is as a child tempted by fruit; nothing arrests it, neither the danger to which it is insensible, nor the social norms as these are established by itself.