IN October and November fashionable persons pour into Paris for the season. From this time forward,for about six months, town will be their head-quarters. Sometimes they make short winter trips to the southern watering-places, but they are still more or less in touch with the capital. The immigrant swarm includes all sorts of outlandish figures, pleasure-seekers of the world at large. These do not visit the shrines with quite the same devotion as of old. Still, to any one on this continent whose pursuit is a good time,” Paris is always, more or less, a matter of course. It can never be left wholly out of the reckoning.
Our older European societies make leisure a very serious vocation. They are deliberately trained for it, and they chase the butterfly with more conviction than the younger communities of the world. For instance, in a general sense, the dandy in America, while on his way to more generous recognition, is still only the transient and embarrassed phantom of Disraelian phrase. The urgent crowd yet mocks at him and his like, and he has no regular course of frivolity that keeps him hard at it, in a stately progress from trifle to trifle, for the revolving year. In France the science of not earning your own living is carried to high perfection. So it is in England, though in a more serious way, thanks to the larger resource of public life. In both you see the same thing in different forms the necessity of making pleasure an organized energy.
Years ago, when there was a temporary lull in the performances at the Salle Ventadour, the society papers were much exercised as to what should be done to fill the blank. There was a Tuesday night left unoccupied. The necessary man, however, came at the right moment in the shape of a viscount, who imagined a Tuesday at the Théâtre Français. It was ” created,” and with the greatest care. Society subscribed. The ” Figaro ” published a plan of the house, showing exactly where the Rothschilds, the Pourtalès, the Sagans, and other shining lights might be discerned with the naked eye. The contriver was considered to have deserved well of his country.
Theoretically, there is now no season in Paris, just as, theoretically, there are no fashions. This means that one section of society. is still sulking with the Republic. The idea is that it will be inconsolable until the King comes back, and that it disdains all those mundane vanities in which it has no better leader than a President and his wife. I remember once seeking out M. Worth, now long since gone to his account, to inquire of him, in a spirit of philosophic investigation, how the fashions were started. I had imagined that it would be interesting to discover the very fount of inspiration in these matters, to find out exactly how a new skirt or a new bodice was revealed to the race. He satisfied my curiosity in the most obliging manner, though, at the outset, he assured me that, under the Republic, the fashions were not started at all. They simply occurred, in a more or less fugitive fashion, because there was no one to set the needful example.
In the old days, he said, it was simple enough. He hit upon an idea, and submitted it to two or three ladies of taste in the court of the Empress. They liked it, or did not like it, and taking counsel with him, they finally shaped it into something which they might feel justified in laying before the throne. It was then further modified on its way to perfection. At length came the great day, say the opening of the spring races, when one or two of them imposed it on the mass of woman kind as a sort of edict from above. With that it started on its travels round the world.
But, virtually, of course, life has to be lived, just as women have to be dressed, and so, no matter what the régime, things get themselves done after a fashion. The science of sulking with the Republic has to own certain limitations. Rich and idle people must amuse themselves, and if they cannot get the social leadership they want, they have to invent some working substitute. As a class, the French aristocracy have no participation in public affairs. They go into political life in the unit, not in the mass, and on the same principle of equality as the notary of a country town who works his way into the Chamber or into office. So, many of them fall back on pleasures of the more frivolous kind, but for these all who seek to enjoy them, high and low alike, train with exquisite care. It is mainly a training for moderation. They know that excess is a mistake. The object is the luxury of agreeable sensation, and this precludes riot.
There is nothing more wonderful in nature, or rather in art, than a French man or woman who has succeeded in perfectly realizing this racial ideal. The man especially eats and drinks well, but only by virtue of the most rigorous selfcontrol. His dishes are arranged in a certain succession of flavors that help one another. His drinks are sipped in a scale of stimulation rising from grave to gay. I have known little partnerships for this purpose, in which men dining out at a strange place have agreed that one shall serve as taster for the two, on the principle that if indigestion is to be the penalty, there shall still be a survivor. As the different dishes are served, the taster smiles or shakes his head, and the other instantly partakes or refrains. It marks their sense of reverence for the temple of the body., and so brings them as near to religion as some are likely to get.
This training for trifles begins at birth with the infant of fashion. It is very much the business of his nurse to see that light and air do not visit him too roughly. His swaddling-clothes are a marvel of completeness as nonconductors of the winds of heaven. As soon as he is old enough to understand things, you see him toddling out with his tutor, a grave ecclesiastic, who watches over him at work and play, and puts the right notions into his mind. The ties thus formed are never wholly severed. The priest attends to all the goings out and the comings in. When ball is the game, he is there to see that his charge does not hurt himself, nor hurt the ball. He makes the lad gravely polite, and grounds him in the secondary religion of the salute, on the principle of no game of shuttlecock without a bow to your partner. He also, of course, grounds him in the humanities. At this early age the child is not sent to school. He is coached at home by the priest, and taken once or twice a week to what is called a cour, an establishment where private teaching is tested by public examinations. The cour directs the studies, and determines proficiency in them by question and answer. Tutor and pupil prepare as best they can in the interval.
The essence of the system is the exclusion of everything from the boy’s mind that ought not to be there. So he is under the strictest supervision from first to last. The priest takes him to the cour and fetches him away again. When he goes to the lycée, or public school, it is much the same. The valet takes the place of the priest, and fetches and carries, with due provision of muffler and umbrella for rainy days. So it goes on until the time of the great change, when, perhaps, the youngster is sent to Saumur, the great cavalry school. Then, for the first time, he has to stand alone, and father, mother, nurse, valet, and priest have to say good-by. It is always an anxious moment especially so for the neophyte.
The bound from tutelage to the very license of liberty, moral and intellectual, is a marked characteristic of the French system. Marriage makes the trembling ninny of a girl a finished woman of the world. A first shave converts the gawky school boy into the ape of a boulevardier, vices and all. The transformation is as sudden as anything in Eastern magic. He was a boy after his time under the tutelage system. He becomes a man before his time at Saumur, and he generally goes through a stage of puppyism which is a trial for his friends. This is the period of his first duel, a thing done on the sly, and revealed to his horrified mother only after the scratch has healed. By and by there may be other escapades of a more serious nature. But the mother is still there to find out all about them almost before they happen, and the watchful father is at hand to see that they entail a minimum of scandal.
At this stage his people begin to think of marrying him, and here again all is provided for by the ever watchful system. It is the mother’s business to learn the whereabouts of ingénues doubly dowered with virtue and with millions. The marriage is arranged, the term has a more than usually deep significance in France, and the pair have a chance of living happily ever after, if they know how to make the best of it. It is no bad chance. Though the French marriage is not, in the first instance, based on love, it is supposed never to take place until liking, at least, is assured. The rest is expected to come as a matter of growth. The theory is that any two persons of about equal age, circumstances, and breeding, if only they start fair in friendship, will learn to love each other by the mere accident of companionship and the identity of interests. The odd thing is that they very often do.
The wife has been still more carefully brought up, in her way. Nothing can exceed the more than Hindu sanctity of know nothingism in which the mind of the young French girl is shrouded from birth. At the convent she has had the wall between her and a wicked world. Her whole art of polite conversation with a man is little more than “Oui, monsieur,” Non, monsieur.” After a dance she must be safely and swiftly deposited a sort of returned empty by her mother’s side, and during that brief flutter of freedom it is not good form to take advantage of the absence of the parent bird. A few observations on the weather and the picture galleries are considered to mark the limit of taste. ” Gyp has assured us in many a cynic page that the ingénue is not half such a simpleton as she looks. But it must not be forgotten that ” Gyp ” has largely invented a type for her own business uses. The real article, while it is not exactly a lamb in innocence, is still happily unaware of most of the evil going on in the world. Here, as military life was the great change for the boy, marriage is the greater change for the girl. She passes at once into a sphere in which she is considered fair game for any allusion to anything within the bounds of good breeding. She rises to her opportunity, or to the stern duties of her station, whichever way you choose to put it, and in a surprisingly short time comes out as the finished woman of the world. This is the French way. I neither blame it nor defend it; I do not even try to account for it. I simply say what it is.
In this new state of development you will probably find the young wife at the head of a salon. Her vocation in this respect will be determined by her rank, her wealth, or her talents; but with or without them, if she holds any position, she will aspire to this kind of social leadership. It is difficult to define the French salon in a phrase. It is by no means a mere drawing-room filled with company. It is something distinctly organized with a purpose of leadership. The hostess tries to make her house a center of influence. But why go on? At Washington you have the thing itself in fair perfection of development. People come and go; they bring the news, they hear the news, and they work out their little schemes. The main art of the salon is, of course, conversation. As men at the bar talk to live, people in the salon live to talk. With this they have to altivate the social graces. They learn to listen well, to keep their tempers, to amusein a word, to make life pass smoothly for themselves and for others. The salon is really a great school of manners, and it is part of that art of painless pleasure which, as we have seen, is widely cultivated in France. If the wife belongs to the aristocracy her salon will be of the grand monde. If she only wants to belong to it, her salon will probably be political. If she shines by taste or talent it will be literary or musical. There are salons for everything, even for settling elections to the Academy. If you attend them you are expected to be amusing as well as to be amused.
Salons have their fortunes, like little books. They go up and down, according to the circumstances of the time, and sometimes the literary salon is most in vogue, and sometimes the political. The old fashioned Legitimist salon has had all sorts of fortunes. It was in great force when Louis XVIII was brought back by the allies after Waterloo. Then the scheme was to undo the work of the Revolution, and the women of the Restoration, with their priests at their back, set about it with a will. They organized the ” White Terror,” a sort of counterpoise to the ” Red,” which had just passed away, and they gave the whole Liberal school of thought an exceedingly lively time.
There was some attempt to revive the Legitimist salon when Marshal MacMahon had his brief innings. The Duchesse de Chevreuse held gloomy state, and people prophesied the coming catastrophe of the Republic over afternoon tea. But the duchess was only less belated than her old master, the Comte de Chambord, and it was felt that if Legitimism was to get the whip hand of France it must still condescend a little to notice the time of day. So the most typical salon of this period was the one managed by the Duchesse de la Rochefoucauld-Bisaccia. It was the requisite blend of old and new. She was active, much in evidence, a great patron of charities in short, a person with a finger in every pie, and all to the end of the restoration of throne and altar. But she failed for want of a good partner. The duke was an amiable nullity in affairs. He could drive a four in hand ; he was an authority on the laws of sport, a noisy politician, but no more. They tried to make a diplomatist of him by the simple process of sending him as ambassador to the court of St. James, but he was soon recalled.
The salons of finance lent a hand in this pious work, Mme. Bischoffsheim spent money like water to keep the cause in heart. So did the Duchesse d’Uzèsa Clicquot in her origin. The development of her salon, the way in which it rose from small ambitions to greater ones, was peculiar. It began merely as the best match-making salon in the Faubourg St.-Germain ; it ended as the best salon of political intrigue. Long after the 16th of May had been swept into limbo, the influence of the duchess survived in her championship of the Boulangist movement. She rallied to the Comte de Paris, as she had been ready to rally to his cousin, and she is said to have put up no small part of the money for that gigantic trust of sedition which was to be managed by the man on the black horse.
In this way we see how easily the social salon passes into the political. In fact, the dividing-lines as I have given them are only for purposes of classification. There are few drawing-rooms where they stick solely to one thing. The more or less purely political salons exhibit an agreeable diversity. They are of all shades, and of course they are especially Republican. At present, however, the salons of this variety are in a state which the grammarians define as ” being about to be.” They have been, and they are to be again. But they are still waiting for such leadership as they had under Mme. Adam, Mme. Floquet, and Mme. Lockroy. Mme. Lockroy, indeed, survives as a ruler. She is the wife of the pushing politician, late minister of marine, who has more than once occupied that position, and she was the daughter-in-law of Victor Hugo. She is charming and sociable, and is altogether a person that no rising Republican politician, with convictions and an enlightened sense of self interest, can afford to neglect.
Still, she is not what Mme. Adam was. That lady still holds receptions, but she, too, is only an object of comparison beside her former self. Her great day was at the time of that very 16th of May when she held aloft the banner of the Republic, as the duchesses held the banner of the reaction. Her house was a kind of citadel, amply provisioned with tea and cake, where the struggling Radicals, with Gambetta at their head, held the councils that saved their cause. The hostess had an almost ideal equipment of gifts for this part beauty, widowhood (which meant freedom), and the inheritance of a wealthy Republican senator. Then she touched life at other points, as a busy, if not a great, writer in romance, as in politics, and as a champion of woman’s rights. Add to this, as might be expected, a boundless selfconfidence. Her failings were those that leaned to the side of this virtue. She grew too pushing, too energetic, and became one of that imperious band who rule our spirits from their urns in this case, the urn for tea. She was for giving laws to the lawmakers of the Republic, and settling the rise and fall of ministries from her boudoir. When that ambition was fairly developed the Republican chiefs had to part company with her. But, before the change, she exercised a wide influence. She virtually gave away places. Her salon used to be thronged with all sorts of people who had their way to make in the world. Men who wanted a prefecture paid assiduous court. Dramatists who had hopes of production at the Français, a state matter in its further reaches, elbowed them on the stairs. It was a busy and a brilliant scene. It lost its essential glories when Gambetta and his associates no longer appeared, to keep their hostess in countenance in her promises of political favor. With them, naturally, went the place hunters. Still, she struggled on, and kept up the fight by founding the ” Nouvelle Revue,” and making her-self exceedingly disagreeable at times as the candid friend of the party in power.
She is visited and honored yet, if only as a memory, but, from ill health and the other causes, she is no longer what she was. She reached her height of influence when the obsequious municipality of Paris named a street after her pseudonym of ” Juliette Lamber.” Her decline was marked by a proposal in the same assembly to take her street away from her and give it to some new Egeria. For all that she holds it to this day. Poor General Uhrich at Strasburg went up and down in thoroughfares in this manner during the war. In the earlier stages of the siege he was rapidly promoted from streets to boulevards and squares but as the Germans tightened their grip on the city, and the reports grew less favorable, he lost all.
Another and an interesting variety of the political salon is the salon of the lady spy. This is exceedingly well appointed, and is altogether a curiosity of its kind. You are cordially welcomed if you have any information to impart. You give it as to an intelligent woman of position who happens to be keenly interested in public affairs, and whose little dinners are a refreshment of all the senses. If you are a foreign attaché you are expected to turn a side light on the international intrigue of the moment ; if a rising politician, you show the inwardness of a forthcoming debate ; if a journalist, you give and you receive from all the four winds of the spirit as they blow. It goes on quite merrily for a time, until the hostess suddenly disappears under the imputation that she was in the pay of a foreign power, or perhaps of the Prefecture of Police.
The literary salon was in its perfection when M. Caro was the favorite lecturer at the Sorbonne. There is generally a fashionable professor in Paris, as there is a fashionable preacher. The smartest women attend his lectures, and take copious notes on points of meta-physics or theology. The strength of Caro’s position was that they actually read the notes when they got home. He came to strengthen that reaction in favor of the Catholic faith which was one effect of the war. People were so humbled by the national disasters that their thoughts were easily turned to religion. So there began a movement against skepticism, and Caro led it at the Sorbonne. He lectured, with exceeding grace and charm, to prove that there was no necessary divorce between philosophy and faith. The fine ladies were edified and delighted. They formed rival salons in honor of him, both known as the ” Carolines,” after his nameone set as the ” Carolines of the north of Paris, and the other as the ” Carolines ” of the south. This went on until Pailleron put him and his worshipers on the stage in a famous comedy, ” Le monde où l’on s’ennuie.” It was meant to crush Caro, but it did nothing of the sort. Ridicule gave him the benefit of an advertisement. He met the attack by taking a box in the theater and watching the whole performance, sometimes applauding his own counterfeit on the stage. He died as he had lived, successful, and deservedly so, for he was a man of erudition, and of great refinement of manner and of literary style. The interest of his personality in this connection is that it shows how society, when it is in the mood, knows how to get entertainment out of everything. Here was a lecturer at the Sorbonne who gave Paris not only two literary salons, but even a new play.
The French club takes its character from the French salon. It has to be amusing or die. The French have a highly developed club life, only it is necessarily a club life of their own. They take less joy than the English, from whom they are supposed to derive the institution, in those negative clubs in which you simply dine and read your paper. They expect the club to do a good deal for them. It is to have an active function, and is to be much more than a mere place of meeting. So the really typical club of Paris is the one formerly known as the Mirlitons, now fused with another, but still carrying its principles into the partnership. The Mirlitons is a club of the united arts. It is for painters, men of letters, and the like. They are not left to their own devices. The committee organize all sorts of entertainments. They hold choice concerts in the season, at which some of the best amateurs in Paris are to be heard. At another time it is a picture exhibition, to which, as to the concerts, members may invite their friends. Now and then you have an amateur dramatic performance, or a great assault of arms, which brings together, as deadly opposites, some of the most noted swordsmen in Paris.
Another variety of appeal to this universal desire for something to do is the dining club. Many Frenchmen who do not need an all-the-year-round club are still glad to meet their friends at intervals of the week, fort-night, or month. The clubs for this purpose are legion, and they need a new directory for every year, for they come and go. They unite men with the same pursuits or the same tastes. They are of all sorts. There is a dining club of men of letters. There are clubs (or there used to be) for the subdivisions of schools, for the Parnassians and for the Plastics, as there was a Boiled Beef Club, for the naturalists, under Zola. Add to these a club for failures in literature, a club for men whose plays have been hissed off the stage, a club for blockheads, clubs for painters, etchers, and so on. Then there are the clubs of provincialsthe Club of the Apple, which brings the Normans together, as men from the cider country ; the Club of the Cigale, which unites the poets of Provence; the Celtic Club, at which Renan used often to preside. This is one of the simplest modes of reunion. It entails no cost for premises, and but little for management. The members meet at a restaurant, and as they do not have too much of one another, they are usually at their best.
The same craving for something to give a pulse to life may largely account for the number of gambling clubs in Paris. There are clubs that are for nothing but gambling, and, apart from these, there is high play at pretty well every institution of the kind. The Frenchman is almost incapable of sitting still, of a state of mere being without doing, in club life. The concentration of baccarat is an agreeable variant of passionless repose. The gambling clubs properor impropertake a fine-sounding name, sometimes de-rived from literature or art, but they are well understood to be simply places for the rigor of the game. They are mostly proprietary, and are magnificently appointed. The owner can afford to do the thing well at a moderate and, indeed, a merely nominal subscription. A good dinner is supplied at little above cost price. It brings customers to the house, and inspires them with hope for the chances of the green table.
Of course the English variety of club is not unknown. The old-fashioned Union, for instance, is quite as select as Boodle’s or White’s. It is almost a mark of good form to wear your hat there. You go to the Union as you might go to church. So you do to the Jockey. It has long since got rid of its wildness of youth, when Lord Henry Seymour, a brother of the Marquis of Hertford, was one of its members, and used to drive down in his coach and four, to the edification of the boulevard. It is exclusive and correct. Its surviving dissipations have a stateliness about them which might almost make them the devotional exercises of any other institution.
All the recreations of society have this note of special adaptation. There is always an attempt to give the turn of taste or of luxury. The inventor of the bran-bath must have been a Frenchman. The very sports of the field are something of a garden entertainment. If the racing is not quite so serious as it is in England,it is prettier and more comfortable. Still, it is good racing, too. Nothing need be better than the great meetings at Chantilly, at Auteuil, at Longchamps, and a dozen other places that might be named. But even there, and I am not saying it in the least in blame, there is still the search for elegance. The stands are more tasteful, the President’s box is better, the approaches are better. The French have almost the honor of the invention of the private meeting. They certainly have brought it to its perfection. The scene varies. Sometimes it is La Marche, sometimes the Croix de Berny, sometimes Marly-le-Roi. This amusement they combine with coaching. You are driven down in a party to some delightful little place all among the green trees, and there you have your race all to yourselves, your picnic after, and, perhaps, your dance to follow. The sport is only a Pièce de résistance, and the true feast is in the side-dishes.
There is a classic simplicity about such things in England which has its charm too, but the world is wide enough for both styles. An English coach drive is a drive in a coach, and there an end. You go a long way, have something to eat in an inn parlor, and come back as you went. The French shorten the drive and lengthen the lunch. When the horses get home they will be put up in crack stables, wonderful to behold. The fittings in German silver, if not in the real article, in patent leather, and in deep toned mahogany, or what not, are usually covered up, like drawing-room furniture in its chintzes. The horses themselves see so little of these braveries in a general way that they have a tendency to shy at them, on company days, when the cloths are removed. In Baron Hirsch’s stables the family colors used to be woven into the very matting which covered the floor. It is so with all French sports with their polo, for instance, where still they do good work. Compare the polo-ground at Bagatelle for notions as distinct from the beauty of the scene, with the same thing at Hurlingham or at Ranelagh.
It is the same with the riding. The Row in the Bois is prettier in its surroundings than the Row in Hyde Park. It is more ample, and it commands a finerlandscape. The sense of the time of year, spring: summer, or even winter, is more insistent. The personnel may not be quite so impressive as in the Row, but that is another matter. The riding is a little mixed. Everybody thinks himself entitled to have a try. The freedom from fear and trembling with which some Frenchmen will mount a horse must ever cause fear and trembling in the beholder. The beggar on horseback is not half so objectionable as the rich man who has mounted late in life. The park riding is good, but here once more, as in all else, it tends to err on the side of finesse, and to suggest the Hippodrome. There are no better circus-riders in the world. Who but they have taught the horse to waltz and to make his bow? A little of this affectation has ,crept into the management of the cob. Finesse! finesse! you find it everywhere,even in the institution of afternoon tea. The bread and butter is a trifle too diaphanous for human nature’s daily food. The sense of a religious rite is a little too intrusive. When the French copy the foreigner, they copy with the exaggeration of idolatry.
With the Grand Prix the season comes to an end. People then begin to think of flight to the spas, to. Marienbad, or to Ischl, where they catch a glimpse of the Austrian court, or to Aixles-Bains and other places at home. Then, too, comes the time for the country houses. The country-house life is highly developed, only less so than in England, and there is everything but liberty. They will ” entertain ” you morning, noon, and night, and they have yet to acquire the art of letting you alone. There are picnics and excursions all day long, with dances and jeux de société at night. It is distracting. Some of the best houses are those associated with the names of the old vineyards, such as the Château Laffitte, the Château d’Yquem, the Château Margaux, the Cos d’Estournel. The capitalists are gradually buying up these ancient seats and turning them into pleasure-houses, as well as places of business. The vintage pays the piper, and it is also part of the sport. You play at pressing the grapes.
Then apart from all this, or with it, there are the hunting and the shooting. These are serious sports in France, taking the country as a whole, and they are not to be rashly despised by those who are familiar with only the exploits of the cockney sportsman. The hunting of the boar, the hunting of the wolf, are both dangerous, and both associated with fine breeds of hounds. Boar-hunting, in particular, is no joke. The wolf-hunting is chiefly a scheme for the destruction of vermin. In some parts of the country these marauders are very troublesome to the flocks, and do any amount of damage. Then there is the hunting of the stag, where, once more, the decorative tendency comes in. Their art of hunting is as old as their country. They have given a name to most of the terms of sport, and they have invented most of the forms and ceremonies. We have all laughed over the great curling horns round the body of the sportsman, but these have their uses at the close of a long run, when you hear them through the silence of the woods and the witchery of the twilight, sounding the death of the stag. It is like something from the tale of Arthur or of Roland. The horns wind for every stage of the process for the view, for the turn at bay, and, as we have seen, right on to the end. There is quite a rubric for the death, and still another for the distribution of the daintily carved morsels of the quarry among the hounds that have run him down. This is generally done by torch light, in the courtyard of the château. Another great ceremonial observance is the benediction of the hounds on St. Hubert’s day. This was revived by the Duc d’Aurnale when he came back to live at Chantilly, with a determination to revive its glories. All who wore the duke’s livery of the chase had to attend a solemn mass, with the pack at the door of the church, under the eye and whip of the huntsman. At the moment of the elevation of the host the hounds were expected to bark in chorus, but too often they only howled in sections as they felt the thong. In all this we see the tendency of the French to dramatize everything in life. The English rules of sport are for business, the French for beauty and grace.
These amusements run into money, and so, once more, the rising men of the time, who are the architects of their own fortunes, have their chance. There is no holding them back here, as there is no holding them back anywhere. They buy their way into rich families and into great châteaux. They, and the families into which they buy, make society. Beyond these there is a fringe of betitled impostors. In no other country in the world are there so many dukes, marquises, and counts who can give no intelligible account of their blazon. They form a society of their own. They are on terms of tolerance with one another, for their principle is, ” Live and let live.” It is understood that I go on calling you ” count ” as long as you go on calling me ” baron,” and no questions asked. Their nutriment is the wild gull from oversea. It is with their aid that the fresh-caught millionaire from Brazil begins to furnish his salon. The house-agent will contract for them at a pinch, as for the chairs and tables. The sham nobility take their seats at the newcomer’s board, and if they respect his spoons, he may be a long time before he finds out the difference between them and the real article.
A more respectable member of ” the fringe ” is the broken-down gentleman who has lived in good society, and who, for a variety of possible reasons, has lost his footing. These dejected spirits tend generally to haunt the scenes of former bliss. One of their gathering-places is at the junction of the Avenue of the Bois with the Place de l’ Etoile. They take their seats there on fine afternoons, to watch the long procession of carriages and live again in their memories of former splendor. The mention of them is not without significance at the end of this survey. Truly they represent a dead and gone state of things, or, at any rate, a dying one. The fine folks of their memories are really passing away as an order. Fashionable Paris is no longer to be confounded with aristocratic Paris. The two things are separate and distinct. Fashion has outgrown its old bounds of the old families, and aristocracy, as a governing force, has become a mere survival of habit. The two aristocracies, the old and the new, the Legitimist and the Bonapartist,not to speak of the Orleanist, as shoddy as the last, are mutually destructive. As they cannot agree to revere one another, they have helped the crowd to despise them all. A new society has come into power by process of natural change. Education, which is the real basis, is within the reach of all.
Republics must educate or perish. Under this one no nimble spirit need be ignorant for want of the chance of knowledge. There is small difference of opportunity between the duke’s son and the cobbler’s. Manner is a heritage which the French have in common. All that remains to win social importanceand I put it last in no paradoxical spirit is to win wealth. There again, whatever the dignity of the pursuit, the career is at least open. Access to political power is equally a part of the heritage. With this and with wealth, education, and manners, social importance comes at call, and the mere handle to the name becomes a pure superfluity. This is the real meaning of what is now going on in France. The old hereditary sets are being quietly elbowed out of the way by the new claimants for a place in the sun. The big names, as they appear in society journals and in the letters of foreign correspondents, have a quite fictitious importance. Fashionable Paris is now one of the newest things in the place.