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SKETCHES OF SOCIETY AND MANNERS IN LONDON
From Sir Charles Darnley, Bart. to the Marquis de Vermont.
Paris. bits, I perceive my mistake, and My Dear MARQUIS,
acknowledge, that the difference beBy the assistance of your nu tween the usages of the two nations merous and flattering reconımenda- in this respect, is more in the name tions, I begin to make my way, in than the reality. Perhaps it is true, French society. I am very sensible that it happens oftener to an Englishof the obligations I owe you in this man than to a Frenchman, to spend respect, for I find my countrymen his evenings with his wife and chilare not very popular in this city; dren, without any company, and and, with the exception of a very with only those amusements which small number of persons of exalted conversation, books, or music afford. rank, who, by peculiar favour, are But if the soirées of a Parisian are not still admitted, the doors of the most exclusively devoted to the inmates respectable Parisians are shut against of his family, he does not pass them the English. Had I not, therefore, with strangers. The visitors whom possessed such a talisman, as the he receives, or the persons in call., name of your friend bestows on me, ing on whom he passes the hours I must have been satisfied in dividing after dinner, are generally either my mornings between the gallery of his near relations, or old and longthe Louvre, and the promenades of tried friends. He seldom stays by the Thuilleries and Bois de Bologne; his own fire-side, unless it is enliand my evenings between the thea- vened by the presence of some one tres, the Palais Royal, and the gam- whom he sincerely loves; but when ing-houses. Such is the manner in he goes from home, it is to enjoy which two-thirds of British tra- the society of those who are endeared vellers consuine their time in this to him by the ties of blood, or by town; and such, and such oply, are those of the tenderest attachment, the opportunities they enjoy of ex or not, as is the case too often when amining your national character.
into the world in London, to . · I, on the contrary, have been hos- mix in heartless crowds of five pitably entertained at several houses; hundred or
a thousand persons, and, in becoming better acquainted whom vanity, and not affection, with the customs of the country, brings together. have already reconciled myself to Indeed, the manner in which the many which, at first, seemed either claims of kindred and ancient friendextraordinary or improper. - For ship are attended to, in this country, instance: finding, in the commence- is highly honourable to the national ment of my career, that only an hour character. Nothing, I am told, is was allotted to dinner (which I con more rare than a disagreement befess still appears to me too short a tween parents and children. The period for that meal, if conversation remotest degrees of relationship are and not the mere gratification of the respectfully remembered, and the appetite brings friends together on nearer ones are considered almost such occasions), and observing that sacred. Indeed, it is delightful, in your countrymen, immediately after the centre of a dissipated city, and these hasty repasts, hurried away in the highest cireles of its society, to pay a round of visits, I began to to hear those who compose them suspect that the French were quite addressing each other by the primiinsensible of those pleasures from tive but affectionate titles of father, which we derive our best enjoy- mother, uncle, aunt, or cousin. ments, -I mean the charms of a On the whole, therefore, I think it domestic circle. In acquiring a may be said, with truth, that if a more correct knowledge of your ha- Frenchman goes oftener abroad than
an Englishman, when abroad, the or to that of a wedding to the birFrenchman is more at home.-His ing of a servant or a house, or to wife and children may not occupy some occurrence deeply affecting the so much of his time, but his parents
fortunes or the affections of the parand near relations see him much ties. Well, I found that the present oftener. Hence, too, arises another discussion related to a splendid gala, amiable trait, which I have much for which the Countess had sent out pleasure in remarking, -I mean the cards of invitation, and which is general respect which is paid to age. given in honour of the approaching Instead of persons advanced in life nuptials of her lovely daughter with being neglected and rarely invited the Marquis de
Now the into company (which I fear are faults report of this intended gala harof commission and omission equally ing reached the ears of the young common in England), I find them Duchesse de she became ex. admitted into all parties in France, tremely anxious to obtain a ticket, and received with every testimony because, as the company invited are of marked and becoming respect,
to assume, on this occasion, the cosThe youngest and most dissipated tume of the reign of Henry IVtb., coxcomb of Paris will offer his arm she had the vanity to think that her to a matron of seventy, if, in cross person was particularly suited to the ing the room, her tottering step be. dress usually given in the pictures trays her need of such assistance ; of those days to “ La Belle Ganor will his politeness cease, till he brielle."-Not being known to the has led her to an armed chair, drawn Countess, she applied to the Chevaa footstool near her, and placed her lier de (who is the intimate work-bag on the table before her friend of both ladies) and he wilNor have I ever seen here such scenes, lingly undertook the task, which he as I fear you have too frequently oc was now endeavouring to execute. casion to remark at our balls in Lon. In answer to his request of an invidon, --I mean,two or three giddygirls tation for the Duchess, the Countess leaning on the arm of their partners, rather coldly answered, “ that the and making their way to the supper- entertainment was solely given to room, in high glee and spirits, while her intimate acquaintance, and that their respectable mother, alone and she had not the honour of perceiving unprotected, seems scarcely remem the name of the Duchess in that bered, and is left to the mercy of list.”. a fashionable, but still ill-mannered « On which list?" rejoined the crowd. But after making these con- Chevalier (who would not be decessions, which truth and justice de terred from his object) “No person mand, I must be permitted to remark is more ambitions of appearing than another trait in your national cha- her for whom I apply." racter of a different description, “ The Duchess is very políte,” which I was led to observe, by being said the lady of the house."Mais " accidentally present at a curious “ Mais ! what?" interrupted the scene, which I shall now relate: Chevalier; "You can have no ob
I must now begin by telling you jection to visit the Duchess ; for, that I have learnt to conform myself though beautiful, you know her to the usages of this country, and character is irreproachable." now make a round of daily visits “ Undoubtedly," answered the with all the regularity of a London Countess; " and on any other occaphysician. On one of these occa sion I should be proud to have the sions, while paying my respects to honour of being presented to the your friend the Countess de
Duchess.- Mais." I found a large party assembled, “For God's sake," again interand busily engaged in a conversa rupting her, exclaimed the Chevation, which my arrival by no means lier, “ give me no more of these interrupted; for you know, that, in chilling mais, but let us come to a Parisian circle, everything is a proper understanding.-! need openly discussed, whether it relates not remind you, that with the sinto the ingredients of a medicine, or gle exception of your own, the the effects which it has produced Duchess keeps the most agreeable to the arrangement of a court-dress, house at Paris. Her weekly parties
are delightful, and she authorises seemed to be at having made so prome to say, that if you will gratify titable a bargain. Now, though her in this particular instance, she there was no harm in all this, it diswill be happy to invite you and closed a characteristic trait, and your fair daughter to these her re shews that such is the ardour of the gular soirées, and also to a mas French, in the pursuit of pleasure, querade which she is soon to give; that even the proudest of them are and by way of obviating every dif- disposed to make a sacrifice of every ficulty on the score of ceremony, feeling of delicacy, when amusement before the evening of your fête, she offers its seductive bait. will leave her card at your door." Here, in spite of the unaltered
The Chevalier had now touched prejudices of your haute noblesse the magic chord, (for these weekly against the very name of trade, two parties had long been the subject of ladies of the highest rank were seen many an anxious wish in the bosom bartering ball against ball, with all of the Countess) her frigid word the trading spirit and manæuvering mais was no more repeated-every adroitness which commercial men scruple vanished—the lady smiled display when exchanging bales of the ticked was signed, sealed, and cotton for hogsheads of claret, or delivered, and M. Le Chevalier has loads of iron for cargoes of East tened away to the expecting Duchess, or West Indian produce. not more pleased at having executed
Adieu. his commission than the Countess
From the Marquis de Vermont to Sir Charles Darnley, Bart.
London. With regard to the negociation My Dear DARNLEY,
for an exchange of parties between It gives me great pleasure to
two ladies, I shall only now observe, find, both from your own letters, and that if our belles make a trade of from those of my correspondents, their amusements, I suspect, that, that you have already made yourself among the wives of the graver Engpopular in those circles to which it lish, similar arrangements (though has been my good fortune to be the concealed and managed with more accidental cause of first introducing art) are by no means rare. Perhaps you. My national vanity, too, is I shall have occasion to revert to much gratified in drawing from you this subject hereafter, but for the an acknowledgment, that if we have present I have other topics to discuss. many foibles, we have still some vir. If my letters have been of any tues. In your last dispatch, you use to you, the obligation has been shew your discernment in observing, amply repaid by the benefit which I and your justice in admiring, the have received from your recommenrespect which is generally paid to dations in London. I have already age in France, and to all the ties of received so many invitations to the kindred attachment and ancient hospitable tables of your friends, friendship.
that I have had frequent opportuni. As your residence lengthens ties of witnessing the manner in amongst us, and consequently your which the English associate togeknowledge of our habits, I 'fatter ther on these occasions. I have by myself that you will discover other accident visited at the houses of perobjects deserving your commenda sons in very different situations. of tion; and I am persuaded, that in life, and probably of very different spite of the caricature drawn in one fortunes; and nothing has surprized of your letters of the manner in me more, than to observe in all of which you suppose marriages to be them a similar character. I have contracted amongst us, you will dined in the families of merchants, discover that examples of conjugal lawyers, physicians, private gentlefelicity are at least as common at men, privy-counsellors, and peers, Paris as in London.
without remarking any distinguish
ing circumstance, which could have gers are received in England, and shewn the class to which they re the taste and elegance which the enspectively belonged. Every where tertainments given by the higher I find a party of sixteen or eighteen ranks in this country display, I am persons, who are ushered from the sorry to say, that my praises can go drawing-room to the eating-parlour no farther. The utmost care seems with heraldric precision, according taken that each side of the table to the rank which each individual is should present a corresponding by law entitled to claim. Every number of plats raisonés, that the where numerous tapers, held in lofty perigord pie should be matched with candelabra, or lamps in classical the vol au vent, and the cotelettes à shapes, diffuse a brilliant light. la minute with the fricandean. In Every where champagne sparkles short, that every dish should fill its in the silver ice-pails, while innume appropriate station as exactly as the rable other wines of the rarest kind, soldier finds his in a military parade. and richest favour, are handed But though such is the regularity round in troublesome profusion. observed in the arrangement of the
Every where two copious services, festive board, very little considerawith various removes, appear on tion is paid to the selection and dishes of embossed plate, or on placing of the company invited to those of the most beautiful china, one of these costly banquets. I and are followed by a dessert of mean as to the respective qualities equal magnificence.' Every where and dispositions of those who malthe attendants are numerous and gré cux are made close neighbours well dressed, and every where reigns for three or four hours, at one of that corresponding neatness and these protracted dinners. It is true, propriety which so peculiarly dis- as I have already observed, that tinguish your establishments.
every body, who has the slightest Now, though wealth is very ge- pretension to precedence, is given nerally diffused in this country, I the post of honour with all possible cannot understand how all those attention to his rank, and with very persons, among whom this wealth little regard for his wishes or inclimust have fallen in very different nations ;--but here ends the duty of proportions, contrive to live with the master of the house, and the equal splendour and expense. The rest of his friends are allowed, pell only difference I can perceive is, mell, to rauge themselves as chance that in some houses the dinner is may direct. better dressed than at others, and It does indeed seem to me most the servants more at home in the extraordinary, that, at tables where performance of their duty. In other such large sums are lavished in prorespects, an almost tiresome uni- curing every possible gratification formity prevails in the style of the for the eye and appetite, no re entertainment. A propos de la cui- gard should be paid to the mutual sine, you must pardon me for ob- taste and feelings of the guests. I serving, that the desire of adopting see every day the most glaring in. pot only the style of our eating, congruities of this kind at houses, but also the names of our dishes, the owners of which would think (which is so prevalent as to become themselves mortified and degraded, almost a rage) leads your ladies and if their servants committed the gentlemen into as many mistakes in slightest deviation from received talking of them, as their cooks com- usage, in the arrangement of the mit in the composition of these fa. various luxuries with which their vourite articles. Thus at one din table is loaded. Thus I have rener I was asked to help the bully marked a beautiful and lively young beef, at another I was offered a cutle girl scated between a superannuateu of mutton, and at a third I was as beau and a prim doctor of divinity. sared the raggoo veal was excellent, A blue-stocking belle, with a giddy yet the persons from whose lips fell officer of the guards on one side, these barbarisms were, in other re- and a fox-hunting squire on the spects, neither vulgar nor illiterate. other -a lady of the evangelical
After acknowledging the expen- school next a professed libertine, a sive hospitality with which stran- talkative and speculative widow near
a married man, (who was also deaf,) which formerly made a jourvey to this and a violent oppositionist by the country appear an object of horror side of a peer in office. I have seen to the mind of a Frenchman. Still: an author condeinned to have for it seems strange that the absence of his neighbour, the known writer of that sex (whose presence every where a critique, under the severity of is the signal of pleasure) should which he was still smarting ; and here act as a charm in unbending two Frenchmen placed side by side, the heart of John Bull. But though who, though both emigrants to this on these occasions your countrymen country, were driven hither by the throw aside their gravity, they do violence of their opposite opinions, not become either more entertaining the one for his unabated attachment or more decorous, and I have often to the fallen Napoleon, and the heard a kind of conversation at the other for his ultra-zeal in the cause best tables, such as in France would of legitimacy. In short, nothing only be tolerated at the mess of a can be more comical than the con- garrison town, or among professed fusion produced by such ill-assorted debauchees in their moments of separties, and I have sonetimes been cret and vicious indulgence. half tempted to suspect that the An English gentleman, free from giver of the fête had amused bim- all prejudices, who has often given self in bringing together the persons me very valuable information, and least suited to each other.
to whom I have remarked, as I have The natural consequence of the done in this letter to you, how genelittle attention paid to the selection rally magnificent and generally dull of the company is, that at these 'I find the dinners at London, assures great dinners there is but little con me that the one characteristic is ocversation, and except for professed casioned by the other. He says that gluttons no real enjoyment. In- expensive entertainments are given deed, I find, that while the ladies ,by many who can but ill afford remain at table, a certain number them, and as the grand object (next of common place questions are so to making a display for the sake of often repeated, in lieu of the sensi- giving theroselves the appearance of ble remarks wbich I expected from men of wealth, and importance) is the well informed English, that I to repay those entertainments of am no less tired of hearing them re which they have already partaken, echoed than of receiving the circular, and to challenge similar invitations visits of the servants, who plague from those whom they are ambitious one almost every five minutes, with of visiting, they crowd together as the offer of some fresh kind of be many guests as possible, selecting verage. The interrogations 1 allude them, not according to their social to are, with little variation, as fol- qualities, but as policy or, vanity low:
dietates, after examining the ledger Will you do me the honour of account in which they regularly entaking a glass of wire with me?ter their parties, past, expected, and Do you prefer Sauterne or Hermit- to come. age? Champagne or Hock? Were Indeed my informant goes farther, you at the Opera last night? What and pretends that first and secondo do
you think of the new ballet ? hand dinners are quite common in What news have you from Paris ? London, that is to say, two feasts Do you like England? Are you are given in the same week. To going to Lady Bell Barebone's the first all the highest titled and quadrille, or Lady Lappet's “ At wealthiest of the donor's acquaintHome ?"
ance are exclusively invited; and to When the moment arrives at the second (which is simply a hash which, according to your ungallant of the former repast) his poorer and customs, the female part of the com more distant connexions and country pany disappears, those who remain cousins, mixed up,perhaps, with some become, I am ashamed to say so, needy Scotch lords, or minor memmore at their ease, and less disposed bers of the corps diplomatique, who to formality. I must confess that I are reserved for the inferior barquets have never yet witnessed one of those in order to excite the wonder and Bacchanalian scenes, the dread of respect of the rest of the company.