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and the bold assurance, the chuckling confidence, the vainglorious self-satisfaction, and mock triumphant delight of his questioner ! Mark the practised leer, the OldBailey grin, with which he comments on something that science still regards as uncertain or obscure, and hear him declare to the jury, that in the present state of medical knowledge there is not a man in court might not be indicted for having handed the salt or the mustard to his neighbour!
Occasionally very rarely, it must be owned-the witness is, besides being a man of science, a man of the world-one who joins to the requirements of the "savant" all the quick and ready-witted tact of society. I remember such a case. The barrister was no common man; he was highly and variously gifted; had a keen wit and a commanding eloquence. It was his task, on the occasion I refer to, to obtain from the medical witness the admission that the substance to which the poisoning was attributed was one freely used in practice, often prescribed by the best physicians, and occasionally in doses that verged on being excessive.
"Now, Doctor A.," said he, "you have told us that strychnine is to be found in the Pharmacopoeia, an admission that goes to show that the Faculty are not afraid, to use the vulgar illustration, to play with edge-tools. You have also said that you have administered it in your own practice. Will you be kind enough to inform us in what doses ?"
"The dose would be determined by the nature of the illness, the object sought to be obtained, and the peculiar circumstances of the individual patient."
Come, come, doctor, I am not trying to poach on you for an unfee'd opinion. I want generalities. Would you give a grain of this medicine?"
"I might. I would rather give an eighth, or a sixth, or a fourth of a grain.”
you give me three
At this the doctor seemed slightly confused, and unwilling to reply, and the lawyer, accepting the hesitation as confusion from being puzzled, followed up his supposed advantage by repeating his question.
"I am doubtful on the point. It is possible that I might," was the reply, after a long pause.
"Good heavens, sir! what do you mean? You have told us that under no circumstances would you administer as much as three grains to one of the gentlemen of the jury, nor to his lordship on the bench, and yet you now avow that you are actually uncertain whether you would not give this dose to me? Explain this, sir, if you can."
The action of strychnine is but imperfectly known," said the doctor, with great composure. "It would be a valuable contribution to medical science to determine it; and we have a maxim in chemistry that says, 'Fiat experimentum in corpore vili.' That's my meaning."
In this case it was not the lawyer who triumphed.
The most offensive of all, however, is the display of legal drollery-the wit that sets the jury in a roar, and shakes the gallery with laughter. Excepting House of Commons drollery, there is nothing on earth so pitiably contemptible as legal fun. In bad taste, too, it totally eclipses the "House," for the senator is usually satisfied with
a dreary bit of Joe Miller in some supposed "apropos" to what he is saying; while counsel is sure to cut his joke on something personal to the witness-his dress, his accent, his whiskers, or his boots, well knowing the while that all reply is denied to the man he assails, and that in his coward immunity he may pelt him in perfect security.
And yet there is an offence worse than this the practice of abashing a witness, especially a female witness, by something which, in shocking her delicacy, may seem to impugn her truthfulness. A late and flagrant instance of this occurred where a young lady, suffering under a most ruffianly assault on a roadside, was subjected by the prisoner's counsel to the most shameless and
insulting cross-examination, to lead to the conclusion that she was, at one period at least, not totally averse to the advances of her aggressor. When rebuked by the court for his line of defence, counsel flippantly replied, "My lord, I must do my best for my client." What sort of professional training can it be that will make a gentleman descend to such a depth as this!
Of a truth, it requires all the gifts and graces of these accomplished men to counterbalance such little blemishes; nor am I quite sure that in extending to any class in the community the privilege of protection, while scattering insinuations broadcast, and pushing insults home, we may not be buying too dearly even our Admirable Crichton.
When the history of our time shall be written, it would not be easy to find a more significant title to it than "The Age of the Cheap Article." It is certainly the great characteristic of our day. Something that is to look like something else, seem as good, last as long, and only cost one-tenth of the price, is the grand desideratum on every hand; and consequently our newspapers are filled and our walls covered with advertisements of nickel that looks like silver, "Gladstone " that drinks like claret, cheap tea, cheap furniture, Sydenham trousers, and the two-guinea portmanteau, which contains everything necessary to a gentleman's full wardrobe for a three weeks' tour on the Continent."
It seems at first strange that this intense rage for cheapness should be essentially English. You do, of course, meet some of it in Paris, but in no other city of the Continent are the papers filled and the walls placarded with announcements of this or that substitute for something whose cost excludes it from common use. The reason, however, is
this, that there is not, from one end of Europe to the other, so unreal a people as the English! I know with what an outcry of disbelief this assertion will be met. I know well how we regard the wretched foreigner, sneering at his frivolity, his capricious ways, his poor, weak, purposeless existence, and the rest of it. I know all our national contempt for the man of eau sucré and dominoes, and I am not going to gainsay one word of it. I only reassert that for unreality, for a pretension to seem something that he is not-for, in fact, an outrageous affectation-John Bull has not his equal in Europe. The reason is simple enough. Every man in England knows and feels that his acceptance in society depends on the class in which he is supposed to move, and as class distinctions with us are meted out by money, it behoves every one to appear better off than he is. To do this requires no small share of skill or address, because it has to be done in the midst of thousands all trying the same game. To live in a fashionable quarter, or sufficiently near one to
steal the name of a neighbouring a chef in his kitchen, or dines at square, to indicate your where- a cheap chop-house abouts, is a first necessity. To live with a certain outward semblance of fortune is the second; to give dinners and entertainments comes next; to figure in subscription-lists, stand forward in works of benevolence, all follow. Now, as it is essential that you should do all these things on the scale of a man of ten times your means, you only can accomplish the feat by employing substitutes; that is to say, all around and about you must be a mockery-your house a four-storeyed delusion, your butler a ruined greengrocer, your bordeaux a full-flavoured Chancellor of the Exchequer, and your clothes the cheap product of the last Manchester discovery in devil's dust and glue.
Will you tell me that the man who lives in this charmed circle of everlasting lies, in a mock house with a mock household, a mock dinner, and an enamelled wife with a mock diamond necklace, can come out real and true? Will you ask me to believe that he who breathes an atmosphere of falsehood all his days, can preserve throughout it his own pure unsullied nature?
And now, what foreigner does this? In what city of continental Europe is there any quarter to inhabit which would be a brevet of social distinction? Is there any one, no matter how great, who could not live anywhere, no matter how humble, who asks or cares to know the amount of any man's fortune, how he spends, or why he saves it? This frivolous foreigner, with his eau sucré and kid-glove tastes, may be all that you say of him; he may follow no serious career, nor care for any occupation beyond amusement; but, take my word for it, he has fewer affectations, less of unreal pretensions-is, in a word, far less of a snob-than John Bull, and all because his social system makes no demand upon him to seem richer than he really is; nor is it any one's business to inquire whether he keeps
VOL. XCVI.-NO. DLXXXVII,
One of the greatest evils of all this unreality is, that no man is ever able to talk with any sense of security on the most ordinary things around him. He is, as it were, taking everything on trust, and on the recommendation of some one about him. He dares not question the capacity of the butler whom he got from ". my lord" any more than he can cavil at the bordeaux he got from my lord's wine-merchant. Now all this might be borne if it only invaded the material circumstances of our lives; but it has gone down far deeper: it has penetrated to our morals, and threatens seriously to poison the very best elements of our national character. Not satisfied, it would seem, with sham silver, sham damask, sham diamonds, and sham lafitte, we are now coming to a pass, in which we shall probably be content with sham honour in our men, and sham virtue in our wo
Dumas-père ou fils, I forget which -explains by a little apologue the meaning of the phrase demi-monde. He says—“ You find in a fruit-stall a basket of beautiful peaches whose price will be two francs each, and close beside them another basket, to all semblance exactly alike, the same in colour and perfume and downy softness, for twenty-five cents; and, struck by this immense disparity in cost, you ask the reason. The fruiterer at once calls your attention to a minute, almost imperceptible speck on the cheaper article, and this très petite tache it is which damages all the excellence, and reduces to a mere fraction what seemed the equal of the best. "Such," says he, "is la femme demimonde." Now, if some real or supposed attraction in this article find favour with the foreigners, in England the success will be entirely owing to its semblance to something that costs more money, and the acceptance she will gain will be exactly proportioned to the credit she will be
supposed to possess in some sphere more exalted than that she moves in. Demi-monde will gain a footing with us whenever it comes with the claim of rank or condition; and just as the bottle of corked champagne is very fine drinking in the servants' hall, the damaged countess will be warmly welcomed when she condescends to a society four grades below what she was born to. Middle-class folk have very often the impression that there is something fashionable in vice; and consequently, when wickedness can be had reasonable, as a cheap article, it is an enormous gain. Now, demimonde, as to real "monde," is as the low-priced counterfeit to the true type. It is warranted to look so like that detection is next to impossible. It is declared to wear as long, and "families will find a great economy in using it generally." Society always gains somewhat in brilliancy, though it may have to pay for it in character, by the admission of these fallen angels from a superior sphere. Take the case, for instance, of a colonial corps, into which, for some misdeeds that demand oblivion, a man has dropped out of a crack regiment at home. He brings to the dreary mess-table, that tiresome dinner-party of exhausted talkers, an entire new stock of pleasantry. All his stories are new; all the characters in them are novel. His opinions, his judgments, his slightest remarks, all smack of another world. He may -it is not impossible-shock these out-of-the-world people by traits of a life that nobody led in their day. He may hold cheaply maxims they regarded as immaculate rules of guidance, and he may proclaim principles which they have hitherto regarded with aversion. Let him, however, only continue amongst them for a little while, and he will insure a following. The mere fact of a certain social standing will secure him disciples.
Exactly the same result occurs when demi-monde invades "the Family." Even in the Vicar of
Wakefield's time, - and what poor pretender was the demi-monde of that day-what a half-fledged starveling compared to the fullfeathered bird of gorgeous plumage we now see it!-but in the Vicar's time the spurious article dazzled the eyes of rustic admirers, and, except that old roué, Mr Burchell, who doubtless had bought his experience pretty dearly, none dared to question the intrinsic value of the production.
Demi-monde is accepted in England, not from any resources it may possess of agreeability, not from its clever fac-simile of something infinitely better than it, but simply because it is supposed to be fashionable-just as Brown drinks dry champagne, making believe the while that he likes it best.
Au fond the nation is not enamoured of wickedness, and the English people never tried, as the French did, to put Virtue in the dock and arraign her by an indictment. Their fault is, however, a poor and slavish adulation of whatever is done by somebody higher and richer than themselves, and an abortive struggle to imitate it at any sacrifice.
The Frenchman likes libertinage, partly because of the licence it gives him to be whatever his humour prompts him, and chiefly because he knows it to be wrong. The Italian likes it because it conduces to the indulgence of that indolence which finds even the commonest observances of society a bore and an infliction. The German likes it as a sort of spice thrown into the flat beer of his daily existence-a something to heighten flavour, and yet not invalidate the liquor. But John Bull has no sympathy with any of these tastes, and he would reject the practice and repudiate the principle to-morrow if he had not observed that they found favour with some distinguished individual who lived in Belgravia, and of whose receptions he read in the 'Morning Post.'
We are, in fact, as to morals, pretty much what the French were as to religion in '95. Wraxall tells us that once, when getting his hair dressed by a barber in Paris, he chanced to inquire if the man were a Catholic; on which he let fall his comb and scissors in horror, and, stepping back, exclaimed-"Monsieur! I am a humble man, it is true, and a barber; but I'd beg you to understand that I have just as little religion as any man in France."
If we wanted a proof that demimonde is not congenial to our national tastes, we have it in our divorce courts. No people of Europe know so little how to conciliate vice with decorum as the English. We understand none of those refinements by which wickedness is to be draped into something gracefully mysterious and attractive. With our unromantic realism, we want to seem as vicious as we are; and hence we exhibit a
picture of conjugal life in these actions for separation unequalled throughout the world for their "do
I will not say that they these things better in France," but they do them more decently, more becomingly. The great difference is perhaps this: infidelity with us. is a commercial transaction; foreigners make seduction a branch of the fine arts.
For my own part, I am always afraid for the future of an individual who wants to have his vices cheap; I have the same foreboding for the destiny of a nation that desires to be wicked at small cost. There is some check to abandonment when its indulgence requires a strong purse; there is none when it can be practised without trenching on fortune, or invading those resources by which people exhibit themselves to their neighbours as decorous citizens, "thoroughly respectable"!!
A "NOW" AND A 66 THEN."
I will not say how many years it is since I first saw Florence. Of course, I was only a boy, a mere child, at the time; but certainly there was not, throughout Europe, a city to compare with it in social excellence and enjoyment.
Though only a grand-ducal Court, many of the ministers accredited to it took rank as ambassadors. Our own was Lord Burghersh, than whom none sustained the honour of his country with more dignity, or dispensed the hospitalities of a high station with more elegance and urbanity. Many noble English families were amongst the residents; and Prince Demidoff-the Old Prince, as he was distinctively called-kept almost open house at San Donato, and maintained, besides, an admirable corps of French actors, who gave, twice a-week, representations at his private theatre, to which, without invitation, all persons presented to the Prince were
free; and, if they pleased to come in evening dress, were also eligible to partake of the splendid supper which followed the close of the entertainment. At Lord Burghersh's there was an amateur opera given every week, admirably sustained, the chief parts being filled by the two Princes Poniatowsky, and the prima donna being the present Princess Poniatowsky. The chief direction, it is needless to say, was intrusted to the noble host, a musician of the highest attainments. Besides these, Lord Mulgrave gave his English theatricals, probably never surpassed in the ability of those who figured in them, nor in the subsequent distinction that awaited them in life. Charles Mathews, I believe, made his first appearance on these boards, and, if I mistake not, once played in a piece where three of his fellow-actors lived to be Secretaries of State in England.