« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
according to the different characters, customs, and manners, of the various countries.
In the courts of Germany it is a formal peice of business ; etiquette governs the arrows of Cupid, as well as the torch of Hymen. Mistresses are chosen from the number of quarters on their family coats of arms, as well as from the number of their personal charms; and those ladies who are well provided in the first, seldom are without lovers, however deficient they may be in the second. But though many avenues, which in England lead to power and distinction, are shut up in Germany, and the whole power of government is vested in the sovereign, yet the young nobility cannot bestow a great deal of their time in gallantry. The military profession, which in the time of peace is perfect idleness in France and England, is a very serious, unremitting employment in Germany. Men who are continually drilling soldiers, and whose fortunes and reputations depend on the expertness of the troops under their command, cannot pay a great deal of attention to the ladies.
Every French gentleman must be a soldier; but fighting is the only part of the business they go through with spirit; they cannot submit to the German precision in discipline, their souls sink under the tediousness of a campaign, and they languish for a battle from the impetuosity of their disposition, and impatience to have the matter decided one way or the other. This, with many particular exceptions, is the general style of the French noblesse; they all serve an apprenticeship to war, but gallantry is the profession they follow for life. In England, the spirit of play and of party draws the minds of the young inen of fortune from love or gallantry; those who spend their evenings at a gaming-house, or in parliament, seldom think of any kind of women but such as may be had without trouble ; and, of course, women of character are less attended to than in some other coun. tries. When I was last at Paris, the marquis de F
found an English newspaper on my table ; it contained a long and particular account of a debate which had happened in both houses of parliament; he read it with great attention while I finished a letter, and then throwing down the paper, he said to me, . Mais, mon ami, pendant que vos messieurs s'amusent à jaser, comme cela dans votre chambre des pairs et votre parlement, * parbleu un etranger auroit beau jeu.avec leurs femmes.'
Intrigues of gallantry, comparatively speaking, occur seldom in England; and when they do, they generally proceed from a violent passion, to which every consideration of fortune and reputation is sacrificed, and the business concludes in a flight to the continent, or a divorce.
They manage matters otherwise in France; you hard. ly ever hear of flights or divorces in that country; a hundred new arrangements are made, and as many old ones broken, in a week at Paris, without noise or scandal; all is conducted quietly et selon les régles ; the fair sex are the universal objects of respect and adoration, and yet there is no such thing as constancy in the nation. Wit, beauty, and every accomplishment united in one woman, could not fix the volatility of a Frenchman ; the love of variety, and the vanity of new conquests, would make him abandon this phoenix for birds far less rare and estimable. The women in France, who are full of spirit and sensibility, could never endure such usage, if they were not as fickle and as fond of new conquests as their lovers.
In Italy, such levity is viewed with contempt, and constancy is, by both sexes, still classed among the virtues.
That high veneration for the fair sex which prevailed in the ages of chivalry, continued long after in the form of a sentimental Platonic kind of gallantry. Every man of ingenuity chose unto himself a mistress, and directly proclaimed her beauty and her cruelty in love ditties, madrigals, and elegies, without expecting any other recom
* The French in general are apt make the same mistake with the mar. quis : they often speak of the house of peers and the parliament as two distinct assemblies.
pense than the reputation of a constant lover and a good poet. By the mere force of imagination, and the eloquence of their own metaphysical sonnets, they became persuaded that their mistresses were possessed of every accomplishment of face and mind, and that themselves were dying for love.
As in those days women were constantly guarded by their fathers and brothers before marriage, and watched and confined by their husbands for the rest of their lives; the refined passions above described were not exposed to the same accidents which so frequently befal those of modern lovers; they could neither fall into a decay from a more persect knowledge of the ladies character, nor were they liable to sudden death from enjoyment. But whilst the women were adored in song, they were miserable in reality ; confinement and distrust made them detest their husbands, and they endeavoured to form connections with men more to their taste than either jealous hushands or metaphysical lovers. To treat a woman of character as if she were an unprincipled wanton, is the most likely way to make her one. In those days of jealousy, a continual trial of skill seems to have subsisted between husband and wife, as if every lord, soon after marriage, had told his lady, · Now, madam, I know perfectly well what you would be at; but it is my business to prevent you: I'll guard you so well, and watch you so closely, that it shall never be in your power to gratify your inclinations.' . You are perfectly in the right, my lord,' replied the lady, with all meekness ; ' pray guard and watch as your wisdom shall direct ; 1, also, shall be vigilant on my part, and we shall see how the business will end.' The business generally did end as might have been expected; and the only consolation left the husband was, to endeavour to assassinate the happy lover.
But when French manners began to spread over Europe, and to insinuate themselves among nations the most opposite in character to the French, jealousy was first held up as the most detestable of all the passions. The law
had long declared against its dismal effects, and awful denunciations had been pronounced from the pulpit against those who were inflamed by its bloody spirit; but without effect, till ridicule joined in the argument, and exposed those husbands to the contempt and derision of every fashionable society, who harboured the gloomy demon in their bosoms.
As in England, after the Restoration, people, to shew their aversion to the Puritans, turned every appearance of religion into ridicule, and from the extreme of hypocrisy flew at once to that of profligacy; so in Italy, from the custom of secluding the wife from all mankind but her husband, it became the fashion that she should never be seen with her husband, and yet always have a man at her elbow.
I shall conclude what I have to say on this subject in my next.
Florence Before the Italian husbands could adopt or reconcile their minds to a custom so opposite to their former practice, they took some measures to secure a point which they had always thought of the highest importance. Finding the confinement was a plan generally reprobated, and that any appearance of jealousy subjected the husband to ridi. cule, they agreed that their wives should go into company and attend public places, but always attended by a friend whom they could trust, and who, at the same time, should not be disagreeable to the wife. This compromise could not fail of being acceptable to the women, who plainly perceived that they must be gainers by. any alteration of the former system; and it soon became universal all over Italy, for the women to appear at public places leaning upon the arm of a man; who, from their frequently whispering together, was called her Cicisbeo. It was stipulated, at the same time, that the lady, while abroad under
his care, should converse with no other man but in his presence, and with his approbation : he was to be her
guardian, her friend, and gentleman-usher.
The custom at present is, that this obsequious gentleman visits the lady every forenoon at the toilet, where the plan for passing the evening is agreed upon ; he disappears before dinner, for it is usual all over Italy for the husband and wife to dine together tête-à-tête, except on great occasions, as when there is a public feast. After dinner the husband retires, and the Cicisbeo returns and conducts the Jady to the public walk, conversazioné, or the opera ; he hands her about wherever she goes, presents her coffee, sorts her cards, and attends with the most pointed assiduity till the amusements of the evening are over ; companies her home, and delivers up his charge to the husband, who is then supposed to resume his functions.
From the nature of this connection, it could not be an easy matter to find a Cicisbeo who would be equally agreeable to the husband and wife. At the beginning of the in. stitution, the husbands, as I have been informed, preferred the Platonic swains, who professed only the metaphysics of love, and whose lectures, they imagined, might refine their wives ideas, and bring them to the same way of thinking; in many instances, no doubt, it would happen, that the Platonic admirer acted with less seraphic ends ; but these instances serve only as proofs that the husbands were mistaken in their men; for however absurd it may appear in the eyes of some people, to imagine that the husbands believe it is only a Platonic connexion which subsists between their wives and the Cicisbeos ; it is still more absurd to believe, as some strangers who have passed through this country seem to have done, that this whole system of Cicisbeism was from the beginning, and is now, an universal system of adultery connived at by every Italian husband. To get clear of one difficulty, those gentlemen fall into another much more inexplicable ; by supposing that the men, who of all the inhabitants of Europe were the most scrupulous with regard to their wives chastity,