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veloped a craving for the society to which only the nobly
born demoiselle was admitted. When this craving went
too far, it frequently led to seduction by some of the
chevaliers who make seduction a profession.

The marriage customs in these circles differed little from
those of to-day. The suitor asked permission to call and
to continue his visits; then followed the period of present
giving. The young girl was almost always absolute mis-
tress of the decision; if the father presented a name, the
daughter insisted upon seeing, receiving, and becoming
intimately acquainted with the suitor, a custom quite dif-
ferent from that practised among the nobility. Instead of
giving her rights as it did the girl of the nobility, marriage
imposed duties upon the girl of the middle class; it closed
the world instead of opening it to her; it ended her bril-
liant, gay, and easy life, instead of beginning it, as was
the case in the higher classes. This she realized, there-
fore hesitated long before taking the final step which was
to bind her until death.

With her, becoming a wife meant infinitely more than it
did to the girl of the nobility; her husband had the man-
agemjent^f her money, and his vices were visited upon
her and her chifdren— in short, he became her master in
all things. These disadvantages she was taught to consider
deeply before entering the marriage state.

This state of affairs developed distinctive physiognomies
in the different classes of the middle-class society: thus,
"the wives of the_fmanciers are dignified, stern, severe;
those of the merchants are seductive, active, gossiping,
and alert; those of the artists are free, easy, and inde-
pendent, with a strong taste for 'pre"asure^aTid gayety —


and they give the tone." As we approach the end of the
century, the bourgeoisie begins to assume the airs, habits,
extravagances, and even the immoralities, of the higher

Below the hoiirgeoise was the workingwoman, whose
ideas were limited to those of a savage and who was a
woman only in sex. Her ideas of morality, decency,
conjugal happiness, children, education, were limited by
quarrels, profanity, blows, fights. At that time brandy
was the sole consolation for those women; it supplied their
moral force and their moral resistance, making them forget
cold, hunger, fatigue, evil, and giving them courage and
patience; it was the fire that sustained, comforted, and in-
cited them.

These women were not much above the level of animals,
but from them, we find, often sprang the entertainers of
the time, the queens of beauty and gallantry — Laguerre,
D'Hervieux, Sophie Arnould. Having lost their virtue
with maturity, these women had no sense of morality; in
them, nothing preserved the sense of honor — their religion
consisted of a few superstitious practices. The constitu-
ents of duty and the virtue of women they could only
vaguely guess; marriage itself was presented to them
under the most repugnant image of constant contention.

It was in such an atmosphere as this that the daughters
of these women grew up. Their talents found opportunity
for display at the public dances where some of them
would in time attract especial attention. Some became
opera singers, dancers, or actresses, and were very popu-
lar; others became influential, and, through the efforts of
some lover, allured about them a circle of ambitious
debauches or aspirants for social favors. Through their
adventures they made their way up in the world to high


From this element of prostitution was disentangled, to a
large extent, the great gallantry of the eighteenth century.
This was accomplished by adding an elegance to debauch,
by clothing vice with a sort of grandeur, and by adorning
scandal with a semblance of the glory and grace of the
courtier of old. Possessing the fascination of all gifts,
prodigalities, follies, with all the appetities and tendencies
of the time, these women attracted the society of the
period — the poets, the artists, even the scientists, the phi-
losophers, and the nobility. Their reputation increased
with the number and standing of their lovers. The
genius of the eighteenth century circled about these street
belles — ^they represented the fortune of pleasure.

As the church would not countenance the marriage of
an actress, she was forced to renounce the theatre when
she would marry, but once married a permit to return to
the stage was easily obtained. Society was not so severe
as the laws; it received actresses, sought out, and even
adored them; it received the women of the stage as equals,
and many of them were married by counts and dukes,
given a title, and presented at court. The regular type
of the prostitute was tolerated and even received by
society; "a word of anger, malediction, or outrage, was
seldom raised against these women: on the contrary, pity
and the commiseration of charity and tenderness were felt
for them and manifested." This was natural, for many of
them — through notoriety — reached society and, as mis-
tresses of the king, even the throne itself. "If such
women as Mme. de Pompadour were esteemed, what
principles remained in the name of which to judge without
pity and to condemn the debauchees of the street," says
Mme. de Choiseul, one of the purest of women.

This class usually created and established the styles.
There is a striking contrast between the standards of


beauty and fashions of the respective periods of Louis XIV.
and Louis XV.: "The stately figure, rich costume, awe-
inspiring peruke of the magnificent Louis XIV. — the satins,
velvets, embroideries, perfumes, and powder of the indo-
lent and handsome Louis XV., well illustrate the two
epochs." The beauty of the Louis XIV. age was more
serious, more imposing, imperial, classic; later in the
eighteenth century, under Louis XV., she developed into
a charming figure of finesse, sveltesse et gracilite, with
an extremely delicate complexion, a small mouth and thin
nose, as opposed to the strong, plump mouth and ne:!^ leonin
(leonine nose). More animated, the face was all move-
ment, the eyes talked; the esprit passed to the face. It
was the type of Marivaux' comedies, with an esprit mobile,
animated and colored by all the coquetries of grace.

Later in the century, the very opposite type prevailed;
the aspiration then became to leave an emotion ungratified
rather than to seduce; a languishing expression was culti-
vated; women sought to sweeten the physiognomy, to
make it tender and mild. The style of beauty changed
from the brunette with brown eyes — so much in vogue
under Louis XV., to the blonde with blue eyes under
Louis XVI. Even the red which formerly "dishonored
France," became a favorite. To obtain the much admired
pale complexion, women had themselves bled; their dress
corresponded to their complexion, light materials and pure
white being much affected.

In these three stages of the development of beauty,
fashion changed to harmonize with the popular style in
beauty. In general, styles were influenced by an impor-
tant event of the day: thus, when Marie Leczinska intro-
duced the fad of quadrilles, there were invented ribbons
called "quadrille of the queen"; and many other fads
originated in the same way. French taste and fashions


travelled over entire Europe; all Europe was a lafrangaise,
yoked and laced in French styles, French in art, taste,
industry. The domination of the French Galerie des
Modes was due to the inventive minds of French women
in relation to everything pertaining to headdress, to
detailed and delicate arrangements of every phase of

Every country had, in Paris, its agents who eagerly
waited for the appearance of the famous doll of the Rue
Saint-Honore; this figure was an exponent of the latest
fashions and inventions, and, changing continually, was
watched and copied by all Europe. Alterations in style
frequently originated at the supper of a mistress, in the box
of a dancer or in the atelier of a fine modiste; therefore,
in that respect, that century differed little from the present
one. Trade depended largely upon foreign patronage.
Fortunes were made by the modistes, who were the
great artists of the day and who set the fashion; but
the hairdresser and shoemaker, also, were artists, as
was seen, at least in name, and were as impertinent
as prosperous.

An interesting illustration of the change of fashion is
the following anecdote: In 1714, at a supper of the king,
at Versailles, two English women wore low headdress,
causing a scandal which came near costing them their
dismissal. The king happened to mention that if French
women were reasonable, they would not dress otherwise.
The word was spread, and the next day, at the king's
mass the ladies all wore their hair like the English women,
regardless of the laughter of the women who, being absent
the previous evening, had their hair dressed high. The
compliment of the king as he was leaving mass, to the
ladies with the low headdress, caused a complete change
in the mode.


It now remains but to illustrate these various classes
by types — by women wiio have become famous. The
Duchesse de Boufflers, Marechale de Luxembourg, was
the woman who most completely typified the spirit and
tone of the eighteenth-century classique in everything that
belonged to the ancient regime which passed away with
the society of 1789. She was the daughter of the Due de
Villeroy, and married the Due de Boufflers in 1721; after
the death of the latter in 1747, and after having been the
mistress of M. de Luxembourg for several years, she mar-
ried him in 1750. Her youth was like that of most women
of the social world. A savante in intrigues at court, present
at all suppers, bouts, and pleasure trips as lady-of-the-
palace to the queen, intriguing constantly, holding her
own by her sharp wit, in a society of roues et elegants
enerves she soon became a leader. Mme. du Deffand left
a striking portrait of her:

"Mme. la Duchesse de Boufflers is beautiful without
having the air of suspecting it. Her physiognomy is keen
and piquant, her expression reveals all the emotions of
her soul — she does not have to say what she thinks, one
guesses it. Her gestures are so natural and so perfectly
in accord with what she says, that it is diificult not to be
led to think and feel as she does. She dominates wherever
she is, and she always makes the impression she desires
to make. She makes use of her advantages almost like a
god — she permits us to believe that we have a free will
while she determines us. In general, she is more feared
than loved. She has much esprit and gayety. She is
constant in her engagements, faithful to her friends, truth-
ful, discreet, generous. If she were more clairvoyant or
if men were less ridiculous, they would find her perfect."

On one occasion M. de Tressan composed this famous


'Quand Boufiaers parut a la cour,
On crut voir la mere d' Amour,
Chacun s'empressait a lui plaire,
Et chacun I'avait a son tour."

[When Boufflers appeared at court,
The mother of love was thought to be seen,
Everyone became so eager to please her,
And each one had her in his turn.]

One day Mme. de Boufflers mumbled this before M. de
Tressan, saying to him: "Do you know the author? It
is so beautiful that I would not only pardon her, but I be-
lieve I would embrace her." Whereupon he stammered:
Eh bien! c'est moi. She quickly dealt him two vigorous
slaps in the face. All feared her; no one equalled her in
skill and shrewdness, or in knowing and handling men.

After her marriage to the Marechal de Luxembourg,
she decided, about 1750, to open a salon in Paris; it
became one of the real forces of the eighteenth century,
socially and politically. While her husband lived, she did
not enjoy the freedom she desired; after his death in 1764
she was at liberty to do as she pleased, and she then
began her career as a judge and counsellor in all social
matters. She was regarded as the oracle of taste and
urbanity, exercised a supervision over the tone and usage
of society, was the censor of la bonne compagnie during
the happy years of Louis XVI. This power in her was
universally recognized. She tempered the Anglomania of
the time, all excesses of familiarity and rudeness; she
never uttered a bad expression, a coarse laugh or a tutoie-
ment (thee and thou). The slightest affectation in tone
or gesture was detected and judged by her. She preserved
the good tone of society and permitted no contamination.
She retarded the reign of clubs, retained the urbanity
of French society, and preserved a proper and unique

288 WOiHAN

character in the ancien salon frangais, in the way of
excellence of tone.

The Marquise de Rambouillet, Mme. de La Fayette,
Mme. de Maintenon, Mme. de Caylus, and Mme. de
Luxembourg are of the same type — the same world, with
little variance and no decadence; in some respects, the
last may be said to have approached nearest to perfection.
**In her, the turn of critical and caustic severity was ex-
empt from rigidity and was accompanied by every charm
and pleasingness in her person. She often judged [a per-
son] by [his] ability at repartee, which she tested by
embarrassing questions across the table, judging [the
person] by the reply. She herself was never at a loss
for an answer: when shown two portraits — one of Moliere
and one of La Fontaine — and asked which was the greater,
she answered: 'That one,' pointing to La Fontaine, Ms
more perfect in a genre less perfect.' "

By the Goncourt brothers, her salon has been given its
merited credit: "The most elegant salon was that of the
Marechale de Luxembourg, one of the most original women
of the time. She showed an originality in her judgments,
she was authority in usage, a genius in taste. About her
were pleasure, interest, novelty, letters; here was formed
the true elegance of the eighteenth century — a society
that held sway over Europe until 1789. Here was formed
the greatest institution of the time, the only one that sur-
vived till the Revolution, that preserved — in the discredit
of all moral laws — the authority of one law, la parfaite
bonne compagnie, whose aim was a social one — to distin-
guish itself from bad company, vulgar and provincial
society, by the perfection of the means of pleasing, by
the delicacy of friendship, by the art of considerations,
complaisances, of savoir vivre, by all possible researches
and refinements of esprit. It fixed everything — usages,


etiquette, tone of conversation; it taught how to praise
without bombast and insipidness, to reply to a compli-
ment without disdaining or accepting it, to bring others to
value without appearing to protect them; it prevented all
slander. If it did not impart modesty, goodness, indul-
gence, nobleness of sentiment, it at least imposed the forms,
exacting the appearances and showing the images of them.
It was the guardian of urbanity and maintained all the
laws that are derived from taste. It represented the re-
ligion of honor; it judged, and when it condemned a man
he was socially ruined."

A type of what may be called the social mistress of the
nobility — the personification of good taste, elegance and
propriety such as it should be — was the Comtesse de
Bouiflers, mistress of the Prince de Conti, intimate friend
of Hume, Rousseau, and Gustave III., King of Sweden.
The countess was one of the most influential and spiritu-
elle members of French society, her special mission and
delight being the introduction of foreign celebrities into
French society. She piloted them, was their patroness,
spoke almost all modern languages, and visited her friends
in their respective countries. She was the most travelled
and most hospitable of great French women, hence the
woman best informed upon the world in general.

She was born in Paris in 1725, and in 1746 was mar-
ried to the Comte de Boufflers-Rouvrel; soon after, be-
coming enamored of the Prince de Conti, she became his
acknowledged mistress. To give an idea of the light in
which the women of that time considered those who were
mistresses of great men, the following episodes may be
cited: One day, Mme. de Boufflers, momentarily forget-
ting her relations to the Prince de Conti, remarked that
she scorned a woman who avait un prhice du sang (was
mistress of a prince of the blood). When reminded of her


apparent inconsistency, she said: " I wish to give by
my words to virtue what I take away from it by my
actions. . . ." On another occasion, she reproached
the Marechale de Mirepoix for going to see Mme. de
Pompadour, and in the heat of argument said: " Why, she
is nothing but the fust fille (mistress) of the kingdom!"
The marechale replied: "Do not force me to count even
unto three" (Mme. de Pompadour, Mile. Marquise, Mme.
de Boufflers). In those days, the position of mistress of
an important man attracted little more attention than
might a petty, trivial, light-hearted flirtation nowadays.

After the death of M. de Boufflers, in 1764, the all-
absorbing question of society, and one of vital importance
to madame, was. Will the prince marry her? If not, will
she continue to be his mistress? In this critical period,
Hume showed his friendship and true sympathy by giving
Mme. de Boufflers most persuasive and practical advice in
reference to morals — which she did not follow. Her rela-
tions with Rousseau showed her capable of the deepest
and most profound friendship and sympathy. According
to Sainte-Beuve, it was she who, by aid of her friends in
England, procured asylum for him with Hume at Wootton.
When Rousseau's rashness brought on the quarrel which
set in commotion and agitated the intellectual circles of
both continents, Mme. de Boufflers took his part and re-
mained faithful to him, securing a place for him in the
Chateau de Trie, which belonged to the Prince de Conti.

All who came in contact with her recognized the distinc-
tion, elevation of esprit, and sentiment of Mme. de Bouf-
flers. With her are associated the greatest names of the
time; being perfectly at home on all the political questions
of the day, she was better able to converse upon these
subjects than was any other woman of the time. When
in 1762 she visited England, she was lionized everywhere.


She was f^ted at court and in the city, and all conversation
was upon the one subject, that of her presence, which was
one of the important events of London life. Everyone
was anxious to see the famous woman, the first of rank to
visit England in two hundred years. She even received
some special attention from the eccentric Samuel Johnson,
in this manner: "Horace Walpole had taken the countess
to call on Johnson. After the conventional time of a
formal call had expired, they left, and were halfway down
stairs, when it dawned upon Johnson that it was his duty,
as host, to pay the honors of his literary residence to a
foreign lady of quality; to show himself gallant, he jumped
down from the top of the stairway, and, all agitation,
seized the hand of the countess and conducted her to her

No woman at court had more friends and fewer enemies
than did Mme. de Boufflers, because "she united to the
gifts of nature and the culture of esprit an amiable sim-
plicity, charming graces, a goodness, kindness, and sensi-
bility, which made her forget herself always and constantly
seek to aid those about her." She made use of her influ-
ence over the prince in such ways as would, in a measure,
recompense for her fault, and thus recommended herself
by her good actions. She was the soul of his salon, " Le
Temple." The love of these two people, through its inti-
macy and public display, through its constancy, happiness,
and decency, dissipated all scandal. Always cheerful and
pleased to amuse, knowing how to pay attention to all,
always rewarding the bright remarks of others with a
smile, which all sought as a mark of approbation, no one
ever wished her any ill fortune.

The last days of the Prince de Conti were cheered by
the presence of Mme. de Boufflers and the friends whom
she gathered about him to help bear his illness. The letter


to her from Hume, on his deathbed, is most pathetic, show-
ing the influence of this woman and the nature of the
impression she left upon her friends:

"Edinburgh, 20th of August, 1776.
"Although I am certainly within a few weeks, dear Ma-
dame, and perhaps within a few days, of my own death, I
could not forbear being struck with the death of the Prince
of Conti — so great a loss in every particular. My reflec-
tion carried me immediately to your situation in this mel-
ancholy incident. What a difference to you in your whole
plan of life! Pray write me some particulars, but in such
terms that you need not care, in case of my decease, into
whose hands your letter may fall. . . . My distemper
is a diarrhoea or disorder in my bowels, which has been
gradually undermining me for these two years, but within
these six months has been visibly hastening me to my end.
1 see death approach gradually, without any anxiety or
regret. I salute you with great affection and regard, for
the last time.

" David Hume."

Hume died five days after this letter was written.

The last years of her life she spent with her daughter-
in-law, at Auteuil, where she lived a happy life and re-
ceived the best society of Paris. When she died or under
what circumstances is not known. During the Revolution
she lived in obscurity, busying herself with charitable
work; she was one of the few women of the nobility to
escape the guillotine. "This woman, who had kept the
intellectual world alive with her esprit and goodness, of a
sudden vanishes like a star from the horizon; she lives on,
unnoticed by everyone, and, in that new society, no one
misses her or regrets her death."


In order to fully appreciate the mistress of the eighteenth
century, her power and influence, her rise to popularity
and social standing, the general and accepted idea and
nature of the sentiment called love must be explained; for
it was to the peculiar development of that emotion that the
mistress owed her fortune.

In the eighteenth century love became a theory, a cult;
it developed a language of its own. In the preceding age
love was declared, it spoke, it was a virtue of grandeur
and generosity, of courage and delicacy, exacting all proofs
of decency and gallantry, patient efforts, respect, vows,
discretion, and reciprocal affection. The ideal was one of
heroism, nobleness, and bravery. In the eighteenth cen-
tury this ideal became mere desire; love became voluptu-
ousness, which was to be found in art, music, styles,
fashions — in everything. Woman herself was nothing
more than the embodiment of voluptuousness; it made
her what she was, directing and fashioning her. Every
movement she made, every garment she wore, all the care
she applied to her appearance — all breathed this volupte.

In paintings it was found in impure images, coquettish
immodesties, in couples embraced in the midst of flowers,
in scenes of tenderness: all these representations were
hung in the rooms of young girls, above their beds. They
grew up to know volupte, and, when old enough, they
longed for it. It was useless for women to try to escape
its power, and chastity naturally disappeared under these
temptations. The young girl inherited the impure instincts
of the mother, and, when matured, was ready and eager
for all that could enchant and gratify the senses.

True domestic friendship and intimacy were rare, be-
cause the husband given to a young girl had passed
through a long list of mistresses, and talked — ^from expe-
rience — gallant confidences which took away the veil of


illusion. She was immediately taken into society, where
she became familiar with the spicy proverbs and the salty
prologues of the theatre, where supposedly decent women
were present, in curtained boxes. At the suppers and
dinners, by songs and plays, at the gatherings where held
forth Duclos and others like him, in the midst of cham-
pagne, ivresse d' esprit, and eloquence, she was taught and
saw the corruption of society and marriage, the disrespect
to modesty; in such an atmosphere all trace of innocence
was destroyed. She was taught that faithfulness to a
husband belonged only to the people, that it was an evi-

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