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banker, however, are still worse, since with them the visiting-list is
usually a mere extract from the ledger.

Our privacy has not been without its advantages. It has enabled us to
visit all the visible objects without the incumbrance of engagements, and
given me leisure to note and to comment on things that might otherwise
have been overlooked. For several months we have had nothing to do but to
see sights, get familiarized with a situation that, at first, we found
singularly novel, and to brush up our French.

I never had sufficient faith in the popular accounts of the usages of
other countries, to believe one-half of what I have heard. I distrusted
from the first the fact of ladies - I mean real, _bona fide_ ladies, women
of sentiment, delicacy, taste, and condition - frequenting public
eating-houses, and habitually living, without the retirement and reserve
that is so necessary to all _women_, not to say _men_, of the _caste_. I
found it difficult, therefore, to imagine I should meet with many females
of condition in _restaurans_ and _cafés_. Such a thing might happen on an
emergency, but it was assailing too much all those feelings and tastes
which become inherent in refinement, to suppose that the tables of even
the best house of the sort in Paris could be honoured by the presence of
such persons, except under particular circumstances. My own observation
corroborated this opinion, and, in order to make sure of the fact, I have
put the question to nearly every Frenchwoman of rank it has since been my
good fortune to become sufficiently acquainted with to take the liberty.
The answer has been uniform. Such things are sometimes done, but rarely;
and even then it is usual to have the service in a private room. One old
lady, a woman perfectly competent to decide on such a point, told me
frankly: - "We never do it, except by way of a frolic, or when in a humour
which induces people to do many other silly and unbecoming things. Why
should we go to the _restaurateurs_ to eat? We have our own houses and
servants as well as the English, or even you Americans" - it may be
supposed I laughed - "and certainly the French are not so devoid of good
taste as not to understand that the mixed society of a public-house is
not the best possible company for a woman."

It is, moreover, a great mistake to imagine that the French are not
hospitable, and that they do not entertain as freely, and as often, as
any other people. The only difference between them and the English, in
this respect, or between them and ourselves, is in the better taste and
ease which regulate their intercourse of this nature. While there is a
great deal of true elegance, there is no fuss, at a French
entertainment; and all that you have heard of the superiority of the
kitchen in this country, is certainly true. Society is divided into
_castes_ in Paris, as it is everywhere else; and the degrees of elegance
and refinement increase as one ascends as a matter of course; but there
is less of effort, in every class, than is usual with us. One of the
best-bred Englishmen of my acquaintance, and one, too, who had long been
in the world, has frankly admitted to me, that the highest tone of
English society is merely an imitation of that which existed in Paris
previously to the revolution, and of which, though modified as to usages
and forms, a good deal still remains. By the highest tone, however, you
are not to suppose I mean that laboured, frigid, heartless manner that
so many, in England especially, mistake for high breeding, merely
because they do not know how to unite with the finish which constant
intercourse with the world creates, the graceful semblance of living
less for one's self than for others, and to express, as it were, their
feelings and wishes, rather than to permit one's own to escape him - a
habit that, like the reflection of a mirror, produces the truest and
most pleasing images, when thrown back from surfaces the most highly
polished. But I am anticipating rather than giving you a history of what
I have seen.

In consequence of our not having brought any letters, as has just been
mentioned, and of not having sought society, no one gave themselves any
trouble on our account for the first three or four months of our
residence in Paris. At the end of that period, however, I made my
_début_ at, probably, as brilliant an entertainment as one usually sees
here in the course of a whole winter. Mr. Canning, then Secretary of
State for Foreign Affairs, came to Paris on a visit, and, as is usual on
such occasions, diplomacy was a good deal mixed up with eating and
drinking. Report says, that the etiquette of the court was a good deal
deranged by this visit, the Bourbons not having adopted the hale-fellow
hospitality of the English kings. M. de Villèle or M. de Damas would be
invited to dine at Windsor almost as a matter of course; but the
descendant of Hugh Capet hesitated about breaking bread with an English
commoner. The matter is understood to have been gotten over, by giving
the entertainment at St. Cloud, where, it would seem, the royal person
has fewer immunities than at the Tuileries. But, among other attentions
that were bestowed on the English statesman, Mr. Brown determined to
give him a great diplomatic dinner; and our own legations having a great
poverty of subordinates, except in the way of travelling _attachés_, I
was invited to occupy one end of the table, while the regular secretary
took his seat at the other. Before I attempt a short description of this
entertainment, it may help to enliven the solitude of your mountain
residence, and serve to give you more distinct ideas of the matter than
can be obtained from novels, if I commence with a summary of the
appliances and modes of polite intercourse in this part of the world, as
they are to be distinguished from our own.

In the first place, you are to discard from your mind all images of two
rooms and folding-doors, with a passage six feet wide, a narrow carpeted
flight of steps, and a bed-room prepared for the ladies to uncloak in,
and another in which the men can brush their hair and hide their hats.
Some such snuggeries very possibly exist in England, among the middling
classes; but I believe all over the continent of Europe style is never
attempted without more suitable means to carry out the intention.

In Paris, every one who mingles with the world lives in an hotel, or a
house that has a court and an outer gate. Usually the building surrounds
three sides of this court, and sometimes the whole four; though small
hotels are to be found, in which the court is encircled on two, or even
on three of its sides, merely by high walls. The gate is always in the
keeping of a regular porter, who is an important personage about the
establishment, taking in letters, tickets, etc., ejecting blackguards
and all other suspicious persons, carrying messages, besides levying
contributions on all the inmates of the house, in the way of wood and
coal. In short, he is in some measure, held to be responsible for the
exits and entrances, being a sort of domestic gendarme. In the larger
hotels there are two courts, the great and _la basse cour_, the latter
being connected with the offices and stables.

Of course, these hotels vary in size and magnificence. Some are not
larger than our own largest town dwellings, while others, again, are
palaces. As these buildings were originally constructed to lodge a
single establishment, they have their principal and their inferior
apartments; some have their summer and their winter apartments. As is,
and always must be the case, where everything like state and
magnificence are affected, the reception-rooms are en suite; the mode of
building which prevails in America, being derived from the secondary
class of English houses. It is true, that in London, many men of rank,
perhaps of the nobility, do not live in houses any larger, or much
better, than the best of our own; though I think, that one oftener sees
rooms of a good size and proper elevation, even in these dwellings, than
it is usual to see in America. But the great houses of London, such as
Burlington-house, Northumberland-house, Devonshire-house,
Lansdown-house, Sutherland-house (the most magnificent of all) etc. are,
more or less, on the continental plan, though not generally built around
courts. This plan eschews passages of all descriptions, except among the
private parts of the dwelling. In this respect, an American house is the
very opposite of a European house. We are nothing without passages, it
being indispensable that every room should open on one; whereas, here
the great point is to have as little to do with them as possible. Thus
you quit the great staircase by a principal door, and find yourself in
an ante-chamber; this communicates with one or two more rooms of the
same character, gradually improving in ornaments and fixtures, until you
enter a _salon_. Then comes a succession of apartments, of greater or
less magnificence, according to circumstances until you are led entirely
round the edifice, quitting it by a door on the great staircase again,
opposite to the one by which you entered. In those cases in which there
are courts, the principal rooms are ranged in this manner, _en suite_,
on the exterior range, usually looking out on the gardens, while those
within them, which look into the court, contain the bed-rooms, boudoir,
eating-rooms, and perhaps the library. So tenacious are those, who lay
any claim to gentility here, of the use of the ante-chambers, that I
scarcely recollect a lodging of any sort, beyond the solitary chamber of
some student, without, at least, one. They seem indispensable, and I
think rightly, to all ideas of style, or even of comfort. I remember to
have seen an amusing instance of the strength of this feeling in the
case of the wife of a former French minister, at Washington. The
building she inhabited was one of the ordinary American double houses,
as they are called, with a passage through the centre, the stairs in the
passage, and a short corridor, to communicate with the bed-rooms above.
Off the end of this upper corridor, if, indeed, so short a transverse
passage deserves the name, was partitioned a room of some eight feet by
ten, as a bed-room. A room adjoining this, was converted into a boudoir
and bed-room, for Madame de - - , by means of a silk screen. The usual
door of the latter opened, of course, on the passage. In a morning call
one day, I was received in the boudoir. Surprised to be carried up
stairs on such an occasion, I was still more so to find myself taken
through a small room, before I was admitted to the larger. The amount of
it all was; that Madame de - - , accustomed to have many rooms, and to
think it vulgar to receive in her great drawing-room of a morning,
believing _au premier_, or up one pair of stairs, more genteel than the
_rez de chaussée_, or the ground floor, and feeling the necessity of an
ante-chamber as there was an abruptness in being at once admitted into
the presence of a lady from a staircase, a sort of local _brusquerie_,
that would suit her cook better than the wife of an envoy extraordinary,
had contrived to introduce her guests through the little bed-room, at
the end of the upstairs entry!

From all this you will be prepared to understand some of the essential
differences between a reception in Paris and one at New York, or even at
Washington. The footman, or footmen, if there are two, ascend to the
inner ante-chamber, with their masters and mistresses, where they
receive the cloaks, shawls, over-coats, or whatever else has been used
for the sake of mere warmth, and withdraw. If they are sent home, as is
usually the case at dinners and evening parties, they return with the
things at the hour ordered; but if the call be merely a passing one, or
the guest means to go early to some other house, they either wait in the
ante-chamber, or in a room provided for that purpose. The French are
kind to their servants; much kinder than either the English, or their
humble imitators, ourselves; and it is quite common to see, not only a
good warm room, but refreshments, provided for the servants at a French
party. In England, they either crowd the narrow passages and the
door-way, or throng the street, as with us. In both countries, the poor
coachmen sit for hours on their carriage-boxes, like so many ducks, in
the drizzle and rain.

The footman gives the names of his party to the _maître d'hôtel_, or the
groom of the chambers, who, as he throws open the door of the first
drawing-room, announces them in a loud voice. Announcing by means of a
line of servants, is rarely, if ever, practised in France, though it is
still done in England, at large parties, and in the great houses. Every
one has heard the story of the attempt at Philadelphia, some forty years
ago, to introduce the latter custom, when, by the awkwardness of a
servant, a party was announced as "Master and Mistress, and the young
ladies;" but you will smile when I tell you that the latter part of this
style is precisely that which is most in vogue at Paris. A young lady
here may be admired, she may be danced with, and she may even look and
be looked at; but in society she talks little, is never loud or
_belleish_, is always neat and simple in her attire, using very little
jewelry, and has scarcely any other name than Mademoiselle. The usual
mode of announcing is, "Monsieur le Comte et Madame la Comtesse d'une
telle, avec leurs demoiselles;" or, in plain English, "The Count and
Countess Such-a-one, with their daughters" This you will perceive is not
so far, after all, from "Master and Mistress, and the young ladies." The
English, more simple in some respects, and less so in others, usually
give every name, though, in the use of titles, the utmost good taste is
observed. Thus every nobleman below a duke is almost uniformly addressed
and styled Lord A - - , Lord B - - , etc. and their wives, Ladies A - - ,
and B - - . Thus the Marquess of Lansdowne would, I think, always be
addressed and spoken of, and even announced, merely as Lord Lansdowne.
This, you will observe, is using the simplest possible style, and it
appears to me that there is rather an affectation of simplicity in their
ordinary intercourse, the term "My Lord" being hardly ever used, except
by the tradesmen and domestics. The safest rule for an American, and
certainly the one that good taste would dictate, is to be very sparing
in his use of everything of this sort, since he cannot be always certain
of the proper usages of the different countries he visits, and, so long
as he avoids unnecessary affectations of republicanisms, and, if a
gentleman, this he will do without any effort, simplicity is his cue.
When I say _avoids the affectations of republicanisms_, I do not mean
the points connected with principles, but those vulgar and underbred
pretensions of ultra equality and liberalism, which, while they mark
neither manliness nor a real appreciation of equal rights almost
uniformly betray a want of proper training and great ignorance of the
world. Whenever, however, any attempt is made to identify equality of
rights and democratical institutions with vulgarity and truculency, as
is sometimes attempted here, in the presence of Americans, and even in
good company, it is the part of every gentleman of our country to
improve the opportunity that is thus afforded him, to show it is a
source of pride with him to belong to a nation in which a hundred men
are not depressed politically, in order that one may be great; and also
to show how much advantage, after all, he who is right in substance has
over him who is substantially wrong, even in the forms of society, and
in that true politeness which depends on natural justice. Such a
principle, acted on systematically would soon place the gentlemen of
America where they ought to be, and the gentlemen of other countries
where, sooner or later, they must be content to descend, or to change
their systems. That these things are not so, must be ascribed to our
provincial habits, our remote situation, comparative insignificance, and
chiefly to the circumstance that men's minds, trained under a different
state of things, cannot keep even pace with the wonderful progress of
the facts of the country.

But all this time I have only got you into the outer _salon_ of a French
hotel. In order that we may proceed more regularly, we will return to
the dinner given by our minister to Mr. Canning. Mr. Brown has an
apartment in the Hotel Monaco, one of the best houses in Paris. The
Prince of Monaco is the sovereign of a little territory of the same
name, on the Gulf of Nice, at the foot of the maritime Alps. His states
may be some six or eight miles square, and the population some six or
eight thousand. The ancient name of the family is Grimaldi; but by some
intermarriage or other, the Duke of Valentinois, a Frenchman, has become
the prince. This little state is still independent, though under the
especial protection of the King of Sardinia, and without foreign
relations. It was formerly a common thing for the petty princes of
Europe to own hotels at Paris. Thus the present Hotel of the Legion of
Honour was built by a Prince of Salms; and the Princes of Monaco had
two, one of which is occupied by the Austrian ambassador, and, in the
other, our own minister, just at this moment, has an apartment. As I had
been pressed especially to be early, I went a little before six, and
finding no one in the drawing-room, I strolled into the bureau, where I
found Mr. Shelden, the secretary of legation, who lived in the family,
dressed for dinner. We chatted a little, and, on my admiring the
magnificence of the rooms, he gave me the history of the hotel, as you
have just heard it, with an additional anecdote, that may be worth
relating.

"This hotel," said the secretary, "was once owned by M. de Talleyrand,
and this bureau was probably the receptacle of state secrets of far
greater importance than any that are connected with our own simple and
unsupported claims for justice." He then went on to say, that the
citizens of Hamburg, understanding it was the intention of Napoleon to
incorporate their town with the empire, had recourse to a _...ceur_,[5]
in order to prevent an act that, by destroying their neutrality, would
annihilate their commerce. Four millions of francs were administered on
this occasion, and of these, a large proportion, it is said, went to pay
for the Hotel Monaco, which was a recent purchase of M. de Talleyrand.
To the horror of the Hambourgeois, the money was scarcely paid, when the
deprecated decree appeared, and every man of them was converted into a
Frenchman by the stroke of a pen. The worthy burghers were accustomed to
receive a _quid pro quo_ for every florin they bestowed, failing of
which, on the present occasion, they sent a deputation forthwith, to
Napoleon, to reveal the facts, and to make their complaints. That great
man little liked that any one but himself should peculate in his
dominions, and, in the end, M. de Talleyrand was obliged to quit the
Hotel Monaco. By some means with which I am unacquainted, most probably
by purchase, however, the house is now the property of Madame Adelaide
of Orleans.

[Footnote 5: the first three letters of the word cannot be correctly
read on the original book]

The rolling of a coach into the court was a signal for us to be at our
posts, and we abandoned the bureau so lately occupied by the great
father of diplomacy, for the drawing-room. I have already told you that
this dinner was in honour of Mr. Canning, and, although diplomatic in
one sense, it was not so strictly confined to the corps as to prevent a
selection. This selection, in honour of the principal guest, had been
made from the representatives of the great powers, Spain being the least
important nation represented on the occasion, the republic of
Switzerland excepted. I do not know whether the presence of the Swiss
chargé-d'affaires was so intended or not, but it struck me as pointed
and in good taste, for all the other foreign agents were ambassadors,
with the exception of the Prussian, who was an Envoy Extraordinary.
Diplomacy has its honorary gradations as well as a military corps; and,
as you can know but little of such matters, I will explain them _en
passant_. First in rank comes the Ambassador. This functionary is
supposed to represent the personal dignity of the state that sends him.
If a king, there is a room in his house that has a throne, and it is
usual to see the chair reversed, in respect for its sanctity; and it
appears to be etiquette to suspend the portrait of the sovereign beneath
the canopy. The Envoy Extraordinary comes next, and then the Minister
Plenipotentiary. Ordinarily, these two functions are united in the same
individual. Such is the rank of Mr. Brown. The Minister Resident is a
lower grade, and the Chargé-d'affaires the lowest of all. _Inter se_,
these personages take rank according to this scale. Previously to the
peace of 1814, the representative of one monarch laid claim to precede
the representative of another, always admitting, however, of the
validity of the foregoing rule. This pretension gave rise to a good deal
of heartburning and contention. Nothing can, in itself, be of greater
indifference whether A. or B. walk into the reception-room or to the
dinner-table first; but when the idea of general superiority is
associated with the act, the aspect of the thing is entirely changed.
Under the old system, the ambassador of the Emperor, claimed precedence
over all other ambassadors, and, I believe, the representatives of the
kings of France had high pretensions also. Now there are great mutations
in states. Spain, once the most important kingdom of Europe, has much
less influence to-day than Prussia, a power of yesterday. Then the
minister of the most insignificant prince claimed precedency over the
representative of the most potent republic. This might have passed while
republics were insignificant and dependent; but no one can believe that
a minister of America, for instance, representing a state of fifty
millions, as will be the case before long, would submit to such an
extravagant pretension on the part of a minister of Wurtemburg, or
Sardinia, or Portugal. He would not submit to such a pretension on the
part of the minister of any power on earth.

I do not believe that the Congress of Vienna had sufficient foresight,
or sufficient knowledge of the actual condition of the United States, to
foresee this difficulty; but there were embarrassing points to be
settled among the European states themselves, and the whole affair was
disposed of on a very discreet and equitable principle. It was decided
that priority of standing at a particular court should regulate the rank
between the different classes of agents at that particular court. Thus
the ambassador longest at Paris precedes all the other ambassadors at
Paris; and the same rule prevails with the ministers and chargés,
according to their respective gradations of rank. A provision, however,
was made in favour of the representative of the Pope, who, if of the
rank of a nuncio, precedes all ambassadors. The concession has been made
in honour of the church, which, as you must know, or ought to be told,
is an interest much protected in all monarchies, statesmen being
notoriously of tender consciences.

The constant habit of meeting drills the diplomatic corps so well, that
they go through the evolutions of etiquette as dexterously as a corps of
regular troops perform their wheelings and countermarches. The first
great point with them is punctuality; for, to people who sacrifice so
much of it to forms, time gets to be precious. The roll of wheels was
incessant in the court of the Hotel Monaco, from the time the first
carriage entered until the last had set down its company. I know, as
every man who reflects must know, that it is inherently ill-bred to be
late anywhere; but I never before felt how completely it was high
breeding to be as punctual as possible. The _maître d'hôtel_ had as much
as he could do to announce the company, who entered as closely after
each other as decorum and dignity would permit. I presume one party
waited a little for the others in the outer drawing-room, the reception
being altogether in the inner room.

The Americans very properly came first. We were Mr. Gallatin, who was
absent from London on leave, his wife and daughter, and a clergyman and
his wife, and myself; Mrs. - - having declined the invitation on account
of ill health. The announcing and the entrance of most of the company,



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperRecollections of Europe → online text (page 9 of 29)