« הקודםהמשך »
ART. II.- DELPHINE GAY.
1. Le Vicomte de Launay, Lettres Parisiennes, précédées d'une
Introduction, par Théophile Gautier. Par Mme. Emile
de Girardin. Paris : Michel Levy, Freres, 1857. 2. Les Contemporains : Mme. de Girardin (Delphine Gay),
par Eugène de Mirecourt. Paris : G. Havard, 1856.
The lady with whom we wish to make our readers better acquainted, having devoted twelve years to the chronicling of such small beer as fashions, and the topics of the passing hour in Paris, an introductory word or two on these subjects will not be out of place.
We seem to feel ourselves as on a sand-bank drifting we know not where. Our poor planet has not a moment's rest from New Year's day to St. Sylvester's, nor can its inhabitants stop to realize their condition for the nonce, to reckon up their joys and sorrows, or adjust the balance. But in time, mother earth finds herself starting from the same point again, and at the renewal of some cycle-if we could live to witness it-it is probable that every phase in the world's economy would find itself repeated. The drop of water that with its countless fellows, rushes westward past the Cape of Good Hope, in obedience to the moon's pleasure, will in the lapse of years glide again by the same headland; but what variety of climate, and what myriads of kindred drops, will it not have encountered in the interim. Mme. de Girardin in one of her pieces, contrasts the diary of a fine lady in 1812, as preserved in the "Chaussée d'Antin," with one of the year 1840, and finds no members of the same families presiding over the popular emporiums of the two eras, except in the instance of a fashionable mercer, and the proprietor of a flower magazine; hence she jumps too hastily at a conclusion, and says that nothing bere below remains the same, but fashions and flowers.
If being slaves to the same absurd style of dress at this day, to which our great grandmothers of a century since were victims, proved anything, our poetess would be in the right; but let all the varieties of style, more or less at variance with good natural taste, which ruled during their fitful hour in the interim, be also taken in to account. And while we are on the subject of fashions, a subject on which the celebrated Jeames of the Morning Post is much better informed, let us reflect for a moment on the waste of God's time, the abuse of money, and the misapplication of talents, for which those rulers of the fashionable world must account one day, when the result of their labours is the adoption of expensive, immodest and unserviceable clothing by the myriads of foolish women, who liave not the moral courage to refuse to bow down and worship the cruel idol, dress themselves according to the impulses of a natural good taste, and the ascertained principles of gracefulness and beauty in form. Would that the AugustLady,wbo nominally governs the men and women of these islands, was absolute mistress in the article of feinale fashions, and then would we for a certainty be relieved of the sight of painfullooking foreheads from which the natural ornament of the hair is so tightly pulled away, from dustmen's fantails on the beautiful heads which they disfigure, and from those garments of which a hay-cock is the ungraceful type.
The women of London, Dublin, and Edinburgh, probably fancy that their “Great Diana of the Ephesians," resides in Paris; but people who are supposed to be better skilled in the mystic rites of that money-lavishing goddess, assert that she has her shrine on the banks of the * dark rolling Danube." And after all, what a flimsy and fragile rod of power she holds, if her slaves had even a shadow of moral courage or common sense! Were our Queen and a few influential ladies of her court, to return to a natural and graceful style of dress, and steadily persist in wearing it, for a reasonable time, the mode would by degrees shew its colours beyond the Manche, take Paris by assault, occupy the cities that behold their faces in the “ winding Rhine," get possession of Munich, and drifting down the Danube, seize the trembling tyrant on her throne, and boldly free the fair mistress of Vienna and her equally fair court ladies from the iron hoops and other haruess of her ponderous though fantastic car.
This may be said to be begging the question ; but let us see what Englishmen have already done ; and if English women will take a lesson from the books of their natural vassals for once, they will live to bless the happy inspiration.
Did John Bull in the matter of training his horses to execute steeple chases, races, and fox hunts, cross the water to learn how his Gallic neighbours went, or went not about these things? Not a yard. He moulded bis canine and equine amusements and pursuits after a model constructed in his own hard head, till they acquired a systematic and stable form (no pun intended) till they became in fact a national institution ; and now see the consequence. Your Parisian lion who must do violence to his own tastes and instincts, when he rides a race, risks his neck in a steeple-chase, parsnes a reynard, or practises le bore, caricatures these exercises as well as he can, and works himself into a factitious enthusiasm about them, merely because he sees our islanders practise them with genuine eagerness and enjoyment.
A Parisian is associated in the minds of most of us with ideas of fickleness, frivolity, love of change in dress and customs, and every thing allied to unsteadiness. Let us exainine with what reason. From the days of Racine and Corneille to the first appearance of Hernani, who were they that uniformly sat out, and seemed to enjoy the long-winded tirades, the no-action, and the unsuitable costume of the Classic drama? The Parisian play-goers. Who for about a century and a half were satisfied to bury themselves, and their cares and their interest in passing events, in the tremendous romances (each 10 volumes folio) of the 17th century ? The French reading public. And in the matter of dancing, a recreation so intimately associated with a Parisian's enjoyment, the same stereotyped forms, are repeated from year to year. The ballet may be called the Tighland Sylph or the Apples of Atalanta, but the same mode of flying on to the foot lights, the same nonsensical and ungraceful postures, the same twirls, and the same unintelligible language of arms and hands, will be strictly repeated still. Performers from the Bog of Allen, the coast of Bohemia, the country of the Cossacks, Andalusia, the Carse of Gowrie, or the Sands of Sahara, may come and obtain some cold applauses by the performance of their national dances; but they vanish in time, and Mons. Silvain, who sometimes happens to be Jemmy Sullivan from Dingle, and who has been waiting round the side-wing, bounds forward, supports Mlle. Frelebras with the tip of one finger, as she winds her arms like the sails of a mill, twirls her emply head, and holds out one leg parallel to the earth's surface; the claqueurs bring their horny palms together, and the stereotyped maneuvres and pedeuvres then witnessed for the thousandth time, put to fight all remembrance of Irish jigs, Scotch reels, Spanish boleros, and all the lively and joyous cmotions connected with them.
A pleasing feature in the Fauborg St. Germain portion of Parisian society, one most worthy of imitation by ourselves, is the assembling of talented, titled and agreeable individuals for the purpose of social and intellectual entertainment among themselves at little expence, and with no obligation of lavish expenditure in entertainment or decorations. When invitations are distributed on this side of the water, thousands are espended on costly meats and wines, profusion of plate is ostentatiously paraded, apartments are transformed into leafy thick. ets, and lights innumerable are reflected from diamonds and pearls. Guests get a nod or bow from their negligent though anxious entertainers ; they are stewed in the high-born mob at a temperature of 85°; they are crushed to a pan-cake in the progress to the supper room; ices hiss on their parched tongues; the bare necks and shoulders of ladies meet deadly chilling draughts as they rush forth in desperation ; and galloping consumptions shortly overtake them in the race of dissipation. They can only get comfort by railing at their entertainers; and this is the recompense to these hapless heads of families, for heavy expense, for worry and anxiety, and for the temporary upsetting of all domestic comfort.
We may naturally look for a greater demand on the mental resources of a Parisian lady hostess from her select evening society, in the absence of such agremens as wait on the social reunion just described. Herself and her guests feel it a matter combining duty with pleasure to bring out all their stores of wit, fancy, and anecdote to entertain each other, and make the evening pass pleasantly; and from this good intention and the natural sprightliness of their character, an electrical current of animation and satisfaction is diffused through the party. It is not unnatural to suppose that if the English and French matrons took pen in hand next morning, there might be seen in the comparison of their productions, an instance of the balance of gifts bestowed on the human kind. The one exhausted by the evening's efforts and excitement, producing only a cold lifeless sketch of what she has so much enjoyed; the other having been a mere stewardess, and noter of what was going on, producing from her stores of comparison and observation, a living image of what is so vividly present to her own perception.
Thus, comparatively few actors have produced good works of fiction or acting plays, however intimately they may have felt and represented the various moving passions; or few great statesmen have written standard histories; or great generals have left us enduring pictures of their campaigns. It is one thing to be interested in an animated, witty, or humorous conversation, and bear your part therein to the delight and admiration of the company, and another to present afterwards a lively counterpart of what took place; so materially do the relations of the parties to each other, the temporary circumstances of place and time, and the characters and talents of the individuals present, contribute to the effect produced. In like manner, the grand or striking result of some chemical experiment depends on the presence, the proportion, the mode of combination, and the peculiar properties of many differing ingredients. Hence the great disproportion in number between those continental ladies who have been, or now are, perfect presiding goddesses of salons, and of those who may be cited among the standard writers of their age. The disproportion is also evident on our side the channels, but in an inverse ratio.
The lady cited at the head of our article, a close observer, and a most vivid delineator of the follies, fashions and manners of her day, a paragon of beauty and accomplishments, a perfect mistress in presiding over, and delighting a select reunion of talent, wit, and agreeability, and the author of successful dramas and novels, is no more. George Sand, like her German sister, the Countess Habo Hahn, has resigued her perilous trade, and devoted the remains of her life to the service of her Creator ,* and of the really inspired women of genius living, we can quote few besides Mine. Charles Reybaud, Mme. Léonie D'Aunet, and Mlle. or Madame Marie Aycard, if the writer who bears the name is indeed of the gentler sex. Now omitting the female writers who have been called away in our own days, Miss Edgworth, Miss Ferrier, Mrs. Opie, Mrs. Inchibald, Miss Baillie, Miss Austen, Lady Blessington, Miss Bronté and sisters, L. E. L., the Misses Lee, the Misses Porter, Miss Mitford, Miss Pickering, and others for whom space should be found, there are still living and delighting our generation with their writings, Mrs. Burbury, Mme. Blaze de Bury, Miss Bunbury, Mrs. Crowe, Lady Dacre, Mrs. Ellis, Lady Fullarton, Mis. Gore, Mrs. Gascoigne, Mrs. Grey, Mrs. Gaskill, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Howitt, Miss Jewsbury, Miss Kavanagh, Lady Morgan, Mrs. Marsh, Miss Malock, Mrs. Norton, Mrs. Oliphant, Lady Eunily Ponsonby, Miss Pardoe, Lady Scott, Miss Sewell, Mrs. Siedley, Mrs. Stewart of Cork, Mrs. E. M. Stewart, the
Such a report has prevailed here for some time at all events.