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sions of the mob, intrigued lied, sometimes they would put a woman in wrangled, and tried to swindle each other out of power.
a tub and set her rolling down a hill; others would place her on her head Private manners were as lovely as with her feet in the air; some would public. As a rule the reigning king flatten the nose of the wretch whom detested his son; this son got into they had caught, and press his eyes out debt, asked Parliament for an increased of their sockets. Swift, the comic allowance allied himself with his fa- writers, the novelists, have painted the ther's enemies. George I. kept his wife baseness of this gross debauchery in prison thirty-two years, and got craving for riot, living in drunkenness, drunk every night with his two ugly revelling in obscenity, issuing in mistresses. George II., who loved cruelty, ending by irreligion and athe $ his wife, took mistresses to keep up ism. This violent and excessive mood appearances, rejoiced at his son's death, requires to occupy itself proudly and upset his father's will. His eldest son daringly in the destruction of what cheated at cards, and one day at Ken- men respect, and what institutions sington, having borrowed five thousand protect. These men attack the clergy pounds from Bubb Doddington, said, by the same instinct which leads then when he saw him from the window: to beat the watch. Collins, Tindal, "That man is reckoned one of the most Bolingbroke, are their teachers; the sensible men in England, yet with all corruption of manners, the frequent his parts I have just nicked him out of practice of treason, the warring amongst five thousand pounds." † George IV. sects, the freedom of speech, the prog. was a sort of coachman, gamester, ress of science, and the fermentation scandalous roysterer, unprincipled bet- of ideas, seemed as if they would dis ting-man, whose proceedings all but solve Christianity. "There is no regot him excluded from the Jockey Club. ligion in England," said Montesquieu. The only upright man was George III., "Four or five in the house of Commons a poor half-witted dullard, who went go to prayers or to the parliamentary mad, and whom his mother had kept sermon. If any one speaks of relocked up in his youth as though in a ligion, everybody begins to laugh. A cloister. She gave as her reason the man happening to say, 'I believe this universal corruption of men of quality. like an article of faith,' everybody burst "The young men," she said, "were all out laughing." In fact the phrase was rakes; the young women made love, provincial,and smacked of antiquity, the instead of waiting till it was made to main thing was to be fashionable, and them." In fact, vice was in fashion, it is amusing to see from Lord Ches not delicate vice as in France; "Mon- terfield in what this fashion consisted. ey," wrote Montesquieu, "is here es- Of justice and honor he only speaks teemed above every thing, honor and transiently, and for form's sake. Bevirtue not much. An Englishman must fore all, he says to his son, "have manhave a good dinner, a woman, and money. ners, good breeding, and the graces." As he does not go much into society, He insists upon it in every letter with and limits himself to this, so, as soon as a fulness and force of illustration which his fortune is gone, and he can no longer form an odd contrast: "Mon cher have these things, he commits suicide ami, comment vont les grâces, les maor turns robber." The young men had ņières, les agrémens, et tous ces pet ts superabundance of coarse energy, riens si nécessaires pour rendre n which made them mistake brutality homme amiable? Les prenez-vous? for pleasure. The most celebrated y faites-vous des progrès ? called themselves Mohocks, and tyr-pos, on m'assure que Madame de Blot annized over London by night. They sans avoir des traits, est jolie comme stopped people, and made them dance un cœur, et que nonobstant cela, elle by pricking their legs with their swords;
s'en est tenue jusqu'ici scrupuleusement d'un an qu'elle est mariée. Elle n'y à son mari, quoi qu'il y ait déjà plus
* See the character of Birton in Voiture's Jenny.
to tell you, but it is most certainly true, that your dancing-master is at this time the man in all Europe of the greatest importance to you." t "In your person you must be accurately clean; and your teeth, hands, and nails should be superlatively so. Upon no account whatever put your fingers in your nose or ears. What says Madame Dupin to you? For an attachment I should prefer her to la petite Blot.§ ... Pleasing women may in time be of vervice to you, They often please and govern others." ||
"It seems ridiculous | the piece ran amidst a tempest of laughter; the adies had the songs written on their fans, and the principal actress married a duke. What a sa tire! Thieves infested London, so that in 1728 the queen herself was almost robbed; they formed bands with offi cers, a treasury, a commander-in-chief, and multiplied, though every six weeks they were sent by the cartload to the gallows. Such was the society which Gay put on the stage. In his opinion, it was as good as the higher society; it was hard to discriminate between them; the manners, wit, conduct, morality in both were alike. "Through the whole piece you may observe such a similitude of manners in high and low life, that it is difficult to determine whether (in the fashionable vices) the fine gentlemen imitate the gentlemen of the road, or the gentlemen of the road the fine gentlemen.*
And he quotes to him as examples, Bolingbroke and Marlborough, the two worst roues of the age. Thus speaks a serious man, once Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, an ambassador and plenipotentiary, and finally a Secretary of State, an authority in matters of education and taste. He wishes to polish his son, to give him a French air, to add to solid diplomatic knowledge and large views of ambition an engaging, lively and frivolous manner. This outward polish, which at Paris is of the true color, is here but a shocking veneer. This transplanted politeness is a lie, this vivacity is want of sense, this worldly education seems fitted only to make actors and rogues.
So thought Gay in his Beggars' Opera, and the polished society applauded with furore the portrait which he drew of it. Sixty-three consecutive nights The original letter is in French. Chesterfield's Letters to his Son, ed. Mahon, 4 vols. 1845; ii. April 15, 1751, p. 127.
Ibid. ii. Jan. 3, 1751, p. 72.
+ Chesterfield's Letters to his Son, ed. Mahor, 4 vols., 1845; ii. Nov. 12, 1750, p. 57. Ibid. ii. May 16, 1751, p. 146. Ibid. ii. Jan. 21, 1751, p. 81. "They (the English) are commonly twenty years old before they have spoken to anybody above their schoolmaster and the fellows of their college. If they happen to have learning, it is only Greek and Latin, but not one word of modern history or modern languages. Thus prepared, they go abroad, as they call it; but, in truth, they stay at home all that while: for, being very awkward, confoundedly ashamed, and not speaking the languages, they go into no foreign company, at least none good; but dine and sup with one another only at the tavern." Ibid. i., May 10, O. S., 1748, p. 136. 'I could wish you would ask him (Mr. Burrish) for some letters to young fellows of pleasure or fashionable coquettes, that you may be dans l'honnete debauche de Munich,”—íbid. i. Oct. 3, 1753, p. 331
Wherein, for example, is Peachum different from a great minister? Like him, he is a leader of a gang of thieves; like him, he has a register for thefts; like him, he receives money with both hands; like him he contrives to have his friends caught and hung when they trouble him; he uses, like him, parliamentary language and classical comparisons; he has, like him, gravity, steadiness, and is eloquently indignant when his honor is suspected. It is true that Peachum quarrels with a comrade about the plunder, and takes him by the throat? But lately, Sir Robert Walpole and Lord Townsend had fought with each other on a similar question. Listen to what Mrs. Peachum says of her daughter: "Love him! (Macheath), worse and worse! thought the girl had been better bred."+ The daughter observes: "A woma knows how to be mercenary though she has never been in a court or at ar assembly." And the father remark:
My daughter to me should be, like a court lady to a minister of state, a key to the whole gang."§ As to Macheath he is a fit son-in-law for such a politi cian. If less brilliant in council tha: in action, that only suits his age. Poir
*Speech of the Beggar in the Epilogue c the Beggars' Opera.
t Gay's Plays, 1772; The Beggars' Opera i. 1. ↑ Ibid. Ibid.
out a young and noble officer who has a better address, or performs finer actions. He is a highwayman, that is his bravery; he shares his booty with his friends, that is his generosity: "You see, gentlemen, I am not a mere courtfriend, who professes every thing and will do nothing.
to see Lucy show her pregnancy to Macheath, and give Polly "rat-bane. They are familiar with all the refine ments of the gallows, and all the nice. ties of medicine. Mistress Tapes expounds her trade before them, and complains of having "eleven fine cus But we, gentle-tomers now down under the surgeon's hands." Mr. Filch, a prison-prop, uses words which cannot even be quoted. A cruel keenness, sharpened by a stinging irony, flows through the work, like one of those London streams whose corrosive smells Swift and Gay have de scribed; more than a hundred year later it still proclaims the dishonor c the society which is bespattered and befouled with its mire.
men, have still honor enough to break through the corruptions of the world."* For the rest he is gallant; he has halfa-dozer wives, a dozen children; he frequents stews, he is amiable towards the beauties whom he meets, he is easy in manners, he makes elegant bows to every one, he pays compliments to all: "Mistress Slammekin! as careless and genteel as ever! all you fine ladies, who know your own beauty affect undress. If any of the ladies chuse gin, I hope they will be so free as to call for it.-Indeed, sir, I never drink strong waters, but when I have the colic.-Just the excuse of the fine ladies! why, a lady of quality is never without the colic." Is this not the genuine tone of good society? And does anyone doubt that Macheath is a man of quality when we learn that he has deserved to be hung, and is not? Every thing yields to such a proof. If, however, we wish for another, he would add that, "As to conscience and musty morals, I have as few drawbacks upon my pleasures as any man of quality in England; in those I am not at least vulgar." After such a speech a man must give in. Do not bring up the foulness of these manners; we see that
there is nothing repulsive in them, because fashionable society likes them. These interiors of prisons and stews, these gambling-houses, this whiff of gin, this pander-traffic, and these pickpockets' calculations, by no means disgust the ladies, who applaud from the boxes. They sing the songs of Polly; their nerves shrink from no detail; they have already inhaled the filthy odors from the highly polished pastorals of the amiable poet. § They laugh .* Gay's Plays, 1772; The Beggars' Opera, Ibid. ii. 1.
I cannot find these lines in the edition I have consulted.-TR.
In these Eclogues the ladies explain in good style that their friends have their lackeys for lovers: "Her favours Sylvia shares amongst mankind; such gen'rous Love could never be confin'd." Elsewhere the servant
close observers, like Voltaire, did not These were but the externals; and misinterpret them. Betwixt the slime at the bottom and the scum on the surface rolled the great national river, which, purified by its own motion, already at intervals gave signs of its true color, soon to display the powerful regularity of its course and the wholesome limpidity of its waters. It adhas one of its own, which flows down vanced in its native bed; every nation its proper slope. It is this slope which gives to each civilization its degree and form, and it is this which we must endeavor to describe and measure.
the travellers from the two countries To this end we have only to follow who at this time crossed the Channel. Never did England regard and imitate France more, nor France England. To see the distinct current in which each nation flowed, we have bat to open our eyes. Lord Chesterfieid writes to his
"It must be owned, that the polite conver not always very deep, is much less futile and sation of the men and women at Paris, though frivolous than ours here. It turns at least upon some subject, something of taste, some point of though' probably not quite so solid as Mr. history, criticism, and even philosophy, which, Locke's, is however better, and more becom ing rational beings, than our frivolous dissertations upon the weather or upon whist." *
girl says to her mistress : "Have you not fancy'd, in his frequent kiss, th' ungrateful leavings of a filthy miss?"
* Chesterfield's Letters, v April 22, O. S.. 1751, p, 131. See, for a contrast, Swift's Essay on Folite Conversation.
In fact, the French became civilized | tlecock, by delicate woman's hands, by conversation; not so the English. without sullying the lace sleeves from As soon as the Frenchman quits me- which their slim arms emerge, or chanical labor and coarse material life, the garlands which the rosy Cupids even before he quits it, he converses: unfold on the wainscoting. Every this is his goal and his pleasure.* Bare-thing must glitter, sparkle, or smile. ly has he escaped from religious wars The passions are deadened, love is and feudal isolation, when he makes rendered insipid, the proprieties are his low and has his say. With the multiplied, good manners are exag Hotel de Rambouillet we get the fine gerated. The refined man becomes drawing-room talk, which is to last two "sensitive." From his wadded taffeta centuries: Germans, English, all Eu- dressing-gown he keeps plucking his rope, either novices or dullards, listen worked handkerchief to whisk away the to France open-mouthed, and from time moist omen of a tear; he lays his hand to time clumsily attempt an imitation. on his heart, he grows tender; he has How amiable are French talkers become so delicate and correct, that an What discrimination! What innate Englishman knows not whether to take tact! With what grace and dexterity him for an hysterical_young woman or they can persuade, interest,amuse,stroke a dancing-master.* Take a near view down sickly vanity, rivet the diverted of this beribboned puppy, in his lightattention, insinuate dangerous truth, green dress, lisping out the songs of ever soaring a hundred feet above the Florian. The genius of society which tedium-point where their rivals are has led him to these fooleries has also floundering with all their native heavi- led him elsewhere; for conversation in ness. But, above all, how sharp they France at least, is a chase after ideas. soon have become! Instinctively and To this day, in spite of modern distrust without effort they light upon easy and sadness, it is at table, after dinner, gesture, fluent speech, sustained ele- over the coffee especially, that deep gance, a characteristic piquancy, a per- politics and the loftiest philosophy crop fect clearness. Their phrases, still for- up. To think, above all to think rapidmal under Guez de Balzac, are looser, ly, is a recreation. The mind finds in lighter, launch out, move speedily, it a sort of ball; think how eagerly it and under Voltaire find their wings. hastens thither. This is the source of Did any man ever see such a desire, all French culture. At the dawn of such an art of pleasing? Pedantic the century, the ladies, between a cousciences, political economy, theology, ple of bows, produced studied portraits the sullen denizens of the Academy and and subtle dissertations; they underthe Sorbonne, speak but in epigrams. stand Descartes, appreciate Nicole, Montesquieu's l'Esprit des Lois is also approve Bossuet. Presently little sup"l'Esprit sur les lois." Rousseau's pers are 'introduced, and during the periods, which begat a revolution, were dessert they discuss the existence of balanced, turned, polished for eighteen God. Are not theology, morality, set hours in his head. Voltaire's philoso- forth in a noble or piquant style, pleas phy breaks out into a million sparks. ures for the drawing-room and adornEvery idea must blossom into a wit- ments of luxury? Fancy finds place ticism; people only have flashes of thought; all truth, the most intricate and the most sacred, becomes a pleasant drawing-room conceit, thrown backward and forward, like a gilded shut
Even in 1826, Sydney Smith, arriving at Calais, writes (Life and Letters, ii. 253, 254): What pleases me is the taste and ingenuity displayed in the shops, and the good manners and politeness of the people. Such is the state of manners, that you appear almost to have quitted a land of barbarians. I have not seen a cobbler who is not better bred than an English gentleman "
* See in Evelina, by Miss Burney, 3 Vols 1784, the character of the poor, genteel French man, M. Dubois, who is made to tremble even whilst lying in the gutter. These very correct young ladies go to see Congreve's Love for Love; their parents are not afraid of showing them Miss Prue. See also, in Eelina, by way of contrast, the boorish character of the English captain; he throws Mrs. Duval twice in the mud; he says to his daughter Molly: "1 charge you, as you value my favour, that you'll never again be so impertinent as to have a taste of your own before my face" (i. 190) The change, even from sixty years ago, is sur prising.
amongst them, floats about and sparkles | to Robespierre. Oratorical reasoning like a light flame over all the subjects formed the regular theatre and classical on which it feeds. How lofty a flight preaching; it also produced the Decdid intelligence take during this eigh-laration of Rights and the Contra. teenth century ! Was society ever Social. They form for themselves a more anxious for sublime truths, more certain idea of man, of his inclinations, bold in their search, more quick to dis- faculties, duties; a mutilated idea, but cover, more ardent in embracing them? the more clear as it was the more These perfumed marquises, these laced duced. From being aristocratic it be coxcombs, all these pretty, well-dressed, comes popular; instead of being ar gallant, frivolous people, crowd to hear amusement, it is a faith; from delicate philosophy discussed, as they go to hear and skeptical hands it passes to coarse an opera. The origin of animated and enthusiastic hands. From the beings, the eels of Needham,* the ad- lustre of the drawing-room they make ventures of Jacques the Fatalist,t and a brand and a torch. Such is the the question of freewill, the principles current on which the French minc of political economy, and the calcula- floated for two centuries, caressed by tions of the Man with Forty Crowns, the refinements of an exquisite polite -all is to them a matter for paradoxes ness, amused by a swarm of brilliant and discoveries. All the heavy rocks, ideas, charmed by the promises of which the men who had made it their golden theories, until, thinking that it business, were hewing and undermining touched the cloud-palace, made bright laboriously in solitude, being carried by the future, it suddenly lost its footalong and polished in the public torrent, ing and fell in the storm of the Revoluroll in myriads, mingled together with tion. a joyous clatter, hurried onwards with an ever-increasing rapidity. There was no bar, no collision; they were not checked by the practicability of their plans they thought for thinking's sake; theories could be expanded at ease. In fact, this is how in France men have always conversed. They play with general truths; they glean one nimbly from the heap of facts in which it lay concealed, and developed it; they hover above observation in reason and rhetoric: they find themselves uncomfortable and commonplace when they are not in the region of pure ideas. And in this respect the eighteenth century continues the seventeenth. The philosophers had described good breeding, flattery, misanthropy, avarice; they now instituted inquiries into liberty, tyranny, religion; they had studied man in himself; they now study him in the abstract. Religious and monarchical writers are of the same school as impious and revolutionary writers; Boileau leads up to Rousseau, Racine
Altogether different is the path which English civilization has taken. It is not the spirit of society which has made: it, but moral sense; and the reason is, that in England man is not as he is in France. The Frenchmen who became acquainted with England at this period were struck by it. "In France," says Montesquieu," I become friendly with everybody; in England with nobody. You must do here as the English_do, live for yourself, care for no one, love no one, rely on no one." Englishmen were of a singular genius, yet "solitary and sad. They are reserved, live much in themselves and think alone. Most of them having wit, are tormented by their very wit. Scorning or disgusted with all things, they are unhappy amid so many reasons why they should not be so." And Voltaire, like Montesquieu, continually alludes to the som bre energy of the English character He says that in London there are days when the wind is in the east, when it is customary for people to hang tl em. selves; he relates shudderingly how a young girl cut her throat, and how her lover without a word redeemed the knife. He is surprised to see SO many Timons, so many splenetic misan thropes." Whither will they go? There was one path which grew daily wider