Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

TO MY COUSIN.

What a trouble one's in, to know where to begin

To a friend an unwritten epistle,
When the present and past, from the first to the last,

Fly together like birds at a whistle:
As it were in one page, from our youth to our age,

All the story of life strangely blended,
The illusions, the cares, the enchantments, the snares,

Through which we have wearily wended.
It were nothing to send a short line to a friend

By the post, on a common occasion;
And a pink billet-doux is a small matter, too,

With its sweet scented words of persuasion :
But to write as much sense as will pay the expense

Of the time and the light of a taper,
Is another affair, and is certainly rare,

Among all the things upon paper.
When my sweet pretty cousin demanded a dozen

Brief lines, in the way of a sonnet,
Though little she knew it, my heart wept to do it, –

For thoughts of my youth were upon it:
A sad retrospection of early affection,

Of joys in my life's cloudless morning
Of many warm hearted, now cold, or departed -

Dark changes that came without warning.
When to village school daily, we journeyed so gaily,

Or roved through the valleys, beguiling
Our holiday hours in gath'ring the flowers,

That around us were blushing and smiling,
As sister and brother we were to each other-

As lovers whom nought could dissever;
Nor deemed that such feeling ere long would be stealing

Away, like a meteor - forever!

And then to remember when frosty December

Came bristling along in his ire,
How we cheated the season, so out of all reason,

With our glee by the crackling fire!
'T were joyously pleasant to look from the present

Far back on those pure days of gladness,
But none may restore them! - dark shadows are o'er them

And memory sinks into sadness.
Nor have I aught better to fill up the letter, -

For life is a dull round of sorrow:
Earth hath not the treasure to purchase a pleasure
„To-day, that will last till the morrow.
E'en while we are quaffing Joy's nectar, and laughing,

If the depths of the bosom were lighted,
Mirth’s merriest lover, belike would discover,

The garden of peace was all blighted !

Yet what is life's trouble?-a fable- a bubble

Unreal, or full soon to vanish:
A cloud on a mountain, a mist o'er a fountain,

The first beam of morning will banish.
There cometh an hour of balmiest

power,
When the dreariest gloom shall be riven,
And the spirit shall fleetly, yet calmly and sweetly,

Go up to its last rest in Heaven.
The years in their rolling thus whisper, consoling,

And deep though they leave all their traces,
Bearing off the fresh roses, where beauty reposes,

While the furrows of time take their places,
Though thus they pursue us, they ne'er may subdue us,

But when the long strife shall have ended,
We'll smile o'er the cares, the enchantments, the snares,
Through which we have wearily wended.

4

R. H.

VOL. VII.

FAMILIAR LEAVES FROM EUROPE.

NUMBER ONE.

Paris, – August. One can have scarce an idea of the French, en masse, from the individuals who shave, cut hair and pigeon wings, and sell confectionaries in Broadway or Chesnut-street, — and when

you

have studied all nations, you will still find Paris an intricate science. The French character here is a complete jumble of extremes, incompatibilities, inconsistencies, and absurdities. Crime and Poverty come here to hide themselves, and Sensuality to enjoy herself. Folly has set up her tavern, and Philosophy her academy, at Paris. Here you have Fenelon to teach you piety, Montesquieu to unfold the constitutions of human societies, and Descartes the labyrinth of the human mind; Buffon to interpret nature in Nature's own beautiful language, and Voltaire to instruct you in poetry and mathematics; and if you did not deem that those bad imitations of the human species, the monkey and baboon, were gentleman of instinct and not of reason, you would swear they were educated at Paris. Life is here a great drama, in which all the actors perform their parts to admiration. All is disorder behind the scenes — all is parade and magnificence before the world. The public amusements, as well as secret gratifications, are diversified into shapes innumerable. But what will a Frenchman of fashion, brought up in the midst of these enjoyments, not give to secure their possession ? If a man, he will give every thing but his honor -- if a woman, all she has got, except her virtue. How, in the name of folly, can you expect a Frenchman of Parisian taste to endure the monotony of one of our American cities, or how can you imagine, in your naïve Philadelphia simplicity, the miserable shifts and expedients of poverty – ragged, squalid, vicious poverty — to maintain her residence at Paris!

In the moral constitution of the French capital, the bad elements vastly predominate. The effects of ambition and mercenary motives, which produce ill-assorted marriages, are greatly too common and universal. Overreaching and policy are every where rife and active. He is rated as a very simpleton, who offers his gold where brass is the only currency. The young Parisian lady is kept more secure than Danäe in her tower. Not even cousins and uncles, or showers of gold, that can go every where else, can approach her. Father and brothers defend her withdrawn swords, and her mother never leaves her, except to pursue her own enjoyments. But apart, she is instructed most deliciously in all the arts of a fashionable life. To this is referred every beginning - to this, every end. They who would play well in the concert, says Plato, must play well at home; and in what country is there a place where a woman plays off the intricate machinery of her charms with so much effect as at Paris ? No one can claim any merit for resisting a well-bred Parisian lady, but at the expense of his taste and humanity, unless softened down by forty-seven, like me, and fortified by other affections. In marriage, the preliminary wooing, that is the dowery and settlements, being discussed, the lady is led to the altar by her Mezentius. He may have (the husband I mean) the gout, 'chronic pangs,' and every other evil, together with the incurable evil of old age; but what matter, provided he has that most desirable merit which the husband of a rich lady can aspire to — troney? In the name of Diana, what is to be the effect of such an uncongenial union ? Nature will assert her empire, and no institutions of man can infringe on her laws with impunity.

If you come to Paris, you will see great multitudes every where of bouncing demoiselles, with nymph-looking faces, ruffled caps on their brows, and small baskets in their hands. These are the grisettes. They are engaged in stores, factories, and in all the sewing establishments; you see them running briskly to their work in the morning, and in the evening strolling homeward, upon wages barely enough for their support. They seldom marry; their conditions, and the customs of Paris generally precluding all hopes of so desirable a consummation. A grisette never obtrudes her acquaintance — but ask her a simple question, you will find her circumstantially communicative, and such articles of information as she has gathered, she will retail to you with such simplicity, that you would swear she had been brought up among the innocent lambs and turtle-doves of some rural hamlet. She is the most ingenious imitation of an exemplary woman in the world; and to overreach her, one must be a Yankee, finished off in Paris.

Never was language more happily employed for the concealment of thought, (I beg pardon of Monsieur Talleyrand,) than in the mouth of a grisette. When sent with goods from shop-keepers to their customers, she will intrigue and wrestle for her patron as zealously as for herself. She will listen to reproaches, insults, repulses, with the most patient courtesy. As long as there is any point of defence, she pleads like an attorney-general; and there is no artifice, no rhetoric, or Cicero de oratore, that she leaves out; and if at last overcome, she 'gives it up elle se rends, and she sets about looking sorry with all her might, till she has disarmed your anger. She dashes off the tear from her rosy cheek, brightens up with smiles anew, shows you her goods again, and then cheats you once more, by way of reparation for her former rogueries. Lavishing her affections liberally about town, her friends of course are numerous. There is next door to me a modeste of NewOrleans, who came over in the same packet with me, who has some twenty or thirty of these young, industrious creatures in her room every morning. I sometimes sit an hour in this groupe, and from this opportunity, and the old lady's information, I have thus learned about grisettes.

I have now got down to thee, O Sancta Veronica! You have need of the leaves of Vallambrosa, and however formidable they are in numbers, they can scarcely be less so in beauty. In our own country, such persons are easily discernible in a crowd, even by a booby. They have an appearance of what the French call chifournée, and an exceedingly bad taste in their toilette. Here, there is no obvious distinction between them and ladies of the first quality. Indeed, there seems to me little other distinction than that of coarseness or fineness of dress, in the whole population. The same grace, the same affability, reigns every where: any woman with a fashionable mantuamaker, is a lady, and any clod of earth, decently tailored and whiskered, is a gentleman. I have found nothing in the whole world so polite as either. Surprise a Frenchman at home, and he is shockingly disagreeable; but on parade he always behaves pretty. He is like the saucy actor, who will not perform, unless he is greeted with a full house. Nothing can equal his contempt of what he calls a bon homme, or one who has confidence in another man's honesty; and as for disinterested benevolence, he sets it up with those beaux sentimens we read of in romances. Warm, indeed, in his domestic affections, he is yet often faithless. He loves his friend, and would die for him on occasion; but he would not scruple to covet that friend's best treasure, without compunction, — and he would make love by the tomb of his mother. He may believe in miracles — in Jonah and the whale, Daniel in the lion's den, and so forth - but if you wish to make him forswear his religion with the authenticity of the Bible, read him the history of Joseph !

Remember, I design these remarks to be general, and you know how to make exceptions from general rules. I have given my impressions conscientiously - perhaps hastily. One thing, however, I positively know — that in the artiste manner of arranging their silk gowns and embroidered vests, they may claim a superiority over all mankind. And if you ask by what characteristic excellence a Frenchman may be distinguished from all the human species — in what virtue he outdoes himself, — I will refer you to his kitchen. In this department, the full genius of the nation is displayed — brought out by competition and patronage, to the envy and admiration of the world; and human food is so diversified, so transmuted by the ingenuity of the cook, that Nature herself can scarcely tell which was the peruque, and which the pigeon. Two thousand cafés and restaurauts, with all the necessary branches of the sucreries, pastry, and so forth, in the same ratio ! Ås for me, I cannot ask for a dish. I am starving amid abundance, — for of neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, do I know the nomenclature. A bill of fare is a book and what a book ! How it would make Apicius stare, if he could but revisit this world, at the march of human intellect ! All that I can do, is to sit still — (as Diogenes would have done in my place) - like the good child that eats what is given to him.

In a walk through the Rue Richelieu, a few days ago, my companion, Sir Henry L—d, proposed to gratify me with a peep into a great gambling house — the rendezvous of the nobility. I entered with becoming acquiescence through the hall, where servants in livery attended us, taking our hats and canes, and bringing us refreshments with princely ceremony. Tables in the several rooms were covered with gold, at which many ladies and gentlemen were playing. Others were looking on with interest at the game. Around about, some were cotéried in corners, others strolling in pairs and groups through the rooms, while others again were rambling in an adjacent flower-garden, or seated in earnest conversation in its arbors. • That gentleman,' said my companion, 'with an Adonis neck, and myrrh'd and glossy ringlets, is the Duke de Broglie, - that is the Marquis of Braganza, from Spain, — and that is Prince Caramarica.' I looked particularly at Lord Brougham, who had just arrived. I could discern immediately the great traits of genius — the bitter sarcasm — the overwhelming energy – which characterize this eminent man, in his strongly-marked

[ocr errors]

features. And, if I had not been introduced to him, I should have marked him at once as a distinguished character. Among the ladies, were the Princess Orleans and her attendants, and the Countess of Blacas, and others of the nobility. A dutchess at my left, (I have forgotten her name,) had a look as haughty and condescending, as if she felt the length of her genealogy. She seemed displeased at every body being introduced to her. But there was One, young and beautiful,beautiful that I could not (with all my efforts) keep my eyes from her, and I observed that more than once she reciprocated my anxious glances. I felt pleased at being the object of her attention.

· What an elegant creature thought I; 'what sweetness and simplicity of expression! How strange that, brought up amid the refinements of a court, she should maintain all the innocence of the dove! No one can hope, unless by some interposition of Heaven in his favor, to know her and not to love her. In the midst of this rapture, and just at the moment when I had become enchainée by the eyes of another lady opposite, Sir Henry dissipated the charm, by informing me that these were courtezans ! The cloud burst from over my eyes, and I saw a group of the ugliest wretches I ever beheld before.

[ocr errors]

If I had your company upon this journey, with your knowledge of life, and mine of books, and without any serious intrusion of cares and disappointments, we could have made an agreeable and useful employment of our time. In seeing the curiosities, and monuments of these old countries, in reasoning upon the condition of the people and their institutions, we should have derived a great deal of useful political philosophy, while we might have preached like St. John in the desert, when we returned home. We would have been delighted with the literary establishments of all kinds for the encouragement of the sciences and arts; we would have been amazed at the luxurious stores of every sort of merchandize; at the rich liveries and gorgeous palaces, the exquisite paintings, the splendid gardens for the recreation and comfort of the people, in a word, at the immense profusion of every thing that can gratify the taste, pride, or ambition of man. On the other hand, we would have seen a world of things here - the entire neglect of natural advantages - discouragements and wrong applications of industry, expensiveness and abuses of government, and acts of tyranny—that would have filled you with indignation and astonishment. On arriving at Havre, you would have found tables covered with sumptuous cookery and wines, and a lodging not equal in comfort to a Mahony Dutch tavern; a crowd of domestics and porters offering their services with great attention and politeness, who would pick your pockets, or cut your throat, for a five-franc piece. On your way and approach to Paris, you would have seen a perpetual contrast of magnificence and poverty: Equipages in brilliant livery parading on the roads, and at the castles of rich merchants and noblemen, and the diligence beset at every watering place, with whining and lamentable beggars. Pub!'. works are carried on by government, and are usually got u favorites, who appropriate and squander the public money. policy, and the insecurity of the government, have almost exti:

« AnteriorContinuar »