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point of view of each of us, but also the fanciful teachings of my youth, to with the persons at whom we happen discover, by degrees, that Paris women to look. I speak, therefore, of the in- were not, as I had been assured by my door life of Paris for myself alone, de- British instructors of those days, all scribing not so much what I have seen worldly, all pleasure-seeking, all lovein it as what I have felt in it ; recog- making, all dress-adoring ; but that the vizing heartily that every other witness majority of them were quiet, steady, bas à right to disagree with me, and home-cherishing, devoid of all aggresrecognizing it all the more because, on sive personality, animated by a keen such a subject, it is on instincts and sense of moral duty. Such is their uaideas proper to each one, rather than ture still, modified only, in certain on indisputable verities evident to all, cases, by the action of that wonderful that spectators base their very varying French faculty, adaptability, which fits judgments.
those who can employ it for any social On one doctrine only is every body or even leading role. Unluckily, the likely to be in accord with everybody faculty itself is rare, and, of those who else. That doctrine is that indoor life, own it, a good many have neither the whatever else it may be taken to im- ambition nor the power to use it, and part, implies essentially the life of remain, just as most women do in other women, and that its nature shifts about lands, unproductive in their pullity. with the action of the women who cre- They are French in the details of their ate it. This doctrine, true everywhere, ways and habits ; but the great heap of is especially true of Paris ; for there, them might just as well be anything more than anywhere, certain women else, so far as any national fruitfulness stand out before and above all their is concerned. It is not they who stand fellows as the national producers of the out as the makers and the beacons of brightest forins of its indoor life. That the bright life of Paris ; that part is life is made by them and for them ; played by a very restricted minority, they manufacture it in its perfected which, small as it is, lights up so vivattractiveness; and, above all, they idly the circles round it, that it seems typify it. They are so thoroughly both to represent the nation all alone before the composers and the actors of the the world. The fireside goodnesses of piece, that a description of it does not the majority are to be seen, almost in signify much more than a description the same forms, in any other country ; of the women who play it.
but the fertile arts and the sparkling But this is true of very few indeed devices of the minority are special to amongst the women of Paris. They Paris; they cannot be found outside all lead, in general terms, the same it; and, even there, they are utterly sort of indoor life, so far as its outlines exceptional. But, scarce though they are concerned ; yet scarcely any of are, they constitute, all by themselves, them help to shape or guide it in what the most striking elements of indoor constitutes its national aspects. Ac- life, for they alone bring into evidence quaintance with it shows that the mass the processes employed by the higher of them follow it passively, but neither Paris woman. originale it nor cnkindle it. They are By the “higher Paris woman I do content with dull, humdrum existences, not mean the woman of the highest and take no part in the active composi- classes only, but the woman of the tion of the typical aspects of the place. higher capacities, whatever be her They do their duty placilly, as wives, class, provided only she applies them. mothers, and housekeepers ; they are, It is essential to insist on this, for in most of them, worthy, excellent, esti- Paris capacity does not necessarily folmable persons ; most of them smoul- low class. It is, of course, more freder in inertness. I remember how quent amongst the well-born, because astonished I was at the beginning, of their advantages of heredity, of when I was still under the influence of training, and of models; but birth
alone cannot bestow it ; it is to be certain main features of temperament found in every educated layer; like and behavior, and to declare expressly adaptability, it may be discovered any- that those features are not universal, where. Capacity, in the sense I have and that no single picture can portray in view, may be defined, roughly and every face. approximately, as the power of creat- The ordinary Paris woman, who ing a home to which everybody is makes up the mass, is rarely interesttempted to come, and of reigning in ing as a national product. There is that home over all who visit it. It is seldom anytbing about her that is a purely social ability, for it can only be markedly different from the woman of exercised in society ; but it is attain- elsewhere. Occasionally she dresses able by any woman who has the con- well ; occasionally slie
her sciousness of its germ within her, and clothes well, and, in that matter, does who has, or can manufacture, the tools stand, here and there, somewhat apart; and the opportunities to develop it. occasionally she is smart, but much The European reputation of the social more often she is not smart at all, and life of Paris proceeds almost exclusively is sometimes altogether dowdy. When from the fitness of a few women in it was the fashion to be comme il faut, each group. The meu count for very nearly every woman did her best to little the other women for nothing reach the standard of the period, beat all. The other women make up cause it corresponded to her innate the universal crowd, with its univer- idea of quiet. But now that strong sal qualities and its universal defects ; effects have taken the place of distincthey manage conscientiously their own tion, she has, in many cases, become little lives, but they exhibit nothing of indifferent and neglects herself. Supetrue French brilliancies, and it is those riorities of any sort are rare in her, brilliancies alone which attract the at- just as they are elsewhere. Of course te ion and excite the admiration of she has local peculiarities, but peculthe world.
iarities do not necessarily constitute But, alas ! the woman who does pos- superiorities. In one
respect, lowsess the brilliancies is disappearing ever, the French woman throughout rapidly ; she is becoming almost a the land does stand bigli, - she poscreature of the past; which fact sup- sesses, as a rule, vigorous home affecplies another motive for trying to de- tions ; they are, indeed, so vigorous scribe her while some patterns of her that, taking her class as a whole, I still exist.
doubt whether the corresponding And now, having explained the situ- women of any other race arrive at the ation in its main lines, I can begin to deep home tenderness which she shows try to sketch such elements of the in- and feels. Her respect for the ties door life of Paris as seem to me to be and duties of relationship is carried so worth remembering.
far that, under its impulsion, there are It follows from what I have already positively (although she is not always said that that life is divided into two quite pleased about it) examples of clearly distinguishable divisions — the three generations living permanently work of the mass, and the work of the together, apparently in harmony! Her minority. In speaking of the charac- attitude towards her children is one of teristics of the mass, it is difficult to great love ; they live, in most cases, use general statements, because no entirely with her, and constitute the wording, however elastic, can apply to main object of her existence. I do not everybody ; because there are excep- pretend that the bringing up which tions to every rule ; because the little results therefrom is the best in the
; diversities of natures and of ways (even world — that question lies outside the when all are dominated by the same present matter - but I do maintain principles of action) are endless. All that a very striking feature of the inthat can be done safely is to indicate 'door life of Paris, regarded in its family
aspects, is the intensity of the attach- most useful characteristic is very far ment and devotedness of the women to from universal ; the great majority of their parents and their children, and Paris women do not possess an atom their sympathy for other relations. of it; and furthermore, when it does Their husbands, perhaps, are not in- exist, it is, in most of its examples, variably included in this overflowing rather mental than practical, — it shows sweetness. Of course there are women itself in words rather than in acts. who care nothing for either their chil. For instance, the women of the present dren or any one else ; but tủe rule is, day are rarely good musicians ; scarcely incontestably, amongst the middle and any of them can paint, or sing, or upper sections, as well as in the bour write ; very few indeed can cook or geoisie, that they are strangely full of make dresses ; very few read much, in the home tie.
comparison with the English or the The perception of family duties is, Germans ; but a portion of them can indeed, so keen, as a general state, talk sparklingly of what they pick up that the whole race obtains from it a from others. Of this form of talent basis for the construction of home hap- (when she has it) the Paris woman is, piness in a solid (though stolid and with reason, proud ; and satisfied vanprosy) shape, and, if happiness could ity is to many natures — to hers in be built up with ove material alone, particular a fertile : root of joy.. could reasonably hope to enjoy a good Speaking generally, and excluding all deal of it. Unfortunately, however, the heavy people, mental bandiness for everybody else as well as for the may be said to be one of her distinFrench, such little happiness as seems guishing marks. She is enthusiastic to exist about the earth is derived evi- about moral qualities, especially when dently from the joint action of so many she thinks she can attribute them to and such composite causes (and from herself; but, as a rule, she puts above individual character even more than them in her desires the capacities of from any outer cause whatever), that personal action which can aid her to one single facully, no matter how im- get on. Her nature is not often either portant or how robust it may be, does generous or liberal, but it is occasion, not suffice to beget it. In the partic-ally very religious. She has a tendency ular case of the average Paris woman, to attach importance to small things ; we cannot help recognizing, whenever the sense of proportion and of relative we get a clear sight of her indoors, values is often weak in her, — with the with her mask off, in a condition of consequence that she follows, half momentarily uugilded authenticity, instinctively, a life in which trifles play that, notwithstanding the acuteness of a large part, and such powers of proher family sentiment, she obtains from ductive usefulness as she may possess it no more active happiness than falls are often a good deal wasted ou unes, to the lot of her less family-loving sential occupations. neighbor in other lands.
Amongst the trading classes, where If slie extracts distinct contentnient the wives so often share the business from any one source, it is from a totally work of the husbands, there is somedifferent one - from the consciousness times a look of real solidity of purpose ; that, with all the habitual dulness of but it cannot be said that in the middle her existence (I speak, of course, of and upper ranks, notwithstanding the the average mass), she possesses, in abundance of their general virtues, certain cases, a bandiness proper to there is much appearance of steady herself, a quick perceptivity, a faculty earnestness. There is eagerness rather of absorption, appropriation, and re- than energy, vivacity rather than vigor, procluction of other people's ideas, a restlessness rather than industry. I capacity for utilizing occasions. In should not like to say that the ordinary this direction she does possess some- Paris woman possesses no earnestness, times'a pational superiority. But this I but I have often asked myself whether,
as a rule, she really has any. The fact employed almost half a century in that their language contains no word searching. They seem contented, but for earnestness, or indeed for any of they do not aid much to shape the the forms of thoroughness, does seem family existence — that is the function to suggest that the French have no of their wives. It is surprising that need of expressing the idea which the men who exhibit so much movement, word conveys ; though when they are and even so much excitement about told this they answer triumphantly, outdoor things, should be so passive “ But we have sérieux !” Now sérieux, and inoperative indoors. There is which is employed both as a substan- nothing to be said about them in contive and an adjective, does not in any nection with the subject I am discussway correspond to earnestness or ear- ing. nest; it implies a certain gravity, a The material conditions of the life certain ponderosity, and even, in many of the mass are, on the whole, comfortcases, a certain portentous solemnity. able. On many points there are sharp The state is common to the two sexes,
differences between French arraugeand to be thought sérieux is an object ments and ours ; there is generally, for of ambition to some men and to some instance, far more finish of furniture
It does not involve knowl, with them, and somewhat more finish edge, or labor, or determination ; but of service with us. The look of the it does purport supremacy over the rooms is certainly prettier and gayer in follies of life. Of course there are Paris than in London,-- partly because des personnes sérieuses, who are so by the walls, the chairs, the tables, are natural inclination, and whose sérieux more decorative, and the colors of the means merely quietness, correctness, stuffs and hangings lighter and brighter ; and preference for calm duty; in all of partly because chintz coverivgs are which, again, there is nothing of what never seen, the clearness of the air we understand by earnestness. The allowing everything to remain unbidabsence of earnestness is not compen- den. There are many more mirrors ; sated by the presence of sérieux (when orvaments lie about more abundantly, it is present), and there remains, on and in greater variety of nature and the whole, a worthy, affectionate, duti-effect. The grouping of the whole is ful life, often a little gloomy, sometimes far less regular, less stiff, more intiintelligent, scarcely ever intellectual, mate. This advantage is most marked life like what it is anywhere else, in the drawing-rooms; it continues in neither more brilliant nor more produc- a less degree, in the bedrooms ; there tive, but with differences of detail. are traces of it in some of the dining
The women who lead this average rooms. But the setting out of the life have, naturally, their social- occu- table is almost always inferior to ours, pations, too, their social vanities, and both in detail and as a picture ; and their struggles after place ; some of (barring the great houses) the serthem possess distinct aptituiles for the vants wait with less attention and less little battle, and fight it with what they experience. I speak, of course, in the conceive to be success. But that side most general terms and of the broad of the subject is only really interesting average, taking no notice of the excepamongst the minority, to whom I am tions, on either side. As regards comcoming in an instant.
fort, it can scarcely be asserted that the The men generally (unless they have inhabitants of either of the two condfixed occupations) live the indoor life tries live better, on the whole, than the of their families, excepting during the others. time they pass in the little room which Most Paris women stay so much inmost of them possess under the title of doors that their material surroundings le cabinet de Monsieur. What they do at home are of particular importance to in that little room I have never discov- them. Many of them go out only once ered to my satisfaction, though I have a day, for an hour or two perhaps..
The vast majority have still, notwith-, is a product of the very highest worldly standing the change that is coming over art, worked up with skill, will, and them, no outdoor amusements. In- finish. It is all the more a product of deed, viewing amusement as a serious pure art because, as I have already reoccupation, there is vastly more of it marked, the higher Paris woman may in London than in Paris, or in any be found outside the highest social other city in the world. No people class, and may be manufactured out of run after the amusement so insatiably any suitable material. The particular as the English ; they are at it all day, position which is created by birth is in some form. The Parisians, ou the not indispensable to her ; it bestows a contrary, take their pleasures mainly brilliancy the more, but that is all. in the evening, and almost always rest The woman of whom I am speaking in peace till the afternoon; those who may be of any rank, provided she posride or do anything in the morning are sesses the requisite abilities, and proinfiuitely few. As a practice, they do vided slie can gather round her a group not dress for dinner when they are worthy of her handling. And this is alone ; the mass of them give scarcely the more true because, with some eviany dinner-parties to friends or ac- dent exceptions, social station in Paris quaintances ; but, as a consequence of does not depend exclusively, or even their family attachments, they con- mainly, on the causes which bestow it stantly have relatives to share their elsewhere, on birth or Dame, gigot. There are no day-nurseries for title or on money ; they all aid, they children, who live in the drawing-room, aid largely ; but vot one of them is or a bedroom, with their mothers, and absolutely requisite. Even money, powlearn there to become little men and erful as it is, is less conquering in
There are old maids, Paris than in London, as certain permainly because almost every girl mar- sons have discovered, who, after failing ries young; if any fail to tind' a hus- to get recognized to their satisfaction band (which happens rarely), they in the former city, have succeeded in vanish out of sight; unmarried women thrusting themselves to the front in over thirty are scarcely known or heard the latter. The Paris woman who wins of in Paris ; the thousand duties to position, even if she possesses these wliich they apply themselves in En-four assistants, owes her victory, not to gland are left undischarged in France. them, but to herself, to her own use of Finally, no visitors come to stay in a the powers within her. She merits Paris house — partly because it is not minute description, both in her person the custom, partly because there is no and her acts. But here a difficulty spare room, which is the better reason arises. Her acts can be set forth in as of the two.
much detail as is needed; but her perI come now to the minority, to the son — and for the results that she behigher women, to something in the in- gets, her person is as important as her door life of the place which is uplike acts — cannot be depicted in Englishı. what is found elsewhere. The higher The reason is, that the isleas which women differ in nearly every detail of dominate us as to the uses to which their attitude from the mass which I our language ought to be applied prehave just described — almost as much, vent us from handling it freely on such indeed, as art differs from nature. a subject. There are limits to the apExcepting that they too are, usually, plication of English, limits which we good mothers, there is scarcely any- have laid down for ourselves, limits thing in common between them and which exclude the possibility of treatthe others. Just as the mass live for ing glowingly certain topics without the home, so do the minority live for appearing to be ridiculous. To speak the world; and, for a student of the of the feminine delicacies of a thorough world and its ways, there is not to be Paris woman, to show their influence discovered a more perfect type, for it'on the crowd around her and ou the