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clatter, clatter, clatter, clatter. There was nothing inside of the thing for it to do, and yet it must keep on making that noise. Now, that's just like our minister ; he's got nowt inside of him, but he fancies he's grinding all the time, and so he goes on, and he puts me out of all patience with his clatter, clatter, clatter, clatter-lots of noise, and nothing to say; now, that's what I call a moof.” Whether the critic was too severe or not I cannot say ; but it's a very fair illustration of what happens when stupidity and cowardice seek to carry away the honours of wisdom and courage. One cannot but say again, “ What good does it do an ass to be called a lion?"
But indeed this gossip about the men of Gotham, and all the various branches of their great family tree, might be carried on to an almost interminable extent, the stories about them are so numerous, and the parables and proverbs in which either their fancies or their foibles, their sins or their shortcomings, have been satirised and held up to ridicule are so numerous; and no wonder, for “ Fools grow without watering.” “ Fools,” says another proverb, “are neither planted nor sown, they grow of themselves.” But it's a very remarkable thing that so many regard the really useful occupations of life with a kind of high contempt, and yet, says another proverb, “ In great 1:edigrees there are governors and chandlers," and the great probability is that the governors sprang from chandlers. The great ambition, however, of many is a singular ambition ; it is as if men should rise in the morning and say, “Now, how can I make myself eminently useless to-day? In what way can I so employ my time that it shall be of no good to myself or anybody else ?" And there are even parents who bring up their children beneath the lofty and ambitious thought of being good for nothing. Douglas Jerrold's satire in “ Punch's Letters to his Son," only puts such very common behaviour and education in a strong light. “ My dear boy, be a bright poker,” is at once a very sharp proverb, and a very expressive parable. We often see by the fireplace two pokers, one black and bent, the other effulgent, speckless, bright steel-one was for use, and the other for ornament. The poor little black poker cracked the coals, and cleared the lower bar, and stirred the fire, and accommodated the tea-kettle to the coals; and the bright poker, while his poor little companion was stoking, and raking, and burning, and banging, doing all the sweating work, was a kind of consecrated thing; and when the owner of the house went out it was even sometimes removed from the grate, and swathed in flannel, and oiled, and left to repose in luxurious idleness, while its poor little friend was worked to the stump, and then flung aside for vile old iron. The bright poker lasted out a dozen doing nothing, lustrous, but merely inactive.
It is surely remarkable that it should have come to pass that it
is thought disgraceful for a man to use his own fingers, highly dishonourable for any man to help himself. The worth of the man or the woman is supposed to consist in the ability to keep a multitude of helpers ; this is the vanity of society. Yet surely one would suppose that usefulness would be the great criterion of social value ; is the man of any use in the world? But this is not the reasoning in Vanity Fair, where men only walk in a vain show. Walking through an old hall, I have heard a conversation going on there between a banner and the carpet. The banner, a piece of torn silk, rustling with passion through all his folds, thought it hard that he should hang there and never be removed, covered with dust, torn, and blown upon by every breeze, while the carpet was trodden by kings, and princes, and high-born beauties. “Ah," said the carpet, “it is true I'm taken up every week and shaken and beaten, but then I'm only a carpet. I never shall be anything more than a carpet after all. I'm only a poor slave, I receive the foot of the beauty or the baron; but your very dust is your decoration; you hang aloft shivering in the blast because you scorn to lie on the pavement below. I believe I add a good deal to the comfort of the people about here—more than you have ever added, I believe, in your life ; but they never hang me up excepting it may be over some clothes-line to give me a good welting. It shocks all my feelings to be treated in this manner ; but they say you are a token of heroism, and I am only a poor appendage to Vanity Fair.” But when I heard the conversation going on between them, and thought of the heroism of the banner, and the utility of the carpet, I thought both might be good; but when the one becomes merely a spasm of ambition, and the other a piece of State foppery, they both alike only form part of the heraldry of Vanity Fair, and of all places Vanity Fair is that to which the madmen of Gotham most constantly resort. But enough for the present.
NEW YEAR'S DAY ON THE BOULEVARDS.
BY JOHN PLUMMER. Ir any reader of that famous allegory, the “ Pilgrim's Progress," wishes to behold an actual realisation of Bunyan's vivid picture of Vanity Fair, let him visit Paris on New Year's Day. He will find the inhabitants, from the Imperial senator to the humble artisan, all busily engaged in celebrating the great annual festival of vanity and frivolity. Nothing seems too trivial to occupy their attention on this occasion. The size and price of a bonbon, the value of a
cities, un capital. Although
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child's toy, and a multitude of similar petty topics completely monopolise the public mind, to the exclusion of more important matters. In fact, the Parisians seem to have become infected by a mania for purchasing toys and confectionery. The whole of the Boulevards which intersect the city are literally transformed into fancy bazaars. If the day be tolerably fine, these splendid thoroughfares are filled with a dense crowd of vehicles and foot passengers, and it needs all the exertions of the police to prevent locomotion from becoming impossible. The scene, one of the most curious imaginable, can be witnessed in perfection only in Paris. Something similar may, it is true, be met with in other Continental cities, but not on the same scale of magnitude and splendour as in the French capital. Although it is generally associated with New Year's Day, the popular carnival of vanity actually commences on the morning of Christmas Day. The long-expected note of preparation is sounded several days previously, and the idlers of the Boulevards find plenty of congenial occupation in watching the erection of the numerous booths lining the edge of the pavement. Many of these structures are very tasteful affairs, for even the humblest French artisan seems to possess a talent for imparting an air of elegance to the fruits of his workmanship; and it is both amusing and edifying to note the grave, earnest manner in which the last finishing touches are given, the work being closely scruti. nised with the air of a connoisseur before it is finally pronounced complete. A few years since many of the booths were little better than those met with at an ordinary English pleasure fair. They were hastily run up in a single night, and were so fragile that the occurrence of a high wind rendered their continued existence extremely problematical. Those interested in the lesser-known phenomena of Parisian industry would sometimes take a stroll down the Boulevards late on Christmas Eve for the purpose of gazing on the unwonted spectacle to be witnessed at that time. Instead of the numerous magnificent equipages which during the daytime rolled grandly over the asphalte roadway, there were to be seen scores of hand-carts, wheelbarrows, and other unfashionable but useful conveyances, heavily laden with planks, trestles, curtains, tools, pots of paint, wall paper, and the like. Lights flared in every direction, and all along the Boulevards was to be heard the noise of saws and hammers, commingled with the hum of myriad discordant voices.
A writer familiar with the mysteries of Paris street life tells us how she has watched, on a dry, frosty Christmas Eve, the entire process of putting up one of these improvised booths, “from the first arrival of the cartload of traps to the setting down of the entire family-father, mother, and children-in the finished booth
which their united labour had caused to spring up in a couple of hours, and their intense enjoyment of the coffee that had been brewed over a small charcoal bucket on the edge of the pavement by one of the elder girls.” The French are great lovers of coffee. As a beverage it is to the French workman what beer is to his English fellow toiler. Attempt to deprive a French artisan of his coffee or his sugared water, and you drive him to the extreme verge of revolution. Of course, he is not unwilling to drink wine, but he has the good sense to prefer a cup of pure Mocha to a bottle of bad claret. Hence the general absence of working-class drunkenness observable in Paris. It would be well if some of our own workmen could be induced to take a leaf from the example of their French brethren. But we are leaving the booth on the Boulevards. This, we are told, “ looked very much like a magnified orange chest, but its interior was made gay with a gaudy wallpaper and a few little mirrors, the front being decked out with bright red curtains and ends of candles stuck in sconces.”
Then came the emptying of the packing-cases filled with articles for sale, and the gradual furnishing of the shelves and counters of the booth. This done, “the mother, having settled herself in a clean white linen cap and bright red shawl, took her seat at the counter, first comfortably establishing her feet on a 'foot-warmer' filled with lighted charcoal, and began crying out her wares in a loud, shrill voice. There are not many customers to be found on the Boulevards at midnight, still the chance of doing a little trade is never neglected. But, as the pavement became deserted by all save the stall-keepers, the lights were extinguished, the shutters closed, and business suspended until the early morning, for on such occasions the Parisians are up betimes. The articles vended at these booths are of a comparatively humble description, chiefly toys and sweetmeats, but they possess one feature in common with the more expensive contents of the great fancy establishments which look down, as if in grim derision, on their humble rivals, this is the military character of most of the toys sold. French children seem to care for nothing but playing at soldiers. Here are great staring pictures of French martial celebrities, there is a miniature Chassepot, yonder is a tiny Grenadier's cap, everywhere we have the art of arms in little. The Zouave is a favourite character. He turns up everywhere. Here he is as a Jack-in-thebox, there he appears as a jumping figure; in fact, he is utilised in every conceivable manner, his picturesque garb being almost as attractive to the boy-soldiers as is that of the Scottish Highlander.
But it is in the richly decorated shops on the Boulevards that we must look for the more artistic productions of the toy-maker. The father of poor blind Bertha was a mere novice in his art com.
pared with an ordinary French manufacturer of toys. In France, as in Germany, toy-making constitutes an important branch of industry, the sums annually expended in the purchase of dolls alone being almost incredible. Some dolls cost as much as twenty guineas, and even more. Sometimes they are made to represent famous historical personages, chiefly of the female sex. A year or two ago the popular dolls included representations of Isabella de Bavaria, the wife of Charles VI., Madame de Maintenon, Diana de Poitiers, Henrietta, wife of our Charles I., Mademoiselle de La Valliere, Madame de Sévigné, and others. Many dolls are expensively attired to represent the Empress. Some represent popular actresses. Others are costly models of the reigning beauties of the fashionable world. The dolls are generally attired with the same care and attention as if they were veritable living creatures. There are dolls for every taste. Here is one fashioned in imitation of that strange nondescript the “girl of the period,” with monstrous chignon, high-heeled boots, and gold eye-glass complete. Close by is another“ on her knees before a prie-Dieu, holding a richly bound Prayer-book in one hand, or a gold embroidered velvet bag to receive the offerings of the charitable." Near to this is another doll, expensively got up, representing a favourite stage dancer. Indeed, the majority of dolls are professedly accurate representations of fashionable women, sometimes even of females of questionable character, and actresses. We have, fortunately for us, nothing of the kind in this country, nor is it desirable that a taste for such things should be introduced. The French speak very strongly respecting our want of taste in dolls, but we would rather endure that reproach than have it removed at the cost of the evils which would inevitably be produced. Much of the reckless extravagance, love of luxury, and inordinate worship of fashion, which form such predominating elements of French female character, are clearly traceable to the influence of this passion for expensively dressed dolls. Moreover, the early age at which many French girls become familiar with the names of stage actresses, women of infamous repute, and females notorious for expensiveness of dress, conduces largely to render them in after-life extremely lax in their ideas of morality, and careless of the value of their innate modesty and intense love of domestic life, which constitute the true charm and influence of woman in her own natural sphere. The popularity of expensively dressed dolls in France seems to haveoriginated from familiarity with the costly attired waxen effigies which do duty as representations of the Virgin in French Catholic churches, for we find a similar state of things, although not carried to such an excess, existing in other Catholic countries.
But if the French girls have their dolls the French boys have