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inside, Hussar pantaloons, boots à la Vellington, and brazen spursFrench every bit of me, brass from head to foot, as a body might say I sallied forth to present my recommendatory credentials to the friend of my friends the proprietors, M. Le Viscomte de Vaurien, who had been represented to me as one of a family wonderfully well known in France, a man of fashion, literature, science, taste, talent, &c. &c. &c. a sort of second Crichton in short, who had spent many years in England during the emigration, and was attachedd la folie to all that was British, and to the ancient regime at home.
“A pleasant sort of person this,” thought I, as I approached his residence, “ to lead a young fellow like me through the labyrinths of learning and pleasure;" for I intended to be at all in the ring, as we say familiarly at the club. Arrived at the street to which my friend the proprietor's hand-writing on the back of the letter pointed like a finger-post, I was not very favourably struck by its appearance. was in the heart of the town, narrow, dark, and dirty ; but, knowing the ways of Paris, I did not much mind all that. “No. 18, le voila!" said I, entering the porte-cochère of a gloomy but good-looking house. Then pulling up my shirt-collar and adjusting my hair, I marched up to the landing-place of the premier étage, cast an inquisitive glance at the coat of arms on the pannels of a huge old family coach standing in the remise, and was in the act of seizing the bell-cord, when a withered old hag shot forth her visage from a dismal little den in the entresol below, screaming “Diable donc ! ou allez vous ?” “ Qui, moi ?" replied I rather indignantly, “ Je rais chez M. le Viscomte, Madame !" « Monsieur le Viscomte! Qui est cela ?" An odd question that, thought I. I can'not surely be wrong. “Le Viscomte de Vaurien, Madame !" comte ! Bah! et c'est le que vous le cherchez! montez au sixieme." sixieme !" sighed I, looking up the dismal staircase, so high that it seemed, like Jacob's ladder, to lead to a glimpse of Heaven, which twinkled through a sky-light at top. I drew a long breath of preparation for the ascent, and heard the old witch mutter below : “Diable l'emporte! c'est toujours conme cela vous pussez partout à gauche et d droite, sans rien demander à la portière, vous autres Anglais." “ Vous autres Anglais !" cchoed I. “Rat it, that's too bad, though-she has found me out, in spite of my frock, waistcoats and pantaloons. But never mind, one positively can't get rid of the Bond-street lounge, that's all. Au sixieme ! Courage !"
Landed at length at the summit, breathless and panting, my head dizzied by a glance over the banisters into the interminable chasm below me, I leaned for a moment against the wall, and pulled a greasy bit of faded pink ribbon that hung dangling beside a filthy little door. “ Qui est lu ?" demanded a feeble voice. Moi,” replied I. “Aha! an Englishman; wait, wait one leetel bit, Saer," answered the voice, in a tone of gaiety. I waited as desired, confounded beyond measure to find that the very pronunciation of one syllable had betrayed me for the second time. While I pondered on this, the door opened, and a black silk night-eap popped itself out. A sallow wizened face was under it, and the head it covered was borne upon a narrow pair of shoulders, clothed in a short brown woollen jacket, appended to pantaloons of the same, forming stockings as well, and ending at the feet in a shabby pair of yellow morocco-leather slippers. “ Walk in, Saer,
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walk in, Saer," said the wearer of this strange costume and still stranger phiz. He would have measured about five feet and an inch or so, and looked a good half-century old. His upper lip was horribly embrowned with snuff
, and he seemed to have but two or three straggling teeth in his head." Is your master at home?" asked I. “ My Got, Saer ! vat you take me for? I am my master.” I beg your pardon, Sir," cried I, “I should wish to see the Viscomte de Vaurien." “Why dat is me, my dear Saer. Walk in, walk in, Saer.” As he did not seem to wince at my mistake, my " withers were unwrung;" but you may imagine, ladies, my mortification while I contemplated the figure and the abode of my anticipated Cicerone. I shall not touch your sensibility on my account by detailing the appearance of Vaurien's garret. Á truckle-bed, two tottering chairs, a broken deal-table, a tarnished mahogany basin-stand, with gilded porcelain basin and water-jug cracked and chipped, and standing for show like Goldsmith's celebrated row of broken tea-cups. These, and such like commodities, are not matters to enter into a description meant for the brightest eyes of England. I therefore draw the blanket (there being neither veil nor curtain at hand) over the mysteries of the Viscomte's abode.
A few minutes made us quite known to each other. Ile read my letter with attention, shook my hand with warmth, professed himself my most faithful friend and devoted servant, and finished many pleasant sayings by begging me, with an air of great nonchalance, to sit down while
he took his breakfast. That was soon despatched, for it consisted only of a little cup of coffee without cream, which had stood simmering in a pipkin by the fire, and a small roll, of about the length and consistency of a dried herring, which lay on a shelf with the Viscount's dressing-apparatus. His repast required none of the usual appurtenances of a breakfast-table, and being quickly finished, he begged me to excuse his then making his toilette. Delighted at an opportunity of being initiated into the manquvres of a petit-maître de Paris, I willingly accorded his pardon. He began by throwing off his black cap, and displaying a head completely covered with papillotes, which he, without shame or ceremony, pulled coolly from their respective curls, and folded up in readiness for the service of the night. At first sight of him I thought he had been bald, for not a straggling hair wandered on his temples. Now he had a profusion of dark-brown ringlets ; and had I not seen the progress of de-cap-itation I would have sworn he had put on a wig, so that he was just as far from natural appearance one way as the other. Pardon, for two little moments,” cried he, squeezing my hand in both of his, as he popped into a closet close by the head of his bed. In two minutes he was back, but no more like what he was before he entered, than I like Hercules. His transformation was magical—it was “Hyperion to a Satyr.” A rosy flush spread over his
face, and seemed faintly fading on the tips of his nose and cbin, like setting sunbeams on the peaks of a mountain. A pair of false whiskers of the same pattern as his side-locks, curled upon his cheeks; and his mouth displayed a regular row of well-set teeth; while his head, in its whole ensemble, might be really supposed to have just glided gently off the shoulders of a good-looking fellow of thirty or thereabouts.
I started back. He laughed. “ Ha, ha! tous ne me connaissez pas,"
said hc, slapping me on the shoulder," my dear saer, you must not vonder at all dis. Ve Frenchmen are enough philosophers to care ver little for appearances in de house, and to know dat 'tis ever ting in de street.” I was so amazed at the metamorphosis, and so pleased with the aphorism, which put me so much in mind of myself and old Quarles, that I did not closely observe the process of his dressing, which I should otherwise have faithfully reported. I followed him with my eyes as he went on, but saw him
indistinctly, and heard him chatter without minding what he said. When I recovered from my reverie, I observed him full-dressed all but his coat, wiping the cracked gilt basin with a towel, and placing it carefully in its proper stand. "Allons !" cried he, as be finally settled his collar before the lookingglass, and stood revealed in all the perfumed bloom of a dashing dandy. Now, Saer, shall we go out see de masks on de Boulevards ?" “ Masks !” exclaimed T; “why, it isn't carnival time, is it?" “ To be sure ʼtis," replied he, “ dis is Mardi gras, de gayest of de gay days. Noting but pleasure, and fun, and hosh-posh." I may be allowed to mention here, that the Viscomte is very proud of his English, and loses no occasion for displaying his familiarity with the niceties of the language, among which,“ hosh-posh” is a particular favourite.
I was electrified at hearing that the Carnival was really going on, for the whole appearance of Paris was so sombre, so muddy, and misty, that I could not imagine any approximation to gaiety in the place or the people. “ Ah, vous verrez, vous verrez bientót,” said the Viscomte, as we descended the stone staircase, picking our steps in its perpetual twilight, and directing our course by the iron banisters. Once fairly on the Boulevard, my friend seemed quite in his element; and though I looked down on him from an elevation of nearly a dozen inches, and thought myself at most times a tolerable specimen of style, I confess there was something in his swaggering air, fine complexion, floating curls, and the red ribbon at his button-hole, that seemed to throw me into the shade. He talked English loudly all the time, proud of displaying his accomplishment to the ears of his countrymen; and his observations were amusing enough. The day was gloomy, cold, and comfortless—yet the world was out. During the hour and half which I had spent in the Viscomte's garret, all Paris seemed to have been suddenly infected with the wish for a walk, ride, or drive. The pathway was thronged with pedestrians ; many a mounted exquisite was cantering on the centre of the pavement, between the rows of carriages going in opposite directions, in horizontal analogy to the movements of two buckets in a well. These carriages, of all sorts and descriptions, open and close, cut a poor figure to a man accustomed to the equipages of the Park. There was scarcely one from Long Acre to be seen. They were almost all French, gaudy, shabby, and flimsy. It appeared that though all Paris was there, yet the confounded weather kept all the decent horses at home, for such a sorry collection of jaded hacks were never before exhibited in a Christian country. The masks were few and vile. Now and then a barouche hove in sight, crammed with clumsy harlequins, miserable mountebanks without a joke, or two or three stupid caricatures of old women, in " feathery fürs and studded stomachers, tippets, cardinals, hoods, and ruffles." A pretended
peasant, here and there, rode silently along; but there was nothing like frolic, or humour, or happiness. The Viscomte pointed out to me some well-known characters in the carriages which passed ; among others, in his sky-blue chariot, Viscount d'A
the romancewriter, who has described in Ipsiboé, the heroine of his last work, a better masquerade figure than the whole Carnival could produce. “Chargée de plumes, de fourrures, de fleurs, de pierreries, et de gaze, enveloppée d'un mantel à triple collet, et sa robe bordée d'images." Such was the favourite costume of " la douce fille des eaux dormantes." 1, in my turn, told my companion the names of a few of my countrymen; but I saw none who combined notoriety with the ludicrous, except the celebrated Squire Hold'emtight, who, mounted on the dicky of a calèche, covered with a huge box-coat, whipped along a pair of pitiful hacks, and (puffing his red and bloated cheeks against the wind) gave occasion to a group near me to holloa out “ Voilà ! Voilà le bæuf gras !”—and I certainly never saw a finer specimen of John Bullism.
While the file of carriages was thus dragging, like a wounded snake or an alexandrine, " its slow length along," and every face seemed the index of a melancholy or a dissatisfied mind, the sound of martial music struck upon my ear, and presently several regiments of infantry in full order of march, moved along the Boulevards from tbe direction of the Tuileries, where they had been just passed in review, preparatory to their departure for Spain. A train of artillery followed the heavy rolling of the guns over the pavement mixing with the clash of the military bands, bringing to the mind a rush of awful combinations touching the tremendous probabilities in which these troops were going to be the actors. There they were, mingled with the fantastic fooleries of the crowd—the motley crew of masks and mockeriesheavy hearts and dreary apprehensions. I gazed at the scene with a sarcastic smile and an involuntary shudder; and exclaimed as we turned down the Rue de la Paix (Napoleon's triumphal pillar staring me in the face), “No, no, there is no step between the sublime and the ridiculous!"
Connubio jungam stabili, propriumque dicabo. If society be the end and object of civilization, it must be confessed that we English of the 19th century are in a very barbarous condition, Never was an intercourse with the world clogged with so many impediments as at the present moment; never did good company cost so much pains to arrive at, and never did it afford so little in return. God be with the good times, when the sole capacity required to figure among men was that of a two-gallon cask, and when we were sure to get on with the females at the expense of a little “evil-speaking, lying, and slandering.” Then, alas ! any body was company for every body; and the first lord of the land did not think shame, faute de mieux, to
take up with the conversation of his butler, or his game-keeper, over a tankard ; while the young ladies, faute de tout, danced " Bobbing Joan,” with the rest of the domestics, in the servants' hall. But nowa-days folks are grown so confoundedly precise,--or, to use their own word, so select, forsooth, in their society, that a man requires fresh qualifications for every house he enters. The rigour of the Vienna aristocracy of the first class is not more unbending to the bourgeoisie, nor more uncompromising in a quartering, than our pretenders to selection, in their several degrees. "A stranger might as well attempt to “work his way" into a Freemasons' lodge without the sign, as one of the profane to find favour in the eyes of a coterie without its specific qualification. That the supreme bon ton of the supreme bon genre should be a little particular is but right, seeing the number and pertinacity of the intruders. ' Almack's has nothing of the “ facilis descensus Aterni,” nor should it. On the contrary, to get out of Newgate or the Fleet is less difficult than to get in to the rooms in King-street; and this I take to be a merciful dispensation of "their Selectnesses" the Committee; since none but those bred to the trade are capable of standing the quietude of extremely refined manners, which is just one degree less than that of the tomb. But high rank and bon ton do not stand alone in this pretension. We have it running through all the classes and predicaments of society, from the Four-in-hand Club to Mrs. Hourglass's “ tea and tracts,” the amateur concert at the Jew's Harp, near Whitechapel, and our friend's blue stocking association in Houndsditch. Even the footmen of the House of Lords, we are told, keep clear of the borough-mongers and country puts of the lower house.
This selection is bore enough for those who have (to use a French phrase "germain to the matter") found their assiette in society; but to him who is not yet placed, it is a source of bitter disappointment. Shortly after leaving the University, on my arrival in London, I was asked to dine at the house of one of our country neighbours, who, having been nominated M.P. had moved to town. This struck me as an eligible opening for making my way in good company, and I accepted the invitation with eagerness. Upon entering the drawingroom, I soon found that I was the only person not of "the house.” Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Mons. Say, would have been mere fourth-form boys to this quintessential selection of the "collective wisdom.” The conversation was wholly “ of the shop;" but, though I do sometimes read the papers, I was very soon completely nonplused, and at once made up my mind to bound my ambition to acquiring the reputation of a good listener.
Sauntering down the street, something out of spirits at this discomfiture, I was attracted by the lights in my aunt Lady Mary Mildew's drawing-room; and arriving at the door just as Mr. the bookseller was "bundling out" a coach-load of literary lions for her ladyship's inspection, I determined to step in and see " what was going on." I had not been long in the room, when my aunt introduced me to a good-looking but rather prim young lady, as newly arrived from Cambridge. Being a tolerably good French and Italian scholar, and having a bowing acquaintance with our best English writers, I thought I should find myself pretty much au fait to the young lady's indigo; and I en