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acquainted with the outside of their doors, as so frequently happens in London. Instead, therefore, of packs of cards being exchanged-most fruitless folly,-each lady proclaims to her acquaintances which day of the week she will receive from twelve till four, and in that way has the pleasure, not only of really meeting her friends weekly, but also has the option of six days to herself unmolested by visitors.
“To give an idea of the working of this system, Monday, all the government ministers' wives receive; Tuesday, all the senators' wives ; Wednesday, the houses of the diplomats are thrown open ; Thursday, the judges' wives' entertain ; and so on, from one week's end to another, all the winter.
“In this way those who wish can pay eight or ten visits a day in proportion to the time they wish to kill.
"Let me briefly describe a morning reception in the height of the season :
“At the door stands the lady of the house, resplendent in the last ultra-French fashions, ready with a compliment for every new-comer, who must return the saine, both capital and interest, and besides assuring her she looks quite lovely,' must titillate her vanity by insinuating how superior her reception is to the eight or ten he has aiready visited.
“Gratified pride and vanity increased the good lady's complacency, and being profusely bespattered with compliments, and satiated with flattery, she swims about the room like a peacock on a sunny day, with all its plumes spread for admiration. The visitor, having discharged his volley of pretty nothings, then rushes boldly into the busy talking throng, which gives the salon the appearance of an auction-room, as the talkers seldom sit down. Such a buzz as there is, such significant little groups,
canvassing with the utmost volubility and vehemence the current topics of the day, the last duel murder, row in the House of the Representatives, or savage onslaught in the Senate.
“The young ladies generally cluster round the inevitable refreshment table, and, while distributing broiled oysters, chocolate, cakes, and wine, keep at least six or eight beaux' each in full talk. Sometimes, in the largest houses-such as that of the late Senator Douglas, the well-known little giant,'—the shutters would be shut, the gas lighted, the musicians summoned, and a dance got up, which would last with unflagging energy till six in the evening, when the exhausted dancers found a ball-supper prepared to revive them. To see the pretty girls whirling about, some with bonnets and cloaks on, reminded one too much of Cham's illustrations of the 'Jardin des Fleurs.'
"Once married, the girls—particularly the Southern ones—settle into grave and staid matrons, household cares and duties supplant those of saciety, and, unless the husband holds some public office necessitating hospitality, the gay belle of a few seasons ago becomes a most 'domestic 'character, and looks back on her past gayety and whirl of excitement without regret. In Baltimore, marriage almost excludes from society the flattered beauty of yesterday, transformed into Mrs. Greenleaf Parrott; or Mrs. Powhattan Ellis finds herself deserted, and gives up a society where she has no longer a place.
What is in the men meagreness and punyness, becomes littleness and delicate outline in the women. Their figures are very graceful, their complexion pure alabaster, their eyes large and expressive, their mouths well shaped. Classical outline of features is seldom or never seen ; their voices are their only defects ; perhaps
it may be said, as in Gay's fable, 'the smallest speck is seen in snow.' I think especially of one vision of delight,' whose short life was cut short by cold caught at her first ball. Only child and daughter of Captain Dahlgren, the American Armstrong, her sad fate thrilled every heart with sorrow. On the whole, the social condition of Washington is, or was, simpler than in England -to my mind happier. You say frivolous-granted ; but compare frivolity with frivolity, and is it worse than a London season ?
Balls and routs, which are almost the same in every capital, had there an element of originality, as the men came frequently in morning coats and checked trousers, and an Orson, such as Sam Houston,' is not to be seen every day. His adopted daughter, the child of a Cherokee or Sioux chief, was also unique in her way.
“ But there is one entertainment which can be seen nowhere else—a Presidential Reception. Such a motley crew throng in at the door,-rowdies, cab-drivers, belles, beaux ; diplomats, like the new discovered fossil, half golden-scaled lizard, half-crested bird ; last, not least, a troop of Red Indians in war paint, with their best necklaces of bears' claws, come to do honor to their great father. Having first shaken hands with the President, who stood in the centre of a large salon, we waited to watch the behavior of the crowd. One and all insisted on vigorously shaking the poor old President's hand, holding up afterwards their dirty brats to be kissed. The next day the President had rheumatism in his arm, and no wonder.
“A fancy ball at Washington was right good fun. The costumes were so queer, the notions about Italian peasants, marquises, knights, and crusaders being of the most indefinite nature.
Characters in satirical novels were taken up, and well supported, especially by the women, who have in large measure the gift of the gab.' Their repartees were somewhat Elizabethan in freedom, but they had true wit none the less.
“No one had greater command of withering sarcasm, or fired off more pungent jokes, than Mrs. Jefferson Davis. Tall and handsome, her flashing black eyes seemed destined to command, and the South, once free, will feel she owes at least half her triumph to the energy and character of the wife of the President.
" Jefferson Davis did not mix much in general society ; his health was delicate, his mind incessantly occupied on graver matters than the idle chit-chat of society, of which, doubtless, the cream was served up to him by his clever wife.
"I am surprised to see the newspapers represent the Southern President as tall; he is merely of middle height, certainly shorter than his majestic partner, very sallow and fragile looking, with the sight of one eye gone —but spirited, daring, and nervously energetic in his appearance.
Mason, Cass, and Crittenden were notable exceptions to the generality of politicians. Political life in the States involved so much that was utterly abhorrent to the mind of a refined and well-educated man, that the arena was too much abandoned to an inferior class, whose sensibility to honor was callous, and who cared not for upholding the dignity and integrity of the nation, so long as they could, in the general scramble which occurred every four years, secure some comfortable post for a friend or relation. The politicians, are, therefore, no fair sample of the American gentleman. They are of all grades of society, have generally tried their hands in every profession, and been country lawyers, schoolmasters, and backwoodsmen, turn about. They are as self-sufficient as they are ignorant; violence in their speeches and vituperation against England make up in their own eyes, and those of their colleagues, for calm reasoning and enlightened views. England was invaluable political capital to them. Did any man dread his popularity waning in his own State, straight he poured forth in the Capitol a frantic harangue against the Britishers,' and all hearts were his again ; that is to say, the hearts of the rowdies,' his supporters."
During the war society was in a chaotic state, and for several years thereafter there was a formative or re-formative period. Of the people in war time, a volatile Atlantic writer has this description :
“If the beggars of Dublin, the cripples of Constantinople, and the lepers of Damascus should assemble in Baden-Baden during a Congress of Kings, then BadenBaden would resemble Washington. Presidents, Senators, Honorables, Judges, Generals, Commodores, Governors, and the Exs of all these, congregate here as thick as pickpockets at a horse race, or women at a wedding in church. Add Ambassadors, Plenipotentiaries, Lords, Counts, Barons, Chevaliers, the great and small fry of the Legations, Captains, Lieutenants, Claim-Agents, Negroes, Perpetual-Motion-Men, Fire-Eaters, Irishmen, PlugUglies, Hoosiers, Gamblers, Californians, Mexicans, Japanese, Indians, and Organ-Grinders, together with females to match all varieties of males, and you have a vague notion of the people of Washington.”
He describes the "three circles" of society as follows: