« ForrigeFortsæt »
• Paris in her DRESSING-gown.' — It is not a little laughable, to one who knows the world of New-York' only, to obtain now and then a glimpse at the wires, three or four thousand miles away, which move the puppets of pseudo-fashionable society among us. But to show, to those who are of our initiated, the feeble second-hand affectations travelled “apes of apes' in our midst, we shall ask the attention of our metropolitan readers to the following faithful sketch of 'Paris in her Dressing-gown,' rendered into English for our pages with the speed of transplanted Parisian fashions, from a recent sketch by EUGENE BRIFFAULT.
Private life has been wisely and justly protected, so far as it respects individuals ; but that of a people can only shelter itself in glass-houses. Details of the Parisian mode of living we shall endeavor to lay before you ; and that which we especially desire to sketch, is Paris chez lui — Paris at home. If you possess any curiosity concerning costumes, take a glance at Paris in her dressing-gown. The carnival, which displays during three days its whimsicalities in our streets, dwells all the year in the most sumptuous apartments of our monumental habitations. There it is fixed permanently; it is the carnival in lodgings. There you will find costumes of every form and color. Fantasy, with its most capricious vagaries, usurps the place of taste : the grand essential and important point is, to be different from the common herd. Before all and above all, to be original, at any price.
What a grotesque gallery! The very wisest follow the greatest fools. There is no need of a new ASMODEUS to discover these mysteries : let us enter and look around.
That which is commonly called the Middle Ages and Gothic bric-à-brac, is still turning many heads. The old feudal castles are despoiled and copied, in order to furnish and encumber our dwellinghouses, so narrow and confined, when brought irto comparison with the habitations of old giants. Do not be surprised to find in this entresol of the Rue de Provence an armory as complete as that of a Burgrave. Here is a panoply, perfect in every part: to place this human shell in a space so small, it has been found necessary to bend the knees; yet notwithstanding this, the helmet of the iron spectre touches the ceiling! Here we are in a crowd of ottomans, side-boards, cupboards of dark heavy wood, twisted, sculptured, incrusted and carved in a miraculous manner. Small statues, vases covered with bas-reliefs, pictures, damask, brocade, fill every disposable place. This sanctuary, hung with thick curtains, receives but a doubtful light; every thing looks strangely sad; each object, each utensil, each piece of furniture, seems out of place: their use is hardly known, and they appear to demand for what purpose they are there. The master enters to receive us. He wears the costuine of a chevalier unarmed. His long robe of brocade is confined around his waist by a silk-and-gold cord. His throat is bare ; his pantaloons fit closely to his figure ; his shoes are of velvet; his cap low, round, and without a feather, but bordered with miniver; he has no poignard in his girdle, but he plays with a small dagger of exquisite workmanship. The commencement of the conversation is very embarrassing. Naturally one would suppose that with such a man, and in such a place, the talk should be of deeds of prowess and falconry. He however relieves you from your perplexing situation ; he asks your opinion of the last opera. Be careful how you accept an invitation to breakfast: this proud noble has no venison hung up. He will offer you a boiled egg and a cup of tea. This gentleman is the fraction of a stock-broker.
Step with precaution: every thing here commands silonce, invites reflection, and disposes to meditation. This lodging-room is very austere-looking; it is almost without any other ornament save its green hangings and old oaken wainscoating. Do not disturb the man who dwells herein. Cast your eyes on his pale and sunken visage, his dried-up and bony figure, his dishevelled hair, his wrapper of black serge, which entirely conceals the frail and attenuated form! Doubtless under that vestment you will find the penitential hajr-cloth. Does he seek the great arcanum ? How his serious profile is delineated on the wall! The head thus shadowed forth is worthy of the pencil of REMBRANDT. Let us approach slowly. He raises his eyes toward heaven; he speaks in a low tone; he sits erect; he exclaims: 'I have found it! Good morning, my friends.' *And what is it that you seek ?'
Parbleu! a finale for a couplet.' He is writing a vaudeville!
How charming and gay is this apartment! How glittering and sparkling!-- how splendid, how delicious! All is silk, and ribands, and lace; loves and shepherds; Paphos, Arcadia and Cythere.
It is morning at Madame 's. What a lovely creature! How seducing and pretty she looks under her lace-curtains, as she lies buried in this profusion of pillows, so spotless and white! Really, I can't help saying that she looks like a rose buried in snow. It is the language of the country.
She is about to get out of bed. Her hair is already dressed; she wears a small English lace-cap, without any flowers, but laden with ribands; and is wrapped in a lawn dressing-gown and muslin mantilla. She pushes her feet into slippers of cashmere, steps lightly on the leopard-skin which is placed at the foot of her bed, from thence on her velvet carpet, and with a bound she plunges into the ample arm-chair, which is gently moved toward her toilet, with its transparent and rose-colored draperies, like the altar of a convent.
• Ah! here there can be no mistake! - this is a pearl fallen from the casket of the Regency.'
Admirable! You talk like a book'— like a romance of that epoch. She has near her a maid whose bearing is more bold than cunning. Doubtless we shall now see the Abbé, the Chevalier, the poet, the footman of M. le Duc; the leveret, the perfumed billet. But no; listen.
• ANNA, I am at home to no one; to no one, do you understand? These suppers fatigue me horribly ...1
Doubtless she has supped in the snug apartments of M. le Duc ?
* And beside, this smell of cigars makes me very ill. The little fool of a Bertha smoked; the genlleinan thought it charming ; so I must needs try, and it made me very ill; the private rooms of the Café Anglais are so narrow and confined. Champagne don't suit them any more; they drink iced Madeira or brandy: it is detestable, particularly the next day. Mademoiselle Anna, give me, you please, a glass of eau sucrée. Put into it just a drop of rum, I pray you. Let me see the papers.'
* Here are the fashions.'
"Ah! yes, the sessions ; it is so amusing. Ah! bah! it is too much; no murders to-day; not even an execution.'
What a strange Marchioness! Yesterday she made hats in the Rue Vivienne.
From thence to Aspasia, there is only a step. Follow me. Here every thing is modelled after the antique. The mistress of these apartments is inspired by her name. She wiles away her leisure hours with cabinet ministers. Look at her as she reclines on this couch, which has been stolen for her from the Drdo of GUERIN. She is enveloped in an ample tunic of white merino, which shows to advantage her voluptuous figure. She unites to the proud beauty of a Roman matron the noble regularity of the Grecian models: on her naked arms she wears heavy bracelets of burnished gold; the egraffe which fastens her floating tunic is formed of a cameo which represents a satyr teasing a nymph. Doubtless she is about to take a perfumed bath in a shell of jasper or porphyry. We shall see her admire herself in one of those golden mirrors which costs the entire revenue of a province. • • • No: she has sent for a bath from the nearest bathing-house, for which, afterward, she will account with her cook.
And this sorrowful-looking young man, so long in the waist, so pale, and so insipid; he has all the airs of Lauzun, and gives audience to his gallant correspondents; his flowery robe-de-chambre is saitly wadded; he wears a honey-comb cap with a top-knot; near to him, on the back of an armchair, hangs his peignoir, trimmed with lace, which he wears when he is at his toilette. His room is fitted up a la Saracen. You would think he had just returned from the Crusades.
In this boudoir, which the little dame, whom you took just now for a Marchioness, might envy; where you see so much delicacy of finish, exquisite, recherché,' and delicious futilities; so much of the rocaille and POMPADOUR; do not be afraid to look at the formidable Baron, with his heavy beard, his coat of buffalo-skin, and all booted and spurred, as if ready for the fight. His voice is terrible; he is going to ask for his arms. No; he calls Trilby, his little pet-dog, and he also asks for his tweezers. He dined yesterday near us. He ate stewed apples and drank iced water. But come, let us make haste. There is still a rich collection to visit.
The mornings of Paris belong to all countries except our own. We have Spaniards, who at home wear the resille, the sombrero, and the brown cloak; Neapolitan brigands ; fishermen of the Adriatic with their Dalmatian vests; Turks are abundant; the Greeks and Albanians innumerable. The East is decidedly in favor. Neither Russians nor Poles are wanting, furred and almost hidden in their ample pelisses, with morocco boots embroidered with gold. The Arabs, with their hooded burnous, have multiplied ad infinitum since our African conquest. The Renaissance and its wonders, and copies of François I., abound every where. Sometimes in these dwellings, so 'fantastically ornamented, you will find quite a settlement of hermits, dressed in the usual garment of recluses; in other places are to be seen monks and cells. The religious garb has been much in request among poets. We have known a shop-keeper's boy who ran his errands dressed as a Tasso! Sailors at home have also numerous and ardent partisans. Almost all these sea-dogs dress, or rather disguise themselves, as Corsairs of the Archipelago, after the illustrations of Lord BYRON. We have also châlets and Swiss shepherds, and sailors from Normandy and Brittany. The Scotch flourish, and the highland plaid is very recherché. There is no kind of disguise that is not fancied by Paris in her dressing-gown. There are some people who wrap themselves in a sheet, like a Roman mantle; others sleep almost naked on carpets. It is in families almost intellectual, that this mania for costumes and extravagances, which they call 'eccentricities,' is manifested with most éclat. Smoking is universal; here in chiboques, in Hungarian pipes; there in German meerschaums. Every variety of cigars makes up a part of legitimate household joys. A young painter ate cheese from Brie, and cracked nuts with a rich yatagan: at a breakfast given by a student, all the guests drank out of cups fashioned like skulls. Those who cannot attain either elegance or luxuries, in their caprice fall back on the ugly and the horrible. Can it be believed that many of them have adopted something similar to the great coat and cap of the galley-slaves! The swan-skins of our fathers, the warm surtouts of flannel, the felt hats, wide trowsers, and green slippers, are placed in the ranks of human infirmities.
Let us however render justice to the female sex. They have not ceded as much as the men to these ridiculous and burlesque fancies. With very few exceptions, they are, when at home, suitably dressed; they have the good sense not to renounce the attractions of a negligé and the charms of a dishabille. Those who have thrown them aside, have chosen masculine allurements, and wear voluntarily in their apartments the masculine costume. There are others who believe women are like an ode; and that at home, both in their person and in their furniture, a charming disorder is an effect of art.
Appearances are deceitful. If a man apes the airs of genius, be assured he is a fool. Those who make the greatest parade of their libraries do not read at all; a desk splendidly provided with ink, wax, paper, and all the brilliant superfluities which are the play-things of the idle, always indicates a man who never writes. How many trophies of arms have we seen in the chambers of cowards! how many sets of pipes with people whom a puff of smoke would make sea-sick! how many objects of art with the ignorant! how many pianos always closed! and in fine, how many hunting-weapons that have never killed a lark! These absurdities are indigenous. One becomes a citizen' of the world, in order to forget his native village. It appears that a national appearance is too pitiful. To escape the humiliation of being thought a Frenchman, the Frenchman makes himself an Iroquois. This is very much liked. The Indian and savage costumes have many admirers. About these days, the Chinese are making an irruption in the chamber-costumes; pointed hats, silk robes, and shoes with turned-up toes, make their venders' fortunes. We have reason to believe that travelling cures this folly. A man who has seen much, contracts a certain independence in his interior arrangements : he cares less to appear singular than he who really imagines he has travelled over all the countries whose costumes he adopts.
In the evening, this society, in open revolt during the morning against the laws of costune, is docile and submissive to fashion. Then it gives up its own will; it all appears cast in the same mould. There would be no change necessary from the ball-costume to a dress of deep mourning. Sometimes the fitting-up of the apartment is in keeping with the predilections of the owner's mind. There have
been illustrious queens of tragedy whose dwellings were furnished like those of a petil-maitresse of Rome. Such examples are around us. At other times great contradiction is manifested between the appearance and the reality, the seeming and the true. During his last visit to Paris, Rossini, at his apartments in the Madeleine, received visitors in a cotton night-cap!
SEATSFIELDIANA: NUMBER Two. - We have been favored with another extract from the ‘Journal of an American Traveller,' describing more of the incidents of 'A day with the great SEATSFIELD.' It will be read with the liveliest interest, from the Bay of Fundy to the Oregon. SEATSFIELD is somewhat severe upon one or two of our respected quarterly and monthly contemporaries; but his standards of literary excellence, whether relating to authors or periodicals, will perhaps satisfactorily illustrate the quo animo of his animadver. sions. We leave him to the tender mercies of the critics.
Our luncheon at Graffensburg was a most appetite-engendering array of cold meats, bread of several sorts, cold potatoes sliced with salt, beans, pickled cabbage, and potted lobsters from Trieste. This was flanked with copious allowances of water, both hot and cold, hard and soft, sucrèe and neat.' I almost smile at myself for being thus particular in the details; but unwilling as I am to lose the slightest association with the great SeatsFIELD, I will e'en Boswellize as minutely as memory permits; even at the risk of the sneer or the yawn, which is the sure perquisite of the too-faithful journalist.
'I was pleased to observe that SEATSFIELD stuck to his American tastes, and made a most gallant onset upon the beans. He even ate with his knife instead of the legitimate prongs which European etiquette recommends; and he seemed to take pleasure in affecting the rapid or fresco style of deglutition. Five minutes sufficed for the accomplishment of his repast, and we were immediately after on our way to the Leibesubungschule, or Gymnasium. SEATSFIELD appeared to me constantly aiming to maintain the simplicity and dignity of the American gentleman. Even the tricks which foreigners complain of as so disgusting among the uncouth barbarians of the west, I mean our spitting and chewing propensities, were fully indulged in by our illustrious countryman. Perhaps I am opening myself to ridicule in being thus precise, but there are many who will not be displeased to know that SEATSFIELD performed thirty-six sputations while we were in the Gymnasium. He chews the precious weed inordinately; always keeping a large wad of tobacco upon the right side of his mouth. He took off his coat and vest in the gymnasium, and unbuttoning his suspenders, fastened them around his waist. In this diminution of attire, his fine manly form displayed itself to great advantage. As he jumped over the bars and exercised his well-rounded limbs upon the climbing-poles, I could not but feel proud of my country, that in an age eminently effeminate, could send forth among the down-trodden and degraded population of Europe so grand a specimen of humanity. Having myself partaken freely of beans, I felt unwilling to risk any violent display of agility. I thought it better to keep quiet, and not yield to any explosion of animal spirits, but simply to observe the singular individual whom I had come so far to see. After Seatsfied had enjoyed a sufficient degree of glowing exercise, he rejoined me with a look of fine healthy benevolence, betokening a high degree of intellectual power reposing in a placid condition of psychological development.
You are much addicted to exercise,' I observed. SEATSFIELD: ‘Extremely. I have lived a good deal in Kentucky, and I never feel so thoroughly awake to the broad consciousness of existence as when warmed into a ruddy circulation by outward motion. This is what the Germans call Geblut und darmwahrming. I often imagine myself on the banks of the Ohio, with my rifle and hound; it re-produces my ante-virility.'
• May we not impute to this fondness of muscular exertion much of that genial and ani. mated description which enlivens your sketches of American life?'
SEATSFIELD: “Unquestionably. Some of my happiest chapters were composed while I was on horseback. What do they think of my style in America ?'
'I replied, that for many years I had not perused an American review, and that I was therefore unable to say what the opinion of the critics was ; but —
SEATSFIELD: 'I see - I see. Your politeness forbids you to confess that I am little talked about at home. I am not popular yet. I know it, and I am glad of it. If any fact could assure me of posthumous reputation, it would be the neglect of my contemporaries. Nothing, I assure you, would more dishearten me in the pursuit of literary fame, than to share the present reputation of the ephemeral fry of the day. Let the little DICKENSES and Bulwers crop their short-lived garlands and welcome: when the gay posies are wilted that compose their transitory wreaths, I hope that a sprig or two of ever-green may fall to my share. But all that may be as le bon Dieu pleases. Thank heaven! I am not one of Apollo's beggarmen; the gaberlunzies of Parnassus, that go about suing for a scrap of immortality. Depend upon it, a Review-reputation is no reputation. The steady breeze of lasting glory, the even trade-winds of success, are a very different matter from the con. stant succession of light puffs that whiff along your petty coasting-craft on the shore of renown.'
*Yet we are all more or less influenced by an article in the Edinburgh or the Quarterly: even the great ones feel their power.'
• SEATSFIELD: Not a bit — no, Sir. Suppose John Milton putting forth · Paradise Lost' for the first time, in John MURRAY's clearest type, at half a guinea a volume; what would the Edinburgh say of it? Would n't Macaulay have his thump and LOCKHART his sneer at it; and all the lesser swarm of mosquito-critics, Foster and others, do their best to annihilate ponderous John? Sir, no English journal has ever yet noticed a single work of mine, and I count myself lucky in having escaped the ill-savored slime of their praise or dispraise.'
What do you think of the North American?"" SEATSFIELD: ‘Spruce-beer corked in a champagne bottle, and fancying itself made of grapes; it makes a loud pop! every time it comes out, but 't is dropsical stuff; without strength, and not always with pungency enough to conceal its impotency.'
“Yet it is thought far sharper and smarter than it used to be. I think it occassionally palatable tipple enough.'
SEATSFIELD: 'No, Sir; it's about the same as of yore; a little sharper, perhaps, as you say — but the change is not much ; only formerly it was in its saccharine stage ; it has now arrived at the acetous fermentation. But acidity, Sir, is not strength : putting more lemon in your punch will not make it stronger.'
* Have you not a higher opinion of the Democratic ?
SEATSFIELD: 'E la stessa cosa : a similar beverage, only ill-bottled, and with poorer corks. I do wonder that my talented countrymen should spend their time in the manufacture of such small wares. Surely there are many stout able-bodied men among 'em. Why should strong, hearty fellows go about playing on the banjo and hurdy-gurdy? If they must make a noise, let 'em at least take a bass-drum and bang away to some purpose. Sir, if either of those Reviews should load me with commendation, I shall feel inclined to give up novel-writing. I will, like Prospero, break my magic staff:
'BURY it certain fathoms in the earth,
• Do you hold the same low estimation of all our periodical literature ?'
SEATSFIELD: “No, Sir; in the Magazine line we are fast beating the English. Blackwood may he considered defunct; and even in its best day it was dull trash; the pert