« AnteriorContinuar »
found his carte extremely rich. It seemed to me equal to that of Very in the number and complexity of its dishes; and then, the cookery was admirable. The apartment and furniture were indeed ordinary ; the courses were delicious. There was no parade, hardly a mirror, not a curtain, not even a dame-du-comptoir, and but one very poor chandelier. But there was the glory of a French cuisine. Nothing fed the eye, all was for the palate : and before the patis. serie was half concluded, my companion exclaimed, “ The pleasures of eating are intense!” Eight francs were paid for a dinner, which at the Café de Paris would have absorbed sixteen. Here was harmony between the thing given and the thing received. At the Rocher there is too often discord. I dined there about three weeks since, with a party of five. A twenty-five francs dinner each had been ordered ;--the bill, including wine, amounted to one hundred and ninety-two francs. Having dined at some forty different Parisian restaurants, I was satisfied of the gross exorbitancy of that charge. Such impositions are practiced daily. There was not correspon ence nor slightest harmony, between the garçon's bill of fare and his bill of expense, and no lover of concords could have been otherwise than offended. The world has not an eating house, the dinners at which, in their tout ensemble, equal those that may be given at the Rocher de Cancale; and it has none whose charges for an ordinary dinner are so high. Wonders exist in this metropolis, whereof the traveller, sojourning briefly, never dreams. i am assured of the existence of restaurants, whose single dishes, not courses, come quite up to any of the Rocher, at but one-third of their expense. Certain ancient French epicures know their locality: and they have regard enough for their palates and purses to keep such knowledge to them. selves.
Among the tables d'hôte of the first class are chiefly to be mentioned Meurice's, and that at the Hôtel des Princes. I first dined at Meurice's on the second day of my arrival at Paris. I was charmed by the brilliancy of the table, adorned as it was from the beginning to the end of the banquet with vases of flowers and fruit. I was amazed and bewildered by the multitudinous succession that passed before me, of unheard-of dishes. Meurice's table will accommodate thirty persons. Madame Meurice has, however, been known to crowd about it thirty-five, and even forty. It then becomes a mise. rable residence for an epicure. The most inviting dish produces little impression on him whose elbows are pinned to his loins, like the wings of a skewered becassine. Hence an objection. Intending to dine at Meurice's, ascertain beforehand if the company will probably be numerous. If not, you may reasonably reckon among your day's pleasures the prospect of enjoying a very magnifice at banquet at five o'clock. From twenty-seven different dishes you may select, for combination, the elements of your meal; and when :Dformed that the sum of only four francs responds to such luxury, your surprise amounts to astonishment. Here seems a discord vio. lent as that at the Rocher, but it is one whereof you have little right, and less disposition, to complain. The four francs, however, will bring forth no wine. You may select that in whole bottles, or half bottles, from the proper carte. The objection to tables d'hôte, on the ground of not being able to regulate the succession of your dishes, is greatly reduced at Meurice's by the multitude of courses. There
is a probability, amounting to moral certainty, that among the twen. ty-seven dishes you will be able to combine in their due order those which will most harmoniously correspond with your past habitudes and gustatory organization. The company at Meurice's is chiefly English. Green English come gradually to a sense of the mysteries of Meurice's banquet. At once some of them ignorantly satiate their appetite on the four first dishes. Twenty-three untasted delicacies that follow, teach them an important lesson for the next banquet. Two hours at table are sufficient to discover, first, the untravelled English boor ; secondly, the would-be English puppy; and finally, the thorough-bred Englishman,—whom you will afterwards recall as one of the most finished and graceful models in your memory. Meurice's is pronounced the finest table d'hôte in the world. It is perhaps the most abundant and various for the simple charge of four francs. I do not, however, prefer it to that at the Hotel des Princes. The latter has a quiet, and a certain delightful air of French self-possession about it, which you may search for in vain at Meurice's. Its dinners are admirable for five francs, its wines very superior, and its service is extremely comme-il-faut.
There is another form of Parisian eating that ought to be men. tioned. It is furnished by a Traiteur. Families sojourning here for a few months find this plan particularly convenient. The usual custom is to engage by the week or month, a traiteur to furnish breakfasts and dinners at a fixed price, and according to a regulated bill of fare. Thus you may often live extremely cheap, and extremely well. Sometimes, perhaps, you had better leave the bill of fare discretionary with the traiteur. Only say to him amiably, “ Furnish to me and my family of four, at five o'clock each day, as good a dinner as you can for five francs per palate.” Such confidence on your part often begets very pleasing results. You throw, as it were, a part of your happiness into the traiteur's power ; and if he be Bat. tiste, near the Palais Royal, your generosity will not be abused. Though the traiteur may cook far from your apartments, his dishes are always in the proper temperature. He serves them before you with as much finished regularity as they are served at a table d'hôte, or restaurant. I doubt not you will often be gratified and startled by his ingenuity in choosing and regulating the order of your dishes. You fancy yourself reading therein his knowledge of your character. You, moreover, often experience the joy of doubtful anticipation, follow. ed by an agrecable surprise. There is perhaps no moment in the life of a a gourmand more interesting than the interval between the consumption of one dish and the arrival of its unknown successor. Hope, fear, confidence, doubt,—these are the contending emotions of that interregnum. The mere deposit by the traiteur of his dish before him does not put those emotions to flight ; no, nor even the removal of the silver cover, for the combination is mysteriously French. It is not until the proper question is asked ;-“Eh bien, mon ami, quel morceau piquant avec vous là ?” that tranquillity is restored. Happy he if the traiteur smilingly respond, “ Vol-au-vent à la financiere, monsieur." It is, however, only the gourmand who descends to the ignorant plea. sure of surprise in unexpected dishes. Your accomplished epicure writes out his palate's programme beforehand, and he eats his first course with harmonious reference to those which are to follow.
THE COUNTERFEIT PRESENTMENTS OF TWO
BY A DISTINGUISHED AIDE-DE-CAMP OF A MOST DISTINGUISHED
FOREIGN AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY.
What strange folks those Englishmen are,-in nothing more opposite to ourselves, than in their domestic management of the fair sex! In pity towards the helplessness of their condition, and feebleness of their faculties, it is our custom in France to seclude young and tender females in the bosom of their families, under the guidance of those by whom their principles are to be perfected, till some fitting alliance presents itself, enabling them to make their appearance in society under the protection of a husband. Selected by the įprudence of affectionate parents, the spouse to whom their future happiness is entrusted, enjoys the felicity of witnessing their girlish delight when inaugurated into the recreations and diversions of the great world, of suggesting their friendships, and instigating their intimacies ; of ministering to the nascent vanities of their sex, and indicating elegant enjoyments, with which the fine arts and literature are destined to fill up their happy leisure. They enter a ball-room for the first time on the arm of their husband. Their first opera is heard, their first ballet witnessed, by the side of their husband. Their first cachemire, first diamond necklace, first costly album, first well-stored book-case, is presented by their husband ; and the smile with which “ mon ami” is thanked for these trivial but not worthless adjuncts to the pleasures of life, is not without its charm in the category of matrimonial satisfactions.
All the impulses of a Frenchwoman's after-life are necessarily copartite with those of the first individual who has shared her intimacy or diverted her attention from the lessons and ennuis of girlhood. Uninfluenced by previously conceived opinions or projects, she sees with the eyes of one close at whose side she has been launched upon the career of life. Her husband's friends, views, and expectations are exclusively hers. She has no leisure to look about and sigh after other modes of existence. From the moment of her competence to act, she was thrown into the movement and business of life. At eighteen she becomes a mother, and mistress of a family, sur. rounded by duties and pleasures ; familiarized with the schemes and cares of her partner, participating in all his recreations, and already framing with him projects of future domestic happiness for the little creatures born to be their careful comfort. Their son will be a rich landowner; the pretty little daughter of their worthy neigbours, Monsieur and Madame so and so, will make him a suitable wife. Their daughter, sharing equally in their inheritance, will have a fortune of twenty thousand pounds : the son of their relative, the Marquis de--, will (should he turn out according to his early pro mise, and the high reputation of his family,) make her a suitable husband. At a more advanced period, proposals to this effect are made to the two families. It is agreed that, should the young people evince no disinclination, the pretender is to make personal advances on attaining the age of twenty-one. After a sufficient intimacy to
admit of mutual examination of temper and disposition, the project is to be abandoned, or the marriage concluded. A line of inheritance is thus secured; and the happiness of a happy menage rendered still happier by cheering the maturer period of domestic life with the sports and beauties of a new generation. Such are the results of that prudent and precautious measure, a marriage de convenance !
An English father, on the contrary, seems to bestow less care upon the training and comfort of his daughters than upon those of his dogs. Instead of living in easy familiarity with their parents, the daughters of an English family of rank are confined in the school-room till an advanced period of girlhood, then suddenly snatched from the seclusion where they have been devoting four hours per diem to music, and as many more to accomplishments equally superficial, and plunged into the bustle of society to steer their way as they may. The moment of their introduction is intimated to the world by their presentation at court; after which, it is tacitly understood that they are to get married as soon and as advantageously as they can. No more reserve, no modest silence, no diffident retirement ! They are to dress, dance, sing, play, ride, chatter, with a view to the grand object of drawing some gentleman of a condition superior to their own, into making an offer of his hand. At their father's country-seat, they are at liberty to play billiards, stroll in the shrubberies, ride in green lanes, and join in tender duets with young fellows, strangers to them the preceding week, and entertaining no more intention of becoming their husbands, than of suing for the hand of one of the Princesses of China. Indeed it may generally be observed that the “ agreeable young men,” invited to assist in enlivening the dulness of an English country-house, are younger brothers, debarred by their social position from entering into the holy estate of matrimony. Yet should the result of these strollings and duettings be a mutual attachment, the young people who have been flung into each other's arms, are reviled by their parents as rebellious, presumptuous, unprincipled, and unfeel. ing The young lady is made a mark for the scorn of her wiser sis. ters, and the sermons of the village pastor; while the young gentleman is dismissed the house as ignominiously as a footman detected in pur. loining the family plate.
In London, the English young lady is exposed to still more alarm. ing trials. Every night she accompanies her lady-mamma to one or two brilliant assemblies or balls ; and is under the necessity of dancing with any coxcomb presented to her by any lady of her acquaintance. Let it not be supposed that a contredanse or waltz is the same silent ceremony as in Paris. During the dance, the gentleman is permitted, nay, expected, to pour into her ears a farrago of nonsense, known in English society under the vague title of "flirting.” When it con. cludes, she accepts (not the hand, but) the arm of the enterprising stranger ; and, closely pressed to his side in the throng, proceeds to the refreshment-room, often on another floor ; where, separated from her chaperon by a crowded staircase, she passes an hour in the most familiar intercourse with a jackanapes, whose conduct, station, and views, are perhaps wholly unknown to her family. These hazards are nightly renewed for the space of three months. The favourite partner presents himself, after a slight introduction, as a morning visitor, and is probably received by the young ladies of the family. Every day, in the public promenades of Hyde Park, dandies may be seen "flirt
ing” with young ladies in the most familiar and disrespectful attitudes, through carriage windows, the mammas (overcome by the fatigue of supervising the romping of the cotillion till six in the morning,) being asleep in the opposite corner. At exhibitions, at the Zoological Gardens, at déjeuners, at prônes, they become their escort, and grow familiar with them as their glove. Admitted to enjoy their so. ciety without reserve, they are not tempted to incur the hazard of matrimony, for the sake of obtaining their companionship. They wait, they deliberate, till a newer face attracts them elsewhere; and the same game is played over again, season after season, with debutante after debutante, creating in England a race of discontented old maids and dissipated “men about town.”
The father, mean while, looks listlessly on, when the claims of clubs and divisions will permit. Should his lady wife acquaint him that “Sir Robert or Captain Brown is making up to Sophy,” he invites Sir Robert or Captain Brown to dinner; and if, after a season's dangling, the young gentleman does not propose, most likely asks him down to his country-seat for a week's shooting or hunting, an archery.meeting, or a race-ball. If even these baits fail to obtain a bite, some more promising pretendant is invited in Sir Robert's place. It is considered infra dig, to give him the slightest hint that his alliance would be agreeable to the family. It is thought more honourable to angle for him, to tickle the trout or attempt to entangle him by a bold cast of the matrimonial net, than to come honestly to the point, saying: “ You seem to prefer my daughter. Your position in life satisfies the expec. tations of her family. Her fortune is so much. Is such a marriage likely to promote your happiness ?"
After half a dozen successive seasons, the young lady becomes as accessible to the acquaintance of all sorts and conditions of men as her lady mamma. You see her at Almack's shaking hands with five-and. twenty in succession ; or nodding to them in the ring, as she ambles on horseback by the side of my lord her father, who is squabbling politics with some greybeard companion. She has little scruple in des. patching notes to her friends concerning the arrangements of a waterparty, or the loan of a new work; to solicit their votes for a favourite candidate, or force them to buy tickets for the benefit of a favourite artist. Her face is as well known to the loungers in the Park as the statue of Achilles ; she has been a fixture at the Opera and Ancient Concerts year after year. The charm of her countenance is familiar to every eye, the sallies of her gaiety to every ear.
Is such a girl likely to be sought as a timid bride ? as a pure being trembling to confide the secrets of her gentle mind even to him whom, at the altar, she has sworn to honour and obey ?
Nevertheless, the force of habit so blinds the refined gentlemen of the mos: refined nation of Europe to the coarseness of such practices, that they often seek in wedlock women of their own condition in life, whom, for ten previous years, they have seen exposed to the corrupt. ing influence of all this publicity! The cruel prevalence of the law of primogeniture, by reducing daughters and younger sons to beggary in order to pamper the head of the family, often defers till a late period of life the independence which, obtained by professional exer. tions, enables the Englishman to support a wife. Many, under such circumstances, recur to the preferences or fulfil the engagements of former days. But these, and the damsels promoted by unusual at.