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are now beginning to appear wonderfully natural. The regions about Leicester Square, and the back of the Quadrant, are to London what the Chaussée il Antin is to Paris. Saunter by the cafés and dingy eating-houses in la Française which embellish that particular portion of our metropolis, and you might imagine that you were threading your way amid the population of the Pays Latin. Napless hats, skin-tight fitting coats, and plaited trousers, with pockets invariably at the knees, and hands invariably in the pockets—all bear evidence to the irruption of Monsieurs, which of late years has appeared in London. But only of late years. The French are only beginning to be a travelling people. We are at least thirty years a-head of them in the art of locomotion, and in
advantage which that art brings in its train. As a people we know ten times more of the French than they know of us. And see how fast the knowledge of our good neighbours dissipates the absurd anti-Gallic prejudices which are so long made a part of our national religion. “Ilate the French and the devil,” said Horatio Nelson to his midshipmen. “I hate the French because they are all slaves, and wear wooden shoes,” quoth Goldsmith, speaking his own mind through the old sailor ; and “ I hate the French because they eat frogs and soup) maigre,” roared every honest, patriotic, loyal, anti-revolutionary, king-church-and-state, beef-and-plumpudding, free-born Englishman. But that was thirty years ago : we know better now. We have found, somehow, that our neighbours, instead of bloody-minded human scare-crows-"a cross, as Edmund Burke, to his eternal disgrace, wrote, “ between the monkey and the tiger”-are in reality a set of pleasant, jovial, light-hearted, clever and gallant people. Why! not the most wooden-headed squire who ever followed the hounds before dinner, or invoked, in bad grammar, the British Lion after it, would dream now-a-days of going back to the old frog-eating, raw head and bloody bones notions of his venerable papa. And why? He has been to Paris—all over France, mayhap, and he wasn't made a slave, or forced to put on wooden shoes, or starved on soup maigre, or poisoned with frogs, or consigned to a dungeon a hundred fect under ground for being an Englishman, or his head chopped off on the guillotine out of revenge for Waterloo. And so somehow he arrived—he was rather ashamed of it at first at the conclusion that a people may be a very pleasant people, even although plunged in the crassest ignorance as to plumpudding, and unable to chant the “Roast-beef of Old England”
ás a national hymn of glory. And so it has been with hundreds of thousands. Steam has done it all. Watt has laboured with more effect for European peace than all the diplomatists who ever cheated in cypher, or lied in protocols. We are beginning really to understand our neighbours—to see the lights as well as the shades in poor Johnny Crapcaud's national character, and having arrived at that satisfactory change in our onward progress, we have made the discovery that he is a much more pleasant fellow to walk with arm in arm than to fight with hilt to hiltthat on the whole it is better to flourish knives amicably together over the carcases of muttons at a table d'hôte than to brandish sabres over the carcases of men on a field of battle.
But the French themselves are not so far advanced as we are. They have only got to the post we arrived at a score of -they must see more of us, mingle more with us, forget Waterloo, laugh at the Pritchard indemnity, and freely and frankly acknowledge that the perfidy of Albion is nothing more or less than a notable device of the scamps of Parisian journalism--the Dujarriers and Reanvallons of the Presse and the National, tò replenish as speedily and as satisfactorily as possible the tills of these respected journals. As yet, French notions of England are of the dimmest. There is a terrible haze of prejudice still floating over our poor isle in the minds of the respectable bourgeoise of La belle France. And the most notable of their Feuillitonists—the gentlemen who fill up what the up-hill Gautier, one of the fraternity, christened the ground floor of the thousand and one journals published from Calais to Marseilles, add to, rather than detráct from, the amount of misconception and prejudice which exists. Apropos, of M. Gautier-and I may as well state that, although possessed only of a Parisian reputation, he is one of the liveliest writers and most acute critics of his day and nation—that gentleman was lately in London, and published sketches of his wanderings in La Presse. In one of these papers he informs his readers that Thomas Moore, the poet, still goes under the name of Little, from his diminutive stature ; and in another, in giving an account of a banquet at the Mansion-House, he actually takes the Toast-Master for the Lord Mayor ! Sue, Balzac, Soulie, and George Sand, all popular romancists of the day, have each of them done something to cast very novel, but not strikingly accurate bursts of light on English character and habits. Witness, for example, the “ Countess Sarah Macgregor" of the
first-named gentleman, and the phlegmatic “ Sir Brown" of the (notwithstanding the appellation) last-named lady. The “Mysteries of London,” by a certain “ Sir Francis Trollop” was also a rich jumble of the most glorious nonsense ; and Soulie's “Richard Darlington,” a fine drama in other respects, might have reference to the people and the customs of Nova Zembla as much as to those of the “borough :” it won't be found on the map of Northumberland, where the scene is laid. No doubt, France has had, and has yet, many writers who appreciated and understood, -as Charles Nodier did-Leon Faucher does, but the herd of popular authors across the Channel, the novelists and the dramatists, whose pens
furnish forth the mental food upon which ninety-nine, hundredths of the reading French public from day to day depend, know as much about England, English society, and English manners and customs, as they do about the regions in the vicinity of the centre of gravity.
Accost an honest French bourgeois, at his usual evening haunt, his well beloved café. Wait until he has diligently spelt through first the Feuilletons, then the “ Premiers Paris," then the “ Faits Diverses ” of every journal on the table, from the Débats to the Guépes; be patient until the usual demitasse be duly sipped, the invariable never-changing partié at dominos be satisfactorily completed, and then try to fish from him his notions of England and the English. They are a strange chaos. England is a nasty, indefinite, cold, unpleasant place. He calls it, in general terms, la bas. There are no grapes there, and the sun never shines. Mists, damp brooding fogs rest drearily upon it. The people pass their time shivering over sea-coal fires—the air is one curtain of dismal black smoke. There are no amusements--no lightheartedness—nothing of the kind except what comes at second hand, and spoilt in the transport, from France. Then the English are the most ambitious people in the world, and the most moneymaking. They would sell their fathers and mothers if they could make decent bargains of the old people. They are for ever playing naughty tricks with other nations ; cheating them out of their colonies, and underselling them in foreign markets. They wish to be the monopolists of the world's commerce. He will admit, however, that the English make the best razors, and bind the prettiest books, and have the finest horses, and the biggest newspapers
in the world. But then, mon Dieu ! what a frumpish, puritanical, proud, formal, people they are! How they would lord it over poor
France if they dared! How they would run off with all her remaining colonies if they could ! First, sending out ship-loads of missionaries and bibles; and then, just as poor unsuspecting France was dancing and singing, and amusing itself, thinking not the least harm in the world—bang ! coming down—that Perfide Albion
on the hapless island, just like a cat on a mouse. And, then, what an ungenerous people you are, you insulaires. Didn't you burn poor Joan d'Arc, and imprison that innocent unambitious hero “ le grand empereur," upon a nasty barren rock in the sea. Not that you gained Waterloo, par exemple—the affair at Quatre Bras, I mean--it was a mistake, somehow-a misunderstanding, which you took a shabby advantage of. For, mon Dieu ! You are not an amiable people. You are so cold and phlegmatic, and so given to drowning yourselves in November ; and you can only amuse yourselves by riding steeple chases and breaking your necks; and-and-en fin, you are a nation of nasty shopkeepers, and you drink, oh! horridly; particularly brandy; and oh! mon Dieu ! so do your ladies, too ; and then, worse than all, the crowning abomination—quelle coutume infâme, brutale ! --Oh! horreur-you sell your wives !!!
“You sell your wives." The English sell their wives. 'Tis a known fact-an old institution of the country--women are brought every market morning along with bullocks and sheep, to be knocked down to the highest bidder. The sale is strictly legal—it is resorted to by the highest personages—it breaks the bonds of marriage. The altar joins à couple, the halter separates them. As the purchase-shillings are reckoned over, the wife loses her liberty—the husband his rights. The free woman is sold, and a slave!
Perhaps many of my readers start when I affirm that this is the firm creed of millions of French men and women, with respect to our customs and lives. They reckon up a long and visionary list of our failings, and the wife-selling part of the story is sure to be the climax of the tale of horror. 'Tis the grand bugaboo of our good neighbours.' 'Tis like our old frog-eating, wooden shoe, hate the French and the devil sort of feeling. But they are dead and gone, while the wife-selling humbug still flourishes in the most pristine vigour. And it is difficult to blame the great mass of the ignorant badauds who believe these cock and bull stories. They are taught them, and encouraged in them, by those who ought to know better. The newspaper essayist, the
popular romance weaver, and, particularly, the popular dramatist, make copious use of these ingenious fictions, and serve them up in articles, novels, and melodramas, in such profusion, and with such regularity, that the Epicier of the Rue St. Honoré, the ouvrier of the Faubourg de Temple, the grisette of the Quartier Latin, would as readily give up their belief in the geographical and physical existence of London, as in the astounding fact that in England a husband sells his wife exactly as he sells his horse or his dog.
I have before me a drama, entitled, Le Marché de Londres produced about three months ago, at a theatre which holds a similar rank in Paris to the Adelphi here--L'Ambigu Comique. It is a five act picce, the joint composition of a M. Adolphe Dennery, a very noted and very prolific Parisian dramatist; and M. Paul Fenal, a gentleman who, in a novel, the scene of which he laid in Ireland, made “ Paddy” a female name—and is intended to convey to the good people of Paris some notions of London life and habits.
Now I dare say we make many blunders in laying the scene of a drama in Paris, but I should blush for the intelligence of England, were such a farrago of trash served up and accepted for a specimen of French manners—as the Parisian audience seems to have swallowed with the utmost complaceney—as a represensation of how we manage matters in England.
The plot of Le Marché de Londres is very long ---very complicated and very extravagant. My readers would hardly thank me for an analysis of its vagaries, but a few random notices of the scenes which particularly turn upon French notions of English affairs may be curious and not uninstructive. The play, then, opens in a vast steam-engine manufactory, and in the course of the badinage proceeding amongst the workmen—one of them, Peterpatt, the type of low English life, characteristically observes that all he cares for in the world is “roast beef, porter, and Miss Kitty.” The proprietor of the engineering establishment is a Lord Ashton. We do not hear how his lordship came by his rank ; but he treats it with great contempt, and avowing the strongest democratic feelings, allows himself only to be called Sir George Maurice in one scene, and Sir Maurice in another.. This species of compromise between the Peer and the Commoner would be curious, but the dramatist evidently believes the English “Sir," to be equivalent to the French “ Sieur,” and. to signify simply “ Mister." Well, this steam-engine-making: nobleman--I wish we had more of them-has just returned to