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You will think, chère Delphine, that my picture of fashionable life is too highly coloured, but, believe me, it is not so; and, to convince you of this, I send you an extract from a sensible article, in an influential publication that appears here once a quarter; by which you will perceive that this class of society is by no means composed of the élite of the aristocracy
of the country.
“ We allude to the self-elected leaders of
what is called the fashionable world and their
followers, - a set of weak, trifling, and often profligate people, by no means eminent for birth, wealth, or personal accomplishment, who, by dint of mere assumption, and by persuading a few men and women of real influence and high station to co-operate with them, have contrived to acquire a formidable description of influence in society, which seldom offers an effective resistance to a wellorganised system of exclusiveness. A few pretty women, not in the highest rank of the nobility, met at Devonshire House, to practise quadrilles, then recently imported from the Continent. The establishment of a sub
scription-ball was suggested, to which none but the very élite were to be admissible; the subscription to be low, with the view of checking the obtrusive vulgarity of wealth. The fancy took; and when it transpired that the patronesses had actually refused a most estimable English duchess, all London became mad to be admitted ; exclusion was universally regarded as a positive loss of caste; and no arts of solicitation were left untried to avert so terrible a catastrophe. The wives and daughters of the oldest provincial gentry, with pedigrees traced up to the Heptarchy, have been seen humbling themselves, by the lowest arts of degradation, to soften the obdurate autocratUNPASHIONABLE ARISTOCRACY, ETC.
esses; and we fear it is no exaggeration to say, that more than one parvenu has been known to barter his vote in parliament, and more than one parvenue her honour, för a ball-ticket. The prestige has greatly abated, and the institution is now tottering to its fall; but its origin is worth recording, as a ludicrous phenomenon in the progress of society.” - Quarterly Review, for September 1836.
We have, in England, however, innumerable members of the aristocracy as exempt from the follies that stain the votaries of fashion, as they are unambitious of mingling with them. For the knowledge of their existence, I have to thank a discussion into which, a few days ago, I inadvertently fell, with Lord Nottingham; and which has enlightened me on some subjects on which I had formed erroneous conclusions. I observed, à-propos to some tale of scandal repeated by Lord Charles Fitzhardinge, that for one example of bad conduct in France, I heard, at least, ten cited here.
“Yes, cited," replied Lord Nottingham ; " but what does this prove, Miss Montressor ? Why, not that there is more impropriety here than in France, but that we attach more importance to its existence, and more censure to those who practise it. If vice were as frequent in England as you imagine, it might be practised with greater impunity. The examples of it are not, as you observe, cited in France; but this fact, far from proving their non-existence, only implies that their frequency has habituated people to them; and that, therefore, they have ceased to excite the indignation, or to be visited by the obloquy, which attends similar offences in England. That country is the most demoralised where vice meets the fewest censurers. You must not judge Englishwomen by the specimens Lord Charles Fitzhardinge has named ; or by some of those you meet in the coterie of the Comtesse of Hohenlinden. These form the exceptions to the female propriety which, be assured, exists to a greater extent among the women of this country than in any other--a fact, of which the reprobation with which the conduct of the erring few is visited, furnishes the most undeniable proof."
“But I do not admit that impropriety of conduct meets with this reprobation,” answered I; “ au contraire, I assert, that nowhere is it practised with such impunity as here.”
Why will you judge England so superficially, Miss Montressor ? and Englishwomen, by the clique (for it is nothing more), termed exclusives? which, like an unbealthy excrescence, has grown out of the repletion produced by