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excess of luxury. The individuals composing the circle by which you judge, form, I repeat, the exception to the general rule. They act as if they considered themselves not amenable to the laws of society; and have established a little republic of their own, to oppose the government they could not subvert. This clique stands apart, and long may it continue so, from the general mass of the higher class ; and is at once our shame, and our reproach, in the estimation of those who, like you, consider its members, in consequence of their meretricious glare of fashion, as specimens of the morals and conduct of the great body of our aristocracy and gentry. As well might you suppose that, because our papers teem with reports of theft, all the English are addicted to that crime, as imagine that, because some individuals in a large community are guilty of errors, all the rest are also culpable ; whereas, in no country is theft viewed with more abhorrence, or punished with greater severity.”
You see, chère Delphine, that I give you le pour et le contre in this description, in which I had not the superiority ; unlike notre bonne Duchesse de Mirrecourt, who repeats only the strong part of her own conversations, and the weak ones of her adversaries. Is not this being frank?
Hitherto I have imagined, that goodness and dulness were synonymous terms; a mistake but too often made by those who, like me, look more to the pleasures of society than the happiness of a home. But the truth is, chère Delphine, that I have lived too much in the world, and examined too little my own heart, to have become acquainted with the quality of the soil ; which, though perhaps naturally, not altogether evil, is covered by an artificial and
rocky stratum, that requires a careful and laborious cultivation to render it capable of producing aught but tares.
In la belle France one sees little of home; there is even in your language no epithet to express it: for the chez moi is associated in my mind with certain evening receptions to some fifty of one's acquaintances, rather than with the domestic circle; and reminds me of
your answer to madame votre mère, when she accused you of never being chez vous :- Mais, ma chère mère, je suis, au contraire, très casanière cette année, car je reste chez moi deux fois dans la semaine ; au lieu que, l'année passée, je ne restai qu'une. Well do I remember those two weekly soirées, when your salon was filled with the élite of all the spirituel in Paris; and this we considered being très casanier, n'est-ce pas ? Yet those were pleasant times, for, unlike the plan adopted here,
PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN OF FASHION: 179
amusement was not made the business of
life, and we paused not to consider, as the English do, whether we were fashionable or unfashionable; or how many persons' vanities we had wounded by excluding them from our réunions - a reflection indispensable, as it appears to me, to the perfect enjoyment of my inanimate and blasés compatriots.
You ask me, chère amie, for a description or definition of a woman of fashion, according to the common acceptation of the term here. They are actresses, who play difficult parts on the stage of life, to audiences who are ever more prone to hiss than to applaud their performances. They lose their individuality as wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers, the sole parts women ought to enact, being recognised only in those fictitious róles in which they have chosen to exhibit before the pu and for which frivolous mummery, they are paid
by slander, mockery, and contempt. They, as you may well believe, are little aware of the sentiments they excite; au contraire, they imagine themselves to be admired and envied; and even should some demonstration of the reverse meet their observation, they would, in all probability, attribute it to jealousy and
There are few métiers more fatiguing than that of a woman of fashion. She is condemned to a perpetual activity to maintain her position, as Napoleon was, to make war abroad to preserve his power at home. Indolence on her part would quickly lead to her deposition, for there are as many competitors for the role as for that of premier ; and, like their political parallels, the most incapable are those who are the most indefatigable in seeking the distinction.
A woman of fashion must be callous to the
domestic affections. How could she fulfil the