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SKETCHES OF SOCIETY AND MANNERS IN LONDON
From Sir CHARLES DARNLEY, Bart, to the MARQUIS DE VERDIONT.
Paris. liveliness of a theatrical representa, MY DEAR DE VERMONT,
tion. This was a kind of reasoning The numerous theatrical ex- which this northern hero by no hibitions (or spectacles as you call means understood, and I found the them) which occupy so much of the French ladies and gentlemen, who time of the inhabitants of this gay formed the rest of the society, seemed city, afford also to strangers a never to think that it would be an intofailing source of variegated amuse- lerable burden were they under the ment. Though the imperfect man, necessity, before they appeared in ner in which the Opera-house is the presence of a crowded audience, lighted diminishes the splendour of to comb their hair, to change their the first coup d'oeil, while the large linen, and to throw off the dirty bonnets and morning dresses in habiliments in wbich their mornwhich your ladies appear on these ing exercise had been taken. On occasions in the boxes, and the such subjects, as well as several great coats and boots of the gentle similar ones, I can only observe, men, present rather unseemly objects qu'on ne peut pas disputer sur des to the eye of an Englishman acous- sujets de gout. tomed to the very different attire of Your National Theatre, or Les the corresponding classes at the François, (as it is commonly called) Theatre in the Haymarket; yet if is the one which I am fondest of atthe spectator directs his eye to the tending, because I find there both stage, and looks there only for his the most interesting dramatic comamusement, he must be fastidious positions, and the best performers. indeed, if not gratified with the per- You must pardon me for not admirformance of one of those classical ing the pompous tones and violent ballets which are exhibited in the gestures of your most celebrated utmost perfection, and accompanied tragedians: la Fond, Talma, and by an orchestra, which, I believe I Mademoiselle Duchénois, are may say it without exaggeration, is tainly performers of no ordinary composed of nearly two hundred merit; but in witnessing their exermusicians. When I complain of the tions I calmly commend, rather than Parisian habit of frequenting such strongly feel, the talent they display. places en déshabillé, I must in cans But barbarous as this judgment may doar ohserve, that we are all so sound to your ear, my bad taste governed by early impressions, that may, perhaps, in part be pardoned iny criticism may be solely occa, when I declare, that in comedy I comsioned by the opposite custom of my monly give unqualified praise to your own country. I lately dined in com- performers ; while many French pany with a Swedish officer, who plays, particularly those of Moliere, stated among the inconveniences are exact representations of real life which, he said, he had experienced “ Not overstepping the modesty of in London, that when he wished to nature.' Your actors in this line go to the opera, he was compelled to are equally careful, in performing throw off those boots in which he the parts assigned them, not to go had passed his life, and in which beyond the limits which she has pre(as he belonged to the cavalry) he scribed. Mademoiselle Mars, though was allowed to appear at the Court she has now been thirty years on of his Sovereign. Iin vain reminded the stage, is still beautiful, and still him that individuals must sacrifice presents an unrivalled model of dratheir own inclinations to the advan- matic excellence. Many others of tage of the public, and that certainly the leading performers might be a well-dressed audience contributed mentioned, but even those to whom in no trifling degree to augment the the lowest characters are allotted Eur. Mag. May, 1823.
do such justice to their comparatively ance given, and medicine supplied trifling share of the general exhibi- to the deceased; and the annount of tion, that in witnessing the repre- the charge was so excessive, (I sentation of a play thus uniformly think £700,) though the bill was well acted, I have experienced the not of long standing that his rekind of illusion which Dr. Jobison presentatives thought it their duty thought impossible I mean that of to resist the payment of the acfancying myself actually present at count; the particulars of which an occurrence in real life.
were accordingly. laid before a I went a few evenings since to jury. Among the items, I recollect, Les François, and never do I re- there was one for fifty thousand member to have been so highly pills, sent to the patient on setting amused. Le Chevalier à la Mode out on a journey, with directions for was the first piece, in which Arnaud their use. Ten of these he was to portrayed the character of a cox- take on rising from bed, in order to comb of the old school with such give him an appetite for his breakfast, happy taste that, while assuming as many more by way of assisting all the hauteur and levity which be- his digestion, ten before dinner, longed to the part, he forgot not to and an equal number afterwards, display at the same time that elegance besides emollients, astringents, soand refinement of manner which, dorifics, diuretics, emetics, febrifuge in those days, threw a gloss over the powders, and aperients of all sorts most infamous vices ; and when he and descriptions. declared, that he had made the purses Now any person who will exof his mistresses contribute no less to amine this bill, which was read in his pleasures than the harvests of his open court, will find it is almost a farmers, he said so with a grace which translation or counterpart of the one, made one, for the moment, admit in perusing the articles of which, the an excuse both for the depravity of hero of Le Malade Imaginaire bethe libertine and the credulity of his gins that excellent play. victims. But the principal attrac- But to return to the performance. tion of the evening was Le Malade I was much amused at the eulogy imaginaire, which succeeded Le pronounced by Dr. Diafoirus on his Chevalier à la Mode, and in which pedantic son, of whom, in allusion all the best actors were employed to the discovery of the circulation of While enjoying this incomparable the blood, which was then recent, , peformance I could not help re
“ Mais sur toute chose, ce marking and admiring the deep in- que me plait en lui, et en quoi il suit sight into the human heart which exemple, c'est qu'il s'atMoliere had obtained. Though this tache aveuglement aux opinions de play was written 140 years ago, and nos anciens, et qu'il n'a jamais in the time which has since elapsed, voulu comprendre, ni écouter les civilization is supposed to have ad. raisons et les experiences des pretenvanced with rapid strides, we find dues decouvertes de notre siècle, touat quacks, not only in medicine chant la circulation du
8@g. et autres but in almost every condition of opinions de la meme forme." life, are now just as common as they Now, how many pompous blockwere when this play first appeared'; heads have we still existing, who and the satire which it conveys on boast, like Dr. Dia foirus, that they the folly of mankind is no less ap- have educated their children in plicable to the present than to the those prejudices which they themthen state of private society. With selves had been taught, and in proregard to the particular foible which found contempt of all the discoveries he here attacks, I hope you read in one and inventions of the more enof the English newspapers the account lightened age, in which it is the of a trial which lately occurred on good fortune of the latter to begin one of the circuits, the circumstances
It appears also from of which prove that Le Malade this passage, that Dr. Harvey met Imaginaire is by no
with quite as much opposition from drawn. It was an action brought by the ignorance and bigotted obstinacy a country apothecary against the of his contemporaries, in propaexecutors of a gentleman, for attend. gating a truth, since universally
acknowledged, as our equally illus- their posts with gravity. The trious countryman (Dr. Jenner) whole was perfect in its way, nor experienced, in teaching the virtues was it the least interesting circumof a discovery scarcely less impor- stance attending the performance, tant to the interests of humanity. that all the principal actors and
You are so well acquainted both actresses of the theatre were deputed with the comedy, and the actors by to represent these learned personwhom it was performed, that I will ages, and the public therefore ensay no more of the merits of either. joyed an opportunity, which they I cannot dismiss the subject, how- did not neglect, of expressing, as ever, without telling you how much they passed before them in review, I was delighted with the ballet, or the sense they entertained of their decoration with which the play was respective merits. Many a pretty concluded ; I mean the representa- woman wore on the occasion the tion of the ceremony of receiving solemn garb of science, and MadeM. Argent (Le Malade Imaginaire) moiselle Mars's fine eyes lost none as a member of the College of Phy- of their lustre from the contrast of sicians. Though in the exhibition her doctor's robes. It is almost there were some indelicacies rather needless to add, that that lady endiscordant to our English ideas of grossed the largest share of popupropriety, I confess that on the lar applause. When the conclave was whole i never witnessed a more formed, and the president and the laughable scene. The stage fitted candidates were seated in their pulup to resemble a medical school, pits, the examination began, and variwith benches on each side, and two ous questions were suggested with rostra placed in the centre; the due solemnity by different Members higher one being destined for the of the College. Dr. Diafoirus, by the president, and the lower for the importance which he assumed, and candidate.
the deliberation with which he put The procession beginning with his interrogatories, was, in a cavalcade of apothecaries and nion, not the least amusing. But surgeons; each carrying on his nothing seemed so much to divert shoulder, in lieu of a firelock, a cer- the audience as the hesitation of M. tain emblem of his profession of co- Argent, who never ventured to give lossal size, and these humbler practi- an answer till standing
and tioners performing a military salute whispering the president (who sat with these instruments (for even the above him) he had received a sons of Esculapius cannot in France friendly, hint from him, though, meet without military ceremonies), after all this preparation, the reand then seated themselves with be- plies were nearly the same. The coming modesty on the ground! examination, which you know is Then a regiment of doctors follow- carried on in a dialect of mixed ing, clad in scarlet gowns, marching French and Latin, ran in iny head two by two in solemn state, turning all the night afterwards. I have round as they approached the pit, endeavoured to paraphrase it in and bowing first to the audience and English, and I shall now venture then to their companions, and taking to send you my humble attempt.
First Doctor 2 What is the system, learned sir,
How wouldst thou treat cold, bile, or phthisic?
CHORUS OF Doctors.
And hail thee brother and M.D.
Third Doctor.-How wouldst thou treat a fevered brain ?
And hail thee brother and M.D.
And hail thee brother and M.D.
And hail thee brother and M.D.
I'd say the ills which now you name
And hail thee brother and M.D.
What wouldst thou order? (Candidate.) I'd begin
By sweating, dosing, bleeding well.
At the conclusion of this notable incomparable play, just as he had examination I was much amused said " Juro," he was seized with a by the form of the oath taken by the convulsive fit, and having broken a candidate, by which he pledges him- blood vessel, was removed from the self not only to obey all the laws stage to his own house, where a few and ordinances of the College, but minutes afterwards he expired. I even to let his patients die rather find this melancholy occurrence took than to administer to them any me- place on the 17th February, 1673, dicine not sanctioned by ancient when he had only just attained his usage, or authorised by the fiat of his fifty-third year. brotherhood. As soon as M. Argent For saying so much to you on a in pronouncing the word “ Juro," subject with which you are so famihad assented to these becoming en- liar' I have but one apology to offer, gagements so read to him by the that you have more than once depresident, he received from the lat- sired me to state without disguise ter the doctor's bonnet, with license the result of my first impressions, to vomit, physic, blister, cut, mangle and certainly few things have pleased and kill with impunity. Apropos, me more, since my arrival at Paris, I find it mentioned in the life of than the performance which has Moliere prefixed to his works, that formed the subject of the present the author bimself performed the letter. part of Le Malade Imaginaire, and
Adicu, on the third representation of his
From the MARQUIS DE VERMONT to SIR CAARLES DARNLEY, Bart.
London. a dramatic treat, of which no one MY DEAR DARNLEY,
had indulged a thought ten miYour last letter has given nutes before the party had been me much satisfaction, because by the suggested. Now if the etiquette of observations made in it I perceive making a toilet, (to adopt our that you begin to derive amusement phrase,) were indispensably necesfrom our theatrical exhibitions, and sary, such impromptu arrangements they form so material a part of the (which constitute a material ingrepleasures of Paris, that till a taste dient in the pleasures of a Parisian for them is contracted, a stranger life) would no longer be possible. cannot properly appreciate the With respect to the want of light, French capital. With regard to our ladies deem an excessive glare your criticisms I must be permitted unfavorable to beauty, and we to remark that the faults of which think by keeping the rest of the you complain, (if they deserve that house in comparative darkness, that name,) are solely occasioned by the an additional splendour is thrown difference which exists between your on the stage, for which all the brilmanners and our's. When your liancy of illumination is reserved. countrymen go to the play or Opera- The tastes of nations on such house in the evening, they go thi- subjects differ no less than the tastes ther
of individuals, and such variations " To see and to be seen," should make us very careful before
we condemn in a foreign country precisely as they frequent Hyde- that to which we have been unaccuspark or Bond-street in the morning; tomed at home; for it by no means and the attractions of the drama follows that because a custom is the would be powerless without that reverse of our own, that the habit additional stimulus.
is an improper one. If I may be We, on the contrary, look alone permitted to return to the subject to the stage for our amusement, and of your Opera House, I should obneither desire to make a display our- serve that females of character and selves nor to derive any pleasure consideration have not the means of from the appearance, however splen- habitually frequenting that theatre, did, of those around us.
unless rich enough to command a Consuming a much less portion yearly seat in one of those boxes, of time at table than the English, the acquisition of which is no tridining very frequently at home, ding object of ambition in the eyes or in unceremonious parties at the of the vain. But as your lords and houses of our relations or intimate ladies, in spite of all their haughti. friends, we should find it highly in. ness and boasted wealth, condescend convenient to be under the necessity to traffic in such possessions, and of altering our dress before we ad- deign occasionally to let them at a journed to one of the many theatres price of exorbitant profit, it hapwhich are opened every night at pens now and then that a party from Paris. It happens frequently, while the city or the country is enabled, taking an afternoon's walk in the by a temporary sacrifice, to enjoy for Thuilleries or the Boulevard, or in a few hours the envied pleasure and paying a visit at the hotel of an éclat of occupying these privileged acquaintance, that a proposal is places. Still as they cannot be obsuddenly made to go and see the tained without some previous arperformance of some favorite actor rangement, ample time is found for or actress, whose appearance is an- preparing and putting on those arnounced for that evening ; the mo- ticles of fashionable attire, which if tion meets with general approbation, your women had not the opportuthe family coach, or a hackney nity of displaying on such occacoach is ordered, and a whole com. sions, even an opera box would lose pany soon find themselves enjoying all its attractions,