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THE FRENCH ALMANACKS FOR 1867.

CONTEMPLATING Paris in the throes of vanity and the agonies of a febrile ambition, amid the chaos and confusion of thousands of books, hundreds of dramatic entertainments, all kinds of imaginary discoveries, inventions, and ameliorations; passing from one fashion to another, each more luxurious and fantastic than its predecessor, with an almost miraculous intrepidity; the city itself undergoing all kinds of transformations, social, religious, and political; questions boiling as if in some huge caldron ; fever everywhere—the fever of struggle, anxiety, and the desire for enjoyment, one of the feuilletonists of the day asks, “What is all this? Is it the tumult of a society that is creating, or the groans of a world that is tumbling to pieces ? Are we already old men, too weak to withstand these excesses, when we are still in the middle of life? Those who follow us, will they require to be cast in iron to live upon such stimulants, and not be consumed ?"

It must be admitted that Paris, as a city, does live fast. The Era of Demolitions having once set in, it has known no bounds, and the only dominant passion seems to be, not to leave a stone unturned of what existed previously. But what is more remarkable is, that out of these prodigious changes in construction surge forth also an equally prodigious change in ideas, manners, and daily life. Paris,” according to the “ Almanach de la Vie Parisienne,” will be no longer habitable but by millionary giants. Life in New Paris begins to resemble suppers at a restaurant-the best stomach must give way at the end of a week. Everything is false, feverish, sickly, from the unhealthy sumptuousness of our architecture, to our artistic, musical, and literary productions. Books no longer succeed each other, they drop like hailstones. The music of our operas resembles the fall of Niagara—it is like the interior of a fantastic factory, where the file grinds, bammers strike, and anvils reason, amidst songs, shrieks, hisses, and oaths. It is essential, above all things, that the flood of busy, anxious auditors, who issue forth from that great gamblinghouse which is called Paris, should be drowned in oblivion for a quarter of an hour.

The same excessive efforts to arrive at something false and exciting, but at the same time intoxicating, is to be met with in manners, in art, in speculations, even in the dress of the fair sex. Not one of the multitudinous Almanacks for 1867 but has something to say upon this latter delicate subject. The passion of dress once aroused, who is to place bounds upon its development? When luxury of toilettes becomes a profession of faith with woman, her natural taste is vitiated by the enormous proportions which faith always assumes in her eyes. She enters into the competitive struggle with an energy that is almost demoniacal, and rushes after a novelty in dress as if she were charging with a bayonet. Her whole life is wrapt up in this one exertion, her reputation as a woman of the world; the future of her child, the social position of her husband and of herself, hang upon her success and her triumphs. She will not recoil at any sacrifice that will prevent her

VOL. LX.

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being eclipsed by her rival. If it is necessary to put black under the eye, she will put it; dye the hair red, blue, or green, she will dye it. In Paris, the stage has also as much influence on dress as on most other things. The unscrupulous audacity of Madame Plessy in “Maître Guerin” held sway for a long time, till it was supplanted by the dresses of the “Famille Benoiton.” Happy the author who is seconded by an inventive milliner : his success is assured.

This chaos in fashions bas an immense influence on manners. This is how one of our lively annualists treats the question :

“All women in the present day are equal in the matter of chignons and petticoats with flounces, and however little one may be catholic and intelligent, one can perceive a symbol in this universal folly which gives rise to reflections. Is it not a touching thing to see great ladies attending the sale of the treasures of a young person of fashion ? Is it not a matter of surprise to see the duchesses and marchionesses of our beautiful France dispute the services of the hairdresser of Loloche or of Niniche, copy her toilette, and imitate her manners ? Between that and saying to them sister, and kissing them on the forehead, is only a hair's breadth. It is this that makes me say that I perceive in this equality of women before fashion a great philosophic result, and, as it were, the finger of Providence. It is impossible but that the greatest lady of the land, who feels herself vanquished by the daughter of her washerwoman, and elbows her in the stalls, should entertain some doubts upon divine right. The proof that she admits such doubts is shown in the fact that she no longer relies on her quality as a duchess to preserve her personality, and to inaintain around her the number of men necessary to constitute a salon, but she hurries away to purchase the arms which

gave success to her rivals." “I do not fear,” says the same writer, in a more serious vein, “ that respectable ladies, by disguising themselves as young persons, will adopt the manners of the latter; but certainly something of the kind attaches itself to them. I need only mention in proof of this the strangely free language which is current in salons, the 'argot of the boudoir, and the curiosity with which the news is received of any changes in the existing arrangements of the said young persons. If one of these fair creatures dyes her hair red, or has jewellery to dispose of, you know it, madame, either through your husband, your brother, your milliner, your hairdresser, or your coachman. That excellent coachman! You know the person herself. Your dress has rubbed against bers in the peristyle of the Opera, you have seen ber at the races, publicly, openly admired, and every homage paid to her; you have met her again at Baden, and once at a concert you were glad to take a chair which she obligingly placed at your disposition.

* Things have undergone a great change since Alexandre Dumas, son, created that charming word, ‘le demi-monde.' What was then the demi-monde’ it is very much to be feared is now le vrai monde.' The young persons who were at that epoch located in certain districts of the metropolis have gradually spread themselves all over it, and their ideas, their manner of being, and their toilettes, dominate our manners. They are everywhere. You are invaded by them, mesdames,

and there is nothing, even to their perfumes, their literature, and the patrons of their dresses, that does not penetrate into your boudoir under the patronage of your husbands. Yes, the demi-monde' is the real and great world in the present day. Is it not in its salons that men still amuse themselves, still converse, sharpen their wits, and find themselves listened to ? Is it not there that we meet with wealth, and that the aristocracy of money and of talent, the only one that now remains to us, stretch themselves out at their ease, and talk without gaping?"

For 1867 we have an especial “ Almanach des Cocottes," with its “ Calendrier du Tendre,” which reminds one of the days of Mademoiselle Scudéry; its “ Modes de 1867,” in which a proposed “costume de touriste" is charming; its Saturdays at Mabille; its Journal of Love; its “Faits divers” and “ Annonces ;” its “ Caquetages ;” its boating and its railway excursions, and even its moral tales, one entitled “Two Hours in a Closet”.

-a well-merited punishment-and the other " The Dream of Titine," a well-considered picture of the manners of this all-pervading class of young persons :

1.- A Grisette in her Room. Titine (reading a novel) : And the young girl, who up to that time had worked incessantly and lived amid privations of all kinds, put on the most splendid dresses, and had nothing to do but to drive in the “Bois” in a superb chariot. (She lets the book fall.) How happy she must be! Heavens! how I, too, should like to have dresses of silk, and drive about all day in a carriage! And I could do it too, if, like that young person, I allowed a rich young man like M. Jules, who lives in the hotel opposite, to pay his addresses to me. Yes, but I would rather work, and remain virtuous. It is surprising how weary I feel, though. Drive in the “ Bois”-chariot-silk dresses. (Falls asleep.)

Titine : Why, is that you, Monsieur Jules ? Jules : Yes, I come to ask if you are as cruel as ever, and if you persist in refusing the offers I have made you? What offers did you make ? A love of an apartment. With a carriage? Yes, and a groom. A little negro? Two little negroes. Oh, how happy I shall be! Come, then, and see your new apartment.

II.- An Apartment gorgeously furnished. Jules, you promise me to love me always? Yes, Titine, I will. By-the-by, it is my fête day to-day; what shall I give you! Nothing. What do you mean by nothing? Have I not everything I can wish for?' Still I would like to give you something. Well, then, bring me a bouquet of violets. How disinterested and sentimental you are. You will be always faithful ? Can you ask me. I will love you eternally. I also, Titine.

III.-Rue Breda. Euphemie : Why, Titine, do you live now in the Rue Breda? Titine : Yes, for a week past. Did you quarrel with Jules, then ?

Yes; and I assure you, Euphemie, I do not regret it—he was so stingy. I thought that he gave you everything you wished for. I had not more than five hundred francs a month to live upon. How can a person manage with that ? Certainly not! At first I got on with it, but when I saw Felicie spend eight hundred francs a month upon her toilette alone, it made me reflect. Are you disengaged this evening ? No, I dine with an old German baron, and accompany Henry to the theatre. How will you get rid of your baron after dinner? Oh! I shall tell him I am going to my family. Shall you be disengaged to-morrow ? No, I am going out with Paul.

IV.-Au Jardin Mabille. Good day, Marie. Good day, Titine. Well, I hope you are amusing yourself this evening! Do you think so ? Why, I do not think you have missed a dance. I have a bill to pay to-morrow, and must attract attention. What have you done with your baron, with Henry and Paul, then? They found out that I was deceiving them. How did they find it out? The dolts, they all came to see me at the same time. Quels crétins !

V.- At a Friend's House. Lodoiska, I come to ask you to lend me a hundred francs. My dear Titine, I am sorry I cannot accommodate you. Well, make some little sacrifice; you know it is not six months ago

that

you came to borrow from me, and I sent my earrings to the Mont de Piété to obtain the

money for you. I, alas ! have nothing to send to the Mont de Piété. Yes, you have a bracelet. I hold by it—it is a reminiscence of Alfred. And that brooch? It is a reminiscence of Edward. Go and borrow from Maria. To-morrow they will serve an execution. Try and captivate your landlord. Landlords never fall in love.

VI.-An Unwelcome Visitor. Is this the apartment of Madame Léontine, called Titine? Yes, sir ; whom have I the honour of addressing? A sheriff's officer, who is charged with an execution on your goods. Pity you put yourself out of the way; there is no hurry. Madame, your creditors will no longer be put off. (To his clerks.) Have the goods carried away as I make the inventory. What, will you leave me nothing? What you have will not suffice to pay your debts. At least you will leave me a bed ? I cannot do so. Where shall I sleep? Where you best like. Ah! I think of it; I have an old aunt; she will give me a home. I am off to Aunt Godard's.

VII.- Aunt Godard's House. Pan! Pan! Who is there ? Léontine. Who is Léontine? Your niece. My niece? Yes, come to ask for hospitality. My niece is dead to me since she left her abode and gave up her work. You may go your way.

VIII.Epilogue. My aunt will not receive me; what is to become of me? Why did

I wish to have silk dresses and to drive in a carriage ; was I not much happier in my little room, even if I did earn only two and a half francs a day? I cannot live thus; here is the Seine ; it is dark; no one sees me; I will put an end to my misery. (Clambers on the parapet, but in the effort to throw herself over, wakes up.)

Heavens! was I dreaming, then? What happiness to find myself in my own little room! What a horrible nightmare has visited me! But quick! I shall be late with my work. A Voice without: Mademoiselle Léontine ? The voice of my portress. You can come in. Madame Chaffaroux: Mademoiselle, here is a letter for you. (Titine reads.) “Mademoiselle, I love you; will

you

allow me to make you happy ? (Signed) Jules." I await an answer. Reply to M. Jules, that if he really loves me, he has only to go and ask my hand of my Aunt Godard.

A

propos of grisettes, it is a pleasure to find that they can be not only virtuous, but as constant as shepherdesses wooed by rural swains.

Some six years ago (we are told in the “ Almanach Amusant”), Alfred N., son of a respectable solicitor in the provinces, arrived in Paris to study the law, and installed himself in an hotel of the “Quartier Latin.” The second or third time that our provincial opened the window of his new apartment, his ears were tickled by glad songs which issued from a window on the opposite side, framed with nasturtiums and other creeping plants carefully trained up the sill. Peering more closely, he soon made out an adorable young person of seventeen, whose beautiful white face, just tinged with the roseate hue of health and happiness, was gilded by the reflexion of two fair tresses. Bent over her work, which she accompanied by her sweet voice, the student had time to contemplate this charming young person at his ease.

Two months after this, Alfred, kneeling at the feet of one of those asses which seem to be born at Montmorency only to carry cherries and grisettes, swore eternal love to his pretty neighbour. Mademoiselle Alphonsine-for that was her name—was, it will be understood, enthroned on the long-eared quadruped. It was not till after many hesitations that she had decided to put her trust in Alfred, and then only when he had vowed to be docile and respectful. This was the first time that he had failed in his promises. Alphonsine was very angry, and insisted upon returning to Paris.

The two young people parted in anger, but somehow or other they were reconciled the next day; and at last Alfred permitted himself to violate his promises, and to substitute for them protestations of eternal constancy !

For three long years our student held scrupulously by his new engagements. But at the end of that time he had passed all his eraminations, and had no longer any excuse for remaining in Paris. Nevertheless, he concealed from Alphonsine the necessity of a separation, which grieved him deeply. She had inspired him with a real attachment by her good qualities, and poignant as was his distress at leaving her, still he thought he should feel the separation less if he could only

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