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FrRevol_651-700.indd 39 3/16/12 1:16 PM CHAPTER VI OfSociety in England, and of Its Connection with Social Order. It is not probable that we shall ever see in any country, not even in France, such a society as we there enjoyed during the first two years of the Revolution and the period that preceded it. Foreigners who flatter themselves with finding anything of the kind in England are much disappointed, for they often get bored there. Although that country contains the most enlightened men and the most interesting women, the enjoyments which society can procure are but rarely met with. When a foreigner understands English well and is admitted to small circles composed of the superior men of the country, he tastes, if he be worthy of them, the most noble enjoyments which the communication of reflecting beings can afford; but it is not in these intellectual feasts that the society of England consists. People in London are invited every day to vast assemblies where they elbow each other as in the pit of a theater. The women form there the majority and the crowd is, in general, so great that even their beauty does not have enough room for display; still less can any pleasure of the mind be thought of. Considerable physical force is required to cross the salons without being stifled and to get back to one's carriage without accident; but I do not well see that any other superiority is necessary in such a crowd. Accordingly, serious men soon renounce the tax which in England is called fashionable company; and it is, it must be confessed, the most tiresome combination which can be formed out of such distinguished elements. These reunions arise from the necessity ofadmitting a very great number of persons into the circle of one's acquaintance. The list of visitors which an English lady receives is sometimes of twelve hundred persons. FrRevol_651-700.indd 40 3/16/12 1:16 PM PART VI French society is infinitely more exclusive: the aristocratic spirit which regulated the formation ofits circles was favorable to elegance and amusement , but nowise in correspondence with the nature ofa free state. Thus, in frankly admitting that the pleasures of society are found very rarely, and with great difficulty, in London, I shall examine if these pleasures are compatible with the social order of England. If they are not, the choice cannot he a matter of doubt. Men oflarge property in England generally discharge some public duty in their respective counties; and, from a wish to he returned to Parliament or to influence the election of their relations and friends, they pass eight or nine months in the country. The consequence is that social habits are entirely suspended during two-thirds ofthe year, and it is only by meeting every day that people form familiar and easy connections. In the part of London where the higher circles reside, there are whole months in summer and autumn during which the town has the appearance ofbeing visited by a contagion, such is the solitude that prevails. The meeting of Parliament seldom takes place until January, and people do not come to London till that time. The men living much on their estates pass half the day in riding or sporting; they come home fatigued and think only of taking rest, or sometimes even of drinking, although the reports made of English manners in this respect are grossly exaggerated, particularly if referred to the present time. However, such a mode of life does not fit people for the pleasures of society. The French being called neither by their business nor by their taste to live in the country, one might find at Paris during the whole year houses in which to enjoy very agreeable conversation ; but the consequence also is that Paris alone enjoyed existence in France, while in England political life is felt in every county. When the interests ofthe country come under the jurisdiction ofeveryone, the most attractive conversation is that ofwhich public business is the object. Now, in considering this subject, we do not so much regard the lightheartedness of spirit as the real importance of the things discussed. Often does a man, in other respects far from agreeable, captivate his hearers by the power of his reasoning and information. In France, the art of being agreeable lay in never exhausting a subject and in never dwelling too long on those which were not interesting to...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878636
Related ISBN
9780865977327
MARC Record
OCLC
836874520
Pages
834
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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