Page images
[graphic][merged small]

HE narrow-minded twaddlers whom we are accustomed to call the old French poets—the guitar gaily-touching troubadours of the dark ages have proved themselves only a very simple party

of slow coaches, when they wrote to prove that spring was the most pleasant part of the year.

In spite of all the flowery verses they have left us, they could never have possessed the least taste for real enjoyment, or they would have turned their

thoughts more to the vagaries of the Carnival than the vegetables of the country; and extolled the delights of the masked-balls before all the flower-enamelled banks, dasied meads,


diamond-studded grass (meaning, of course, such as was uncomfortably wet with dew), and leafy groves and coverts that ever they thought about or sang of.

Had they foreseen that in future ages the recollection of their existence would only be kept up-not by their lack-a-daisical verses, but the choice of the costumes of


their times for the masquerades, they would possibly have been more grateful, for it is only at these réunions, apart from the drama, that troubadours are now heard or seen, in common with the other graceful costumes of the moyen age, which in a few weeks from the present time will begin to grace the stage of the French Opera-house.

It is a melancholy and degrading truth, that we cannot get up anything like a decent masquerade in England; leaving the Carnival, of course, out of the question. The attempt has been made frequently, and as frequently failed. Low, unmeaning noise, graceless dresses and worse taste in putting them on-drunken rioting, and vulgar sallies of the coarsest wit (or what is meant for wit), are the chief characteristics of such a meeting in London. triots are lamentably deficient in the kind of humour required to keep a masquerade going with spirit, and if one of them ventures by chance or curiosity into the maelstrom of a Parisian bal masquè, his gauche bearing betrays him at

He has no idea of replying to a sprightly sally by

we choose to amuse ourselves with the buffoonery of the poorest amongst the working-classes at the Bal Chicard, or with the splendid costumes of the Academie Royale. It is not want of means to procure handsome or exclusive dresses that causes our own masquerades to be so overdone with Greeks, Turks, brigands, Italian peasants, and Swiss girls. Heaven knows, the poorer inhabitants of Paris are poor indeed; and yet, with the few effects at their disposal, they will contrive to patch up a set of quaint dresses that involuntarily make you smile whilst you look at them. Who among us could convert the elbow-joint of the tin chimney from the domestic stove into a helmet? or con

Our compa



[graphic][ocr errors]

struct an Oriental turban, grand and imposing in effect, from a bundle of "garden stuff,” tied up in part of an old cotton dress ?

There is something very droll in the appearance of the cafés adjoining the French theatres on the night of a bal masquè, from the circumstance of most of the characters quietly walking in, already dressed, to take refreshment before the ball, or wait until the doors are open.

For as the pit has generally to be boarded over after the regular performances of the theatre, it is better to seek shelter in

an equally sharp retort. On the contrary, should any

of the characters launch a joke at him, he seeks instant refuge in flight, in a state of extreme nervous trepidation and distress.

A bal masquè at Paris is indeed worth seeing-whether

[merged small][merged small][graphic][subsumed]

Imagine the sensation that would be created at a London tavern, if a mask was coolly to walk in for supper ! How they would stare at Evans's, or the Cyder Cellars, to see a postilion march up the room, and order a roast potatoe and a go of brandy! The business of the evening would be at a stand-still. The chairman would neglect to finish his legend of "Now the monks of old laughed, ha! ha!;" the glee-singers would forget how, when, and where “Willie brewed his peck of malt;" Herr Von Joel would break down in his imitation of “De trush, male and female ;” and Evan's himself, if singing, would possibly stop the “Return of the admiral,” and request the intruder to leave the room.

The first coup-d'oeil of a French theatre filled with masqueraders is not easily forgotten. It is a realisation of

the ball-scene in “Gustavus," with ten times the number of characters—a burst of fairy-like revelry, only to be coupled, in its bewildering sensation, with the first visit to Vauxhall. The galope is an unearthly whirl of four or five hundred couple all round the area, the rollicking of the revellers contrasting strangely with the grave fixed demeanour of the municipal-guard, who stand all round the stage, to commit any unhappy wight instantaneously to the solitude of the lock-up house, who transgresses the known laws of the dance. The boxes are filled with spectators; and here the most amusing adventures take place. Many a wife and husband, who have each apologised for leaving the other at home, whilst they “go to see their cousin before he leaves Paris," are astonished with a mutual rencontre :

and where if neither party recognises the other, many truths may be told and hints given, under cover of a mask, which would be dangerous to venture upon under other circumstances.

The worst part of the story is the turn-out at six in the morning to go home. The half-deserted streets are cold, dark, and cheerless; carriages are not always to be procured; and the tumble into bed is followed by a confused dream of chandeliers, music, paysannes, municipal-guards, and fairy-like forms, flitting before the senses in wings, powdered wigs, and postilions' boots.


MORE difficult task does not exist than running the gauntlet of an introduc

tion. A presentation at Court is always preceded by as much study as an actor bestows upon a new part. A failure, it is true, sometimes occurs in

both cases, but it more frequently happens in the former. When a king is to be crowned, or condescends to dine with my Lord Mayor, how much ceremony

is gone through at the rehearsal, never to be played when the farce is produced, Most aldermen have a greater zest for Kitchener than for Chesterfield ; but we have heard a sporting publisher declare the two works might be backed at even odds (an anachronism even more odd than the fact itself), for at least six weeks previous to the civic festival.

Our modern Chesterfields (not those who ensconce themselves in wrappers of that ilk, for their name is legion,”) salute with a grace we invoke the pencil to express,


Ordinary people salute you simply with a nod or wink. Proud people invariably return your recognition by one of marked indifference.

An intelligent person never recognises a friend whom he meets in company with a lady, unless a previous introduction to her has taken place.

The man who wears a wig never raises his hat when saluting a friend : such politeness might be followed by very awkward and embarassing disclosures.

There are some persons who never recognise one another: each equally vain, and consid ring himself the superior, passes the other as though he did not, or rather, would not, see him.

If an ignoramus meets you ten times within the hour, he will not fail to salute you upon each occasion.

[graphic][ocr errors]

Some recognitions end drolly. Two persons meet each other, stare at each other, and smile at each other. They then bow each to the other, and seize each other by the hand ; “Ah! how d'ye do?" is the simultaneous inquiry; “Pretty well, thank ye,” the mutual reply. Then, with widely-opened mouths, they gaze, and, begging a brace of pardons, finish in chorus with “I really thought I knew you !"

In some introductions the warmth of reception differs as much as the three degrees of comparison ; for, although a person may not even please at first sight,

« PreviousContinue »