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NOTWITHSTANDING the amalgamating action of the new international influences which have come into operation during the present century, the ancient differences persist between the exterior habits, the personal looks, and the ways of behaving of the peoples of Europe they are weakened, but they are not suppressed. The upper classes of various lands - whose educational surroundings are becoming more and more alike-are approximating rapidly to each other in appearance and manners; but even amongst them diversities continue to subsist which, slight as they are in comparison with what they used to be, are, nevertheless, obviously perceptible. And when we look at the masses, variations glare at us. Who has ever crossed a frontier without being impressed by their abundance? In that striking example the suddenness of the change augments its volume; the world of just now has disappeared abruptly, and an utterly transformed one has assumed its place the dress, the physical aspect, the language, even the movements, of the people round have become other. After a period of residence in a country, a certain amount of habit forms itself; the eye and ear become accustomed; but at the instant of first entry almost every detail surprises by its strangeness, and evidence enough is supplied to us that, on the outside, nations are still strikingly dissimilar.


I say "on the outside," because what is viewed in ordinary travel is nothing but outside-the railway-station, the port, the street, the shop, the theatre, and the hotel. The indoor life of other

lands lies, almost always, beyond the reach of the foreigner: rarely can he enter it at all, or, if he does scrape into it a little, he does not crawl beyond its fringes; he is not admitted to live in it, with it, and of it, and, in most cases, remains uninformed as to its true nature, and as to the realities of national peculiarity which it reveals. Even of a city so much visited and so much talked about as Paris, most travellers know nothing intimately; it is only here and there, by accident, privilege, or relationship, that a few strangers (very few) manage to get inside its doors. The French keep their dwellings resolutely shut; they have small curiosity about foreign persons or things, dislike to have their habits disturbed by intruders, are dominated-especially since 1871-by the bitterest patriotic hates, are in no degree cosmopolitan, are passionately convinced of the superiority of France over the rest of the world,-and, for these reasons, though a very sociable race amongst themselves, shrink instinctively and mistrustfully from people of other blood. course there are amongst the great houses of Paris a few in which diplomatists and travellers of rank are habitually received; but those houses constitute exceptions: they stand apart; and even in them it is rare to see foreigners form intimacies with the French. I could mention singular examples of the extreme difficulty of becoming real friends with them, even when circumstances are of a nature to arouse friendship; but such examples would necessitate personal details, and personal details point to names, which, where private


individuals are concerned, it is impossible to mention, or even to suggest. Subsidiarily, as regards ourselves in particular, our shyness, and our usually insufficient knowledge of the language and of current topics of conversation and of the manner of treating them, raise up special barriers in our way. The immense majority of those who go to Paris are, therefore, unable to perceive anything indoors with their own eyes, and it is only from French books and from reports made to them by such fellow-countrymen as, in consequence of special circumstances, have been able to look in, that they can learn anything exact of what is going on behind the walls they stare at. As I have looked in long and closely, I venture to add to the second of the two classes of information some of the indoor experiences I have collected.

But, before I begin descriptions, I must make some preliminary observations as regards the situation of the subject.

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The strongest of all my notions, in looking back to my experiences in Paris and in comparing them with those I have encountered in other lands, is that, notwithstanding all the superficial contrasts— notwithstanding the differences of material organisation, of ways, and even of habits of thought and of national character the objects, rules, and practical conditions of existence remain substantially the same everywhere. Exterior looks and details, mannerisms, feelings, temperaments, and convictions vary endlessly; but, nevertheless, the main issues come out very nearly identical. It cannot be pretended, for instance, that the French differ fundamentally from the English because they eat a meal called breakfast at half-past eleven, instead of a meal called

lunch at half-past one; because they have their children to dine with them, instead of sending them to bed, on bread and milk, at seven; because their servants leave them at a week's notice instead of a month's; because they pay their house-rent on the 15th of January, April, July, and October, instead of what we call quarter-days; because they have (or rather used to have) more elaborate manners than ourselves, and shrug their shoulders more; or because they talk more volubly than we do. These differences, and a hundred others of the same value, are not in reality differences at all; they are surface accidents


they constitute variety to the eye but not to the mind. However numerous and however evident such outside variations may be, they do not affect the general likeness of all the workings out of human nature any more than the immense diversity of husks affects the methodical germination of the seeds within them. view may, perhaps, be regarded as incorrect by the ordinary traveller, because to him the smallest newness appears, usually, to be significant, the slightest strangeness full of meaning. But to ancient wanderers, who have had time to grow inured and opportunity to become acclimatised, who have worn off astonishments, who have learnt by long rubbing against others that local demeanours do not change either the head or the heart, the conviction of universal unity becomes unshakable. In their eyes the vast majority of European men and women are animated by exactly the same passions, the same vanities, the same general tendencies, whatever be their birthplace. In their eyes external dissimilarities, which seem at first sight to differentiate nations so

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Even national character-which has shown itself everywhere hitherto as a thoroughly enduring reality, and which does not exhibit in any of its developments the faintest signs of coming change-scarcely produces in our day any absolute distinction between the motives and the methods of life-organisa. tion in various countries. It is, of all race-marks, the one which exercises the most effect on public conduct; but I have met nowhere any reasons for believing that it changes the constitution of private and personal existence. By its By its nature, and for its habitual forms of exhibition, it requires a wider field of operation than it finds indoors. It is strikingly distinct, constant, and energetic in its patriotic and collective manifestations; but its effects are infinitely less evident in small home matters.

Taking nationality as an accumulative designation for the entire group of diversities which distinguish nations from each other, it cannot be said to govern, in any appreciable degree, the essential composition of the indoor life of peoples. It works strongly in other directions, but scarcely at all in that one. It does not introduce, in any land, home elements which are entirely unknown elsewhere.

For this reason, in speaking of the indoor life of Paris, I shall not have much to say of radical

differences; there are scarcely any. Even details, with all their copious variety, do not preserve, on examination, the vividness of contrast which they present at first sight. Just as moral principles (under similar conditions of education) exist everywhere in broad averages; just as they show themselves, all about, in fairly equal proportions-like vice and virtue, intelligence and stupidity, health and disease-so do the main conditions of indoor life run, in all countries, in parallel grooves, slightly twisted, here and there, by superficialities. What there is to tell, therefore, is about impressions rather than about facts, about sensations rather than about sights, almost indeed about resemblances rather than about differ


But, what is indoor life? To some it represents little more than mere family existence; to others, on the contrary, it is but an additional name for society; to others, again, it represents a temporary separation from the world, during which we put off the constraints in which we enwrap ourselves in public, and relapse momentarily into the undistorted realities of self. With these wide oppositions of interpretation (and there are more besides), it is impossible for any of us to speak of indoor life with the certainty that we mean by it the same thing as others do. And not only does it change its aspects, its objects, and its significations with the individual point of view of each of us, but also with the persons at whom we happen to look. I speak, therefore, of the indoor life of Paris for myself alone, describing not so much what I have seen in it as what I have felt in it; recognising heartily that every other witness has a right to disagree

with me, and recognising it all the more because, on such a subject, it is on instincts and ideas proper to each one, rather than on indisputable verities evident to all, that spectators base their very varying judgments.

On one doctrine only is everybody likely to be in accord with everybody else. That doctrine is that indoor life, whatever else it may be taken to impart, implies essentially the life of women, and that its nature shifts about with the action of the women who create it. This doctrine, true everywhere, is especially true of Paris; for there, more than anywhere, certain women stand out before and above all their fellows as the national producers of the brightest forms of its indoor life. That life is made by them and for them; they manufacture it in its perfected attractiveness; and, above all, they typify it. They are so thoroughly both the composers and the actors of the piece, that a description of it does not signify much more than a description of the women who play it.

But this is true of very few indeed amongst the women of Paris. They all lead, in general terms, the same sort of indoor life, so far as its outlines are concerned; yet scarcely any of them help to shape or guide it in what constitutes its national aspects. Acquaintance with it shows that the mass of them follow it passively, but neither originate it nor enkindle it. They are content with dull humdrum existences, and take no part in the active composition of the typical aspects of the place. They do their duty placidly, as wives, mothers, and housekeepers; they are, most of them, worthy, excellent, estimable persons; most of them smoulder in inertness. I remember how astonished I was

at the beginning, when I was still under the influence of the fanciful teachings of my youth, to discover, by degrees, that Paris women were not, as I had been assured by my British instructors of those days, all worldly, all pleasure-seeking, all love-making, all dress-adoring; but that the majority of them were quiet, steady, home-cherishing, devoid of all aggressive personality, animated by a keen sense of moral duty. Such is their nature still, modified only, in certain cases, by the action of that wonderful French faculty, adaptability, which fits those who can employ it for any social or even leading role. Unluckily, the faculty itself is rare, and, of those who own it, a good many have neither the ambition nor the power to use it, and remain, just as most women do in other lands, unproductive in their nullity. They are French in the details of their ways and habits; but the great heap of them might just as well be anything else, so far as any national fruitfulness is concerned. It is not they who stand out as the makers and the beacons of the bright life of Paris; that part is played by a very restricted minority, which, small as it is, lights up so vividly the circles round it, that it seems to represent the nation all alone before the world. The fireside goodnesses of the majority are to be seen, almost in the same forms, in any other country; but the fertile arts and the sparkling devices of the minority are special to Paris: they cannot be found outside it; and, even there, they are utterly exceptional. But, scarce though they are, they constitute, all by themselves, the most striking elements of indoor life, for they alone bring into evidence the processes employed by the higher Paris woman.

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By the "higher Paris woman I do not mean the woman of the highest classes only, but the woman of the higher capacities, whatever be her class, provided only she applies them. It is essential to insist on this, for in Paris capacity does not necessarily follow class. It is, of course, more frequent amongst the well-born, because of their advantages of heredity, of training, and of models: but birth alone cannot bestow it; it is to be found in every educated layer; like adaptability, it may be discovered anywhere. Capacity, in the sense I have in view, may be defined, roughly and approximately, as the power of creating a home to which everybody is tempted to come, and of reigning in that home over all who visit it. It is a purely social ability, for it can. only be exercised in society; but it is attainable by any woman who has the consciousness of its germ within her, and who has, or can manufacture, the tools and the opportunities to develop it. The European reputation of the social life of Paris proceeds almost exclusively from the fitness of a few women in each group. The men count for very little- the other women for nothing at all. The other women make up the universal crowd, with its universal qualities and its universal defects: they manage conscientiously their own little lives, but they exhibit nothing of true French brilliancies, and it is those brilliancies alone which attract the attention and excite the admiration of the world.

But, alas! the woman who does possess the brilliancies is disappearing rapidly she is becoming almost a creature of the past; which fact supplies another motive for trying to describe her while some patterns of her still exist.

And now, having explained the situation in its main lines, I can begin to try to sketch such elements of the indoor life of Paris as seem to me to be worth remembering.

It follows from what I have already said that that life is divided into two clearly distinguishable divisions-the work of the mass, and the work of the minority. In speaking of the characteristics of the mass, it is difficult to use general statements, because no wording, however elastic, can apply to everybody; because there are exceptions to every rule; because the little diversities of natures and of ways (even when all are dominated by the same principles of action) are endless. All that can be done safely is to indicate certain main features of temperament and behaviour, and to declare expressly that those features are not universal, and that no single picture can portray every face.

The ordinary Paris woman, who makes up the mass, is rarely interesting as a national product. There is seldom anything about her that is markedly different from the woman of elsewhere. Occasionally she dresses well; occasionally she wears her clothes well, and, in that matter, does stand, here and there, somewhat apart; occasionally she is smart, but much more often she is not smart at all, and is sometimes altogether dowdy. When it was the fashion to be comme il faut, nearly every woman did her best to reach the standard of the period, because it corresponded to her innate idea of quiet. now that strong effects have taken the place of distinction, she has, in many cases, become indifferent and neglects herself. Superiorities of any sort are rare in her, just as they are elsewhere. Of course she has local peculiarities, but peculiarities do not necessarily consti



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