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Wagner's music,-"Il y avait des jolis moments, mais des mauvais quarts d'heure."
As for the ladies, not a few of them resembled the beautiful Madame de Castiglione, who used to be called the "silent lady," because her voice was so seldom heard. Even the Duc de Morny declared that he had for all his attentions only received signs of gratitude, "nods, becks, and wreathed smiles," but never one single little word. As is well known, the lady in question was in her day one of the most surprisingly beautiful creatures ever She was the wife of a Piedmontese diplomatist, whose first wife, it was said, had been hideous beyond degree. After the death of the latter, M. de Castiglione, who inherited some money, declared he would the most beautiful woman he could meet with. A peculiar and unpleasant defect from which many of the clever talkers of other days were apt to suffer was a lack of consideration for the feelings of less gifted individuals, ill fitted to hold their own in conversation or repartee.
Nothing conduces to social unpopularity so much as the unrestrained exercise of a mordant tongue, and many a man has made bitter enemies owing to the display of caustic and uncurbed wit.
This unfortunate tendency is very difficult to overcome; it was a weakness which absolutely dominated certain natures. Mr. Bernal Osborne, for instance, though well aware of such a failing, could never entirely control himself when opportunity arose.
A GREAT POWER
another man of much the same type it was aptly remarked that he would rather lose a lifelong friend than a bad joke.
In connexion with such methods Lord Erskine once made a very good point. Discussing with Mr. Canning the merits and gifts of Mr. Perceval, whom Lord Erskine thought Mr. Canning underrated as a rival, the former said that Mr. Perceval was a much abler man than Mr. Canning was disposed to admit, for various reasons, which he gave, and then he added, "Remember, Canning, that you never speak without making an enemy, Perceval never speaks without making a friend, and this in itself is a great power."
The greatest compliment ever paid to a wit of the past was the remark of a certain nobleman who said, "You have been laughing at me constantly for the last ten years, and in all that time you have never yet said a single thing that I wished unsaid.”
The men of the past were, for the most part, a good deal given to plain speaking, and I am doubtful whether some of their utterances would be appreciated now.
A certain Ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer of other days, giving a dinner-party, when the conversation had turned upon what some considered to be unnecessary passages of the marriage service, said, referring to the absurdity of a man without property gravely declaring that he endowed his wife with all his possessions, "Why, when I married I hadn't a shilling in the world." "But," chimed in his wife, "you had your splendid talents." His rejoinder,
"Well, but I didn't endow you with them," was considered very smart. To-day it would probably be viewed in a very different light.
The system of "cutlet for cutlet" prevailed then as now, in fact rather more than at present, when people of enormous wealth are often quite content to fill their houses without thinking of obtaining anything in return.
Entertaining, except amongst a certain small set who were very intimate, was done in a more formal manner than at present-many of the old school, if the conversation became at all animated, would at once become very stiff as it were climbing up their genealogical trees.
The cooking, as a rule, was simple and good; towards the end of the mid-Victorian era, however, it became rather more pretentious. Some people who prided themselves upon giving French dinners were the despair of diners-out. Not infrequently everything was sent up cold except the ice.
Soyer effected quite a revolution in British cookery, proving that the simplest things could be rendered delicious by proper preparation. He gave a little
dinner in his own room at the Reform Club, just
before he left, to a small party of friends.
fish was placed on the table; they were served by Soyer with taste and care.
A dish of
excellent, and "How do you
like it?" said he. "Magnificent!" The dish consisted of half a dozen fresh herrings, trimmed like trout of classic Windermere! No one could tell the
difference; the herring flavour was rendered delicious by Soyer's sauce. "You are extravagant, Soyer!" Oui, sometimes," responded the chef, "but not at present." The herrings cost threepence!
The upper middle class then had no palatial restaurants to go to. Those who entertained at all gave dull, solemn, private dinner-parties during the season, with massive plate and expensive viands and priceless wines, and no conversation. They believed in the roast beef of Old England, and called French dishes kickshaws; above all they hated all foreigners, imagining their entire food to be composed of frogs, oil, and garlic, and their entire occupation to consist in dancing and playing the fiddle.
The ancient Greeks spoke of all other nations on the face of the earth as "barbarians"; and for a period, I believe, they were quite right. In old days people often used to say every real Englishman thanks God in his morning's prayers that he has not been created a foreigner. "He is a foreigner, but a very nice man!" "A very gentlemanly foreigner, indeed!" "What a pity he is a foreigner!" Time was when offensive compliments of this sort fell very frequently from British lips, whilst not a few who prided themselves upon their intense John Bullism made a point of being something more than blunt when obliged to enter into conversation with anyone who did not belong to their own country. On one occasion, for instance, when a distinguished German nobleman had been introduced to a certain English
man, and by way of appropriately commencing the conversation, had observed, "It is bad weather to-day," the Englishman, shrugging his shoulders, curtly replied, "Yes, but it is better than none."
On another occasion an excessively polite Frenchman once said to an Englishman, "If I were not a Frenchman I should like to be an Englishman." The Englishman very drily answered, "If I were not an Englishman, I should like to be one."
No wonder that a distinguished foreigner, who had been staying at a country-house, being asked if he had not had great fun, replied, "I smile ver' moche, but one such fun was enoff."
With increased facilities for travel most well-to-do people have become fairly familiar with the Continent or at best its pleasure resorts.
Not so very long ago even quite wealthy people went abroad only once a year to one of the foreign health resorts such as Homburg or Carlsbad, their object being not so much pleasure as to make up for the wear and tear of the season's dissipation. At these resorts, I remember, it used amusingly to be said could be found the greatest amount of calculating economy in the world, for early in the season a number of German Jews made a practice of sending one of their number with the symptoms of various diseases in order that he might tell his co-religionists the exact treatment suited to their case and thus save expense.
At the present time most people of any means at