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from weariness, and the whole movement remains only a very pleasant recollection to some, and the source of unreasonable provocation to others. From the time of the Souls to the present day, anyone who cared to study the human comedy, as played in English life by Englishwomen in the last decade of the nineteenth century, would find many types ready to hand which would repay him for the effort he must make to compare and sort the material that composed them. This material is sometimes ungrateful stuff to handle, trivial, second rate, and sometimes tiresome, but other subjects spring up in the investigation-interesting puzzles, perplexing contradictions in characters; still, none without the capacity to appreciate an intelligent aptitude for taking their surroundings from the right angle, and the days in which they lived in right proportion, suggesting the reflection that, in some respects, no other period could have given us the same food for thought and comment.
Another kind of material the past might furnish-more frank, more strong, but not so helpful for our present purpose. Let us discriminate and try to group our impressions; yet in grouping there is the danger of drawing a hard-and-fast line between the groups, and we might lose sight of the fact that where these groups touch each other there is a thrill of communication which brings them all en rapport. We shall see there is no actual boundary line between one group and another, but that they act and react on each other all the way down the line, as indeed has ever been the case since the days of the Tatler, who tells us that she (the belle in secondrate Society) sees Lady Betty idle and coquet it with Lord Dimple. She resolves to imitate that sweet creature, and longs to be en famille with a nobleman.' To point out that this rapprochement exists may prove to be an answer to a very obvious criticism which might well be directed against this humble study of manners. "These young women,' my critic may say, 'may be interesting, admirable, or reprehensible as the case may be, in your eyes and in those of a small knot of friends, but you will not tell me that it matters very much what they say or do. The great pulse of life in England, influenced, as in all other countries, by the lives of women, will not beat slower or faster because this section of society elects to take its stand on a high or a low plane.' But my answer is: Certainly I do assert that it signifies enormously what these women say or do.' The first group is, as I have tried to show, consciously or unconsciously imitated by the other. It does not perhaps amount to the frenzy of imitation and competition that drove, in New York last year, some young and beautiful women to suicide because they were unable to reach the standard of expensive living and fashionable dressing which the dozen, vulgarly called leaders of Society, had pronounced to be indispensable; but, if we look more closely at
home, we shall detect a strange likeness to what we may have seen in London running through each grade of Society, and we recognise the trick of manner and dress, the pursuit of some occupation, evidently inspired and not natural, in some obscure country town. This leavening may be due to some, perhaps, very few personalities in each of our supposed groups, the generality of women following the lead of the few capable ones and rushing headlong through the gate with no knowledge or preconception of what the leaders have in mind. And this, I say, does signify very much, though it is difficult say what the outcome of it all will be.
To return to our groups. Let us look into No. 1, Group A. The general description would be very smart, pretty, very well dressed. The best witty, and, above all, pleasant; intelligence quick as lightning, but insufficient, sometimes showing literary aptitude and taste; with quick apprehension of how to rule; inexorable in establishing and maintaining that rule undisputed, a convincing charm that admits of no doubt or rebellion, and brooking no contradiction, is never disputed or opposed. The worst: playing at passion without feeling its force, at sentiment without the slightest hint of poetry or the remotest glint of imagination. Neither the best nor the worst ever shows the slightest scruple on any point. To charm away a friend's husband, still better, her lover, is a sport in which both take an open and undisguised delight. The real power they wield is shown in the subjection of the very first-rate men, who never think of resisting them. The paramount merit of this group is that they make no pretence to be either virtuous or vicious. They may be one or the other, probably the latter, but you will never find them boasting of their evil ways, not even of their most objectionable talk. They leave this to Group B, who do both. with a falsely rakish air, which is much more offensive than are the worst traits of Group A. They are not so smart, and are furious if not thought so pretty. They distinctly imitate the others, cross the border into the A camp, and are proud of so doing. Here we find a little touch of tawdriness and snobbism. They have a weakness for rank which, of course, A is absolutely free from, and they carry the tradition of the former in dress, in manners and pursuits, into the county families in whose houses they reproduce what they have imitated, and subjugate baronets by the dozen, to return to rather a second-rate season in London.
Group C.-Literary, often really intellectual. We omit all criticism of their brain work, this being not the place for it, and we note that the best members of this group simply and naturally delight in their vocation, and are more than indulgent to outsiders less gifted than themselves. Perhaps they are too willing to admire the quick facility of the would-be intelligent. The worst in Group
C delight in details of life they have had no share in, reminding one of Paul Bourget's ecstasies over a diamond cypher,' or a gold papercutter. This delight is veiled sometimes by a quick disclaimer of any such intent, a rough diamond tone being adopted, which proves very successful with Group A.
Group D.-The political woman. The best among these wish, by education, to counteract the influence of Group A. Their faults are so well known that their analysis would be tiresome. They are not altogether free from being charmed with A, while reforming some fascinating member of their frivolous group. One might almost put the learned world and the student world into this group. Girton relinquishes somewhat of its academic haughtiness and cultivates athletics and works pathetically at the improvement of looks, having caught indirectly a ray of the unconscious splendour of Group A, which excites privately its emulation.
Group E.-The artist world. Here we are on difficult ground, since this world touches every other section of Society. The best, both men and women, are indulgent to their amateur friends and give a note of distinction to any society they may frequent. Far from snubbing amateurs, they are the first to acknowledge the worth. of the passionate appreciation these display when really fine work in painting or music is in question. The detestable amateur does not appear here, especially the species who hopes by a false air of Bohemianism to link himself to easy-going artists whom he deludes by his friendship. So far as character goes and the art of life, the amateurs of the finer sort are often startled by a vein of snobbish subservience in artists whose work ought to have rendered this impossible, but who, from ignorance of the world, are seen to prefer a titled and very ignorant amateur to a refined and intelligent friend, who may have passed many years of his life in silent admiration of the genius whose efforts to conciliate Group A give him a severe shock.
This attempt to explain the action of these groups upon each other may fall short of the truth in many respects; so quickly do we move on in these days, so rapidly do different ideals and different ways and customs start into life and follow each other. What was a true description of society two or three years ago may be an inaccurate picture now. Yet I believe that some members of each of our groups survive in the present day, especially in Group A. Such as those who led society then, in the main lead now; in so far as they do not, it is due to the uneasiness, very like that prevailing at the end of the eighteenth century that is beginning to show itself. The novelty of playing at intellectualism is beginning to lose its charm. Those who are born intellectual or have inherited literary aptitudes remain in a way masters of the situation. There are not many of these, and even they are amused by the desperate reckless
ness of experiment that seems to be not only a reaction against conventionality, but to result from a mad desire to exhaust every form of amusement, and indeed of vice. The husband-snatching, the lover-snatching-in short, the open profligacy-becomes unattractive because nobody is shocked. Gambling is resorted to, but that is such an exclusive passion that it protects its votaries from destruction by other forms of vice. In some cases the quality of attention required of the gambler is intermittently applied to other aims, and the scholar gambler is in a fair way to become a type. What remains? The Kingdom of Bore. We have seen how the Frenchwomen, fin du 18ème siècle, after exhausting every form of excitement, were found calling out for the néant; and the parallel is curiously close and suggestive. But history, as we know, does not actually repeat itself, and those French women gave up trying to understand the days they lived in. There was a feeling of storm in the air that oppressed them, and whose cause they had neither the mental nor moral equipment to discern. So they sat and waited to see what would come, and the great storm did come and swept them all away before they had had time to understand it. Here such a storm may or may not come should it come, it would be met more intelligently-who knows, perhaps guided and directed; but what would be the outcome it is idle to try to predict. The older generation sometimes amuse themselves by conjecturing what régime will follow the present. The following letter is one of several received from a rather shrewd observer, and since there is nothing personal in its note, it may help us to the impression made by the world of to-day on an outsider who has not in view even so definite an aim as the present inquiry:
Letter from Lady V—,
Merton Tower, York.
It seems strange that such a simple thing as telling you my impressions of English Society should be so full of difficulty. But so it is, and when I remember how easy it was to me to write you long-and weren't they rather ill-natured ?—— letters from my various foreign stations, I am surprised at myself now for putting down my pen continually without even being able to begin. It was easy enough from Vienna to describe the astonishment I felt at first at the exclusive arrogance of the few people who were supposed to be important in Society, and how, when the ice was broken, the charm of being within the pale, and privileged not to be hustled and overborne by the strife of competing parvenus, quite stamped out the first impression of cold narrowness. Perhaps it stamped it out too readily, for the repose of exclusiveness, however distinguished, is enervating, and, in the long run, distinctly boring. Then Paris-well, Paris is Paris, and a pleasant, clever Englishwoman-such, for instance, as was Lady Cowley-would have told you how delightful the whole life appears when the plunge into it is made without parti pris, with the full intention of taking life joyously as it comes in Paris, full of wit, brilliant causeries, light enjoyment of the best and easiest Society; and oh, the delight of never hearing a heavy, stupid, or tiresome word! All this, of course, does not prevent one's making a shrewd observation or two on our dear
neighbours which perhaps would not please them greatly. You see, my dear, that I am not assuming that you wish me to write a deep and learned treatise on, let us say, Les mœurs de la cour et de la bonne compagnie, and compare English and foreign manners, for you know very well I couldn't do it, and I am, at all events, too wise to try and fail. But I have fought shy long enough at your simple question, and must cease my excursions into the land of irrelevance and try to face it, though it is much more difficult to answer than you can imagine. To begin at the beginning, as the children say, it is certain that people who live always in England have no idea of the delight which those who live abroad feel when the welcome English sights and sounds first greet you after a long spell of exile. I rather think my old governess was right when she said the world was divided between England and abroad. Whatever else disunites Continental nations, they are agreed on one point-their difference from England. After admiring our beautiful English porters, with their civil, clean faces and stalwart shoulders, clad in the sacred green fustian, I proceed on my journey. Perhaps I had better own, in parenthesis, that a misgiving crosses my mind as I remember the excitement and interest which the first sight of the blue French blouses inspired. Never mind; you see I am nothing if not an impressionist. The journey from Dover to Yorkshire was deeply refreshing, and I arrived here in high good-humour. You know Lady B. has a remnant of the old faith in the comfortable, and does not expend all her energies in producing a bad copy of old French boiserie and furniture, as I am told now is the fad in certain houses; so I was able to revel in the most patriotic way among the comfortable chairs and tables in my room, and to gaze at the freshness of my homely but pretty chintz, and to wonder if everything else was as unchanged in dear England.
Ten days later. I made up my mind not to send my letter till I had looked round and become a little acclimatised in my own country. Well, my acute fit of Anglomania has a little cooled down. There are many charming young women here, and I find myself observing-mind, I don't say criticising-them from a foreign point of view. Dress perfect, perhaps a little too much clinquant and rather too much uniformity. By that I mean that if one of their stars-elect wears some trinket or colifichet, the rage for it gets out of proportion to its beauty or its fitness. I am not speaking of artistic worth, for of that there is no question, nor, as far as I can see, does that element come in with any distinctness into these amusing lives. Conduct? Well, I cannot speak positively, for I have no means of knowing whether, if the temptation of a grande passion came in their way, they would yield. I know I can't shock you, so I say I am afraid not! The little passions roused by competition, jealousy, and gossip take up too much of these young women's time and energy to allow of anything so real crossing their path. I wish I could find something I once read in 'Gyp' to this effect.
Taste? Here I come to what is the real stumbling-block to my making a true appreciation of these new acquaintances, for my taste does not run in the same groove as theirs. If I am in France, I know where I am with regard to the demimonde. It is in my hands whether I make friends or not. Some of its members I may prefer greatly to my conventionally respectable friends, but I don't like the latter to imitate the former. I think what annoys me here, if I search for it, is that there is a kind of spurious French ring in some of their ways which I long to point out may be better or worse, but is not the real article. There remains a more severe indictment, and then I have done. Why is one sometimes reminded of what one supposes to be the ways of the servants' hall? Then, as to quite the young ones, girls from eighteen to twenty-five; I feel anything but reassured about their future. 'Elles sont très inquiétantes, ces petites filles !' But the spirit of prophecy is not on me, and I am sure that in matters great and small there is nothing more inept and futile than to indulge in that pursuit. We were talking of 'Gyp' just now; how I wish she had not played the fool in the miserable