« PreviousContinue »
Miss Mary Ball to Miss Jane Jenkins.
DEAR Jane, we reach'd Paris as day-light was closing, And its aspect, to use a French phrase, was imposing. Its magnificent portals, majestic and wide,
Through which Temple-bar without stooping might rideIts houses of such Brobdignagian height,
That they make Portland-place Lilliputian quite,
Its spacious Boulevards, with their vistas of
Flank'd with structures of stone that ennoble the scene,The Rue de la Paix, with the tower at its end,
All of brass like the one where Danaë was penn'd,-
(This was made out of cannon, and Boney must pop
Himself, like the knob of a poker at top;
But it's gone, and a little white flag met my eyes
That look'd like a kite in the shadowy skies,)—
All these sights, quickly seen in succession, combined
To dazzle, delight, and astonish my mind.
We drove to Meurice's, and there should each thing go,
That, to use Papa's phrase, cannot jabber the lingo,
For our language is spoken by all that you meet;
Nay, even the charges are English complete,
And beef and plumb-pudding you get if you choose,
With young roasted-pig, which the French hate like Jews.
Next morning with Pa to the Louvre I flew,
The statues, and marbles, and sculptures to view.
La! Jenny, they're quite indecorous: why, Madam,
They've not e'en the primitive wardrobe of Adam!
I didn't know which way to look; but in France
These matters are view'd with complete nonchalance;
And the ladies around me, like cool connoisseurs,
Were raving in raptures on limbs and contours-
"O Dieu! que c'est beau! c'est superbe, magnifique ! Voilà ce que c'est que de suivre l'antique!
There's the young piping Faun-hark, he's going to warble;
Is it petrified nature, or animate marble?
Is this one of the stone-produced men of Deucalion?
That the vivified nymph of enamour'd Pygmalion ?”
Thus mounting the hobby Virtù, the fair prancers
Interrogate statues, though none of them answers ;
Then hurry to criticise ice at Tortoni's,
Or the elephant actor that plays at Franconi's.
Colour'd gowns without sleeves are the promenade dress, Which to me has a servant-like look, I confess; Some wear an elaborate cap, but upon it
Not an atom of hat or iota of bonnet !
Then they lace down their waists, while the garment so
That you see the hips working like lean Rozinantes;
And 'tis painful to mark the unfortunate stout
Screwing every thing in that the hips may stick out.
Their legs, as our malaprop statesman once said,
"Form the capital feature in which they're ahead"
Of us and of all from the Thames to the Po,
And the reason is plain-they are always on show ;
For to walk on such horrible pavements as these
They must constantly hold up their clothes to the knees.
I shall tell you, of course, all the lions I've seen,
And the places and wonders at which I have been;
But as things of importance flow first to my pen,
You shall hear of my bonnet in Rue Vivienne.
The bonnets in fashion are sable as ink,
But there's nothing to me so becoming as pink ;
So I vow'd I would do my face justice, in spite
Of fashion and France, and not look like a fright.
The French I have learnt is what Chaucer, you know,
Says was taught to the scholars at Stratford-by-Bow,
But at Paris unknown-so I got a Precisian
To teach me the phrases and accent Parisian;
And in stating my wants I was cautious to close
With-" Il faut qu'il soit doublé en couleur de rose."
I wish you had seen their indignant surprise,
The abhorrence they threw in their shoulders and eyes,
And the solemn abjurings each minx took upon her,
As if I had offer'd offence to her honour.
"Nous en avons en noir-mais, O Ciel! O Dieu !
En rose!! Ah, vous n'aurez pas ça dans la rue.
Ce n'est pas distingué c'est très mal-honnête,
C'est passé-c'est chassé"-Six weeks out of date!
Then they tried on their own, and exclaim'd " How becoming!
C'est charmant-distingué !"—I knew they were humming,
For I look'd just as sable and solemn, or worse,
Than the plume-bearing figure preceding a hearse.--
Would they put in a lining of pink, if I waited?
This point was in corners and whispers debated;
But granted, on pledge not to tell for they said, it
Might implicate deeply their à-la-mode credit.
And the price? "Soixante francs, quand c'est garni comme
C'est toujours prix-fixe-nous ne marchandons pas."
I blush'd as I offer'd them forty; but they
Took the cash without blushing or once saying nay.
I think you'll allow me one merit, dear Jane,-
I'm the least of all women inclined to be vain ;
But this bonnet, I frankly confess, did enhance
The notion I had of myself—and of France.
The value I set on my beauty is small,
For the manner-the fashion's the thing after all:
Thus in bonnets it isn't the feathers and lace,
So much as the smartness, gentility, grace,
That the wearer possesses;-now these, you'll acknowledge, I
May modestly claim without any apology;
And I offer you none for this lengthen'd report
On my bonnet, (the plume would be handsome at Court,)
For I'm sure my dear Jenny would wish me to state
All that interests deeply my feelings and fate.
The scene where my purchase first made its début
I reserve for the next for the present adieu:
I meant to add more, but I hear Papa call,
So can only subscribe myself—Yours, Mary Ball.
Pray, Jenny, don't quarrel with me, but the laws,
If I write on this flimsy and bibulous gauze ;
For were I to scribble on substance less taper,
They would charge double postage, though one sheet of
I think the Police has commanded it thin
For reading outside all the secrets within.
I've just time to add, (having open'd my letter,)
That I like my new bonnet still better and better.
Miss Mary Ball to Miss Jane Jenkins.
I BOUGHT my new bonnet on purpose to wear
At th' Italian Boulevards, to which thousands repair
As the twilight approaches. Imagine three rows
Of chairs at each side of an avenue; those
Are quickly engaged in succession, till all
Are cover❜d with parties, en habit de bal.
While lamps from the trees their effulgence are throwing, Between them a dense population is flowing
Of all that is dashing and gay:-Cuirassiers,
Polish Lancers, and Guards, whisker'd up to the ears!
Large parties of English, with spruce-looking face;
Old Ultras-a fatuous, posthumous race;
Inundations of women, no longer in caps,
But extravagant bonnets worth six or eight Naps;
Cits, soldiers, and lovers, wives, husbands, and brats,
Cloaks, spencers, and shawls, turbans, helmets, and hats,
All jumbled together, to form, when they meet,
A grand cosmopolitan rout in the street.
Behind roll the carriages-good ones are rarish,
For most have an aspect extremely Rag-fairish;—
Calêches, with horses that pine for the pleasure
Of sharing the dinner of Nebuchadnezzar-
Fiacre, gig, tilbury, cabriolet,
And demi-fortunes, with their wretched display
Of one woe-begone horse, which on our side the water
Are sacred to knights of the pestle and mortar.
Some jump out, and saunter-some gaze at the throng,
Or nod to their friends as they rattle along.
Here parties of bowing Parisians stand,
With badges at button-hole, hats in their hand, Who stop the whole tide as they congee, and show no Reserve or compunction, but chatter pro bono. "Madame, j'ai l'honneur-Je suis charmé, ravi." "Je vous salue, Monsieur-Vous êtes toujours poli." "Que vous avez bonne mine!-Vous me flattez-Pardon !" "Il y a beaucoup de monde.-Mais très-peu du haut ton." "Je suis désesperé de vous quitter; bon soir."
Ah, Madame, vous me crevez le cœur-au revoir."
John Bull, with a shake, or a slap on the back,
Cries" Harry, how goes it, my hearty ?" "What, Jack!
Weren't you spilt from your dennet in Bond Street? I say,
Do you like the French wines-have you been to the play ?"
"Yes, I went to see Talma; what horrible stuff!
The French are all blackguards: the women take snuff.
Have you dined at Beauvillier's and Very's? Egad,
What would Tattersal say to their horses? D-d bad!
Rue de Rivoli's fine :-but the credit is Boney's.
This mobbing's a nuisance. I vote for Tortoni's."