French Home Life.
A writer in the “ Constitutionncl ” publishes an interesting description of past and present home life in France, or, rather of family life in Paris. He says
“ It is a characteristic trait of the contemporary Parisian that he cannot stay at home of an evening. Great or small, rich or poor, he must go out, and that in all seasons. Formerly theatres, balls, or evening walks were exceptions for the Parisians. After dinner they stayed at home as a rule ; they kissed the children, who said “ Good night ’ on leaving the dining room, and went to bed ; the mother sometimes did not think it beneath her to put them to bed herself. She would then till about ten embroider, or work tapestry. Husband and wife would converse together, or the husband might, perchance, read the evening paper aloud. In that way the evening passed, long or short, accordingto Ithe “entente”—more or less “ cordiale”—of the spouses. At eleven, at the latest, the lamp wasturnedout. In those days it was almost a treat, a small extra, when the family went to listen to the military bands in the public gardens, or to sit down in the chairs in the Champs Elysee. At that period very few people, even among the richest, could tell their coachman to put the horses to, in order to go and breathe the cool air of the summer evenings. Very few people had a coachman. Nowadays, private carriages are as common as boots or umbrellas. The quiet pleasures of home have disappeared from our manners. People now go out every evening, and cannot content themselves with cigars of a moderate price. They go out and see all the new pieces ; they are everywhere, in fact, of an evening, except at home, and that is why public establishments swarm in Paris, why the keepers of cafes become millionaires, and why the great city is the city of night par excellence —the astonishment and joy of foreigners, who cannot help asking ‘ When do the Parisians sleep ?’ Life in the country in August is generally private. Visits are made among neighbors, riding parties are formed, and lawn tennis is played. In the villas of the Paris financiers the luxury displayed is unimaginable. The ladies always dine in low dresses, and the gentlemen in evening dress. The customs of the town have been imported into the country. Visits are paid, and cards exchanged. Three toilettes daily are the rule ; and what toilettes ! The other day at Ville d’Avray the'charming wife of a banker wore a costume composed of fortyfive silk pocket-handkerchiefs. In this society of millionaires the baby mania plays a great role. There are a pair of scales in each nursery. The mothers spend time in weighing their offspring. Baby weighing is all the rage, and fond parents lay heavy bets on the chances of their babies making other people’s babies kick the beam. Nor are the horses forgotten. The ladies have their village cart, which they drive themselves. Others have two grooms on horseback following their pony chaise. The financiers do not know how to show sufficient honor to their bank notes. Their valets bloom in breeches, they eat off silver plate, and the dinner consists of several services, exactly as in Paris. The rusticity of the country, the free and easy life it invites one to, are severely banished. There the tone of conversation is within the reach of the meanest capacity, and the song of these birds does not correspond to their feathers. The ladies like to talk the latest slang of the Boulevard, and the repertory of the cafe concerts is very much in vogue among them. Spicy jests are bandied about, and bon-mots are concocted which are more worthy of the Folies Marigny than of these lordly marble halls. After all, doubt whether this society of outrageous luxury amuses itself very much. But it spends a great deal of money and our millionaires show what wit they can. ”
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 14, 28 October 1879
French Home Life. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 14, 28 October 1879
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