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I cannot sup
Take, for example, the spiritualistic mania which now prevails.
To be gulled after this fashion has been the lot of man as far back as you choose to turn for a precedent. The knavery of the oracles and augurs, of the miracle-mongers of the middle and of later ages, the delusions of witchcraft, the delirium of the processionists and convulsionnaires, the mesmerism of the first revolution, the revivalism of yesterday, all these things, and hundreds more that might be enumerated, belong to the existing category of spiritualism. There is a little variety in the form which this folly assumes, but the fond remains the same.
On the one side is imposture, with more or less of self-interest as its motive; on the other, egregious weakness, not only willing, but anxious to be cheated.
Yet, with respect to what are termed self-delusions—the easy phrase for avoiding a great difficulty—1, for one, mon cher Alfred, do not believe that they exist to anything like the extent asserted. pose that people who have the capacity to write in perspicuous, consecutive language of the alleged freaks of rampant tables and sofas, are always the victims of a false impression. When they tell me,having taken care, in the first instance, to clear away the ground, by denying the existence of moral connivance or mechanical aid that they witness occurrences which the laws of nature declare to be impossible, I return for answer, “C'est fort étonnant, messieurs, mais-je ne vous crois pas." I am, in this respect, as hard of belief as he who said, “ Les uns croient le cardinal-vicaire mort, les autres le croient vivant, et moi je ne crois ni l'un ni l'autre."
But people exclaim, “Oh, your informant is a person of undoubted veracity; he has no motive for deceiving you; his character places him beyond the reach of suspicion.” A la bonne heure! This is very easily said—is always said—is perfectly true, no doubt, and yet the most virtuous sometimes astonish us by the extent of their turpitude. King David, in his wrath, made a general accusation against mankind, and when it answers their purpose, the best of men do that which justifies the accusation-no discovery of mine, mon cher, but a fact of the highest scriptural authority.
But, of course, there are fools, or there would be no creed: if all who assist at table-turning, spirit-rapping, accordion-playing, and chair-perambulating were impostors, the humbug could not survive a single séance ; and it is for fools only that so palpable a humbug was invented. To say that there are properties in nature with which we are unacquainted is to utter a truism of the stalest kind; to add that we have no right to discredit alleged discoveries before their value has been tested is a truth which nobody will care to deny ; but in all cases of discovery we have at least the right to ask to what use you propose to turn it when made.
A recent apologist for spiritualism--whose statements, by the way, are the hardiest that I have met with-compares it with the circulation of the blood, the application of steam, the ignition of gas, the unbounded development of electricity; and asks us what would not have been our loss if science had discontinued its efforts because of the unwillingness of the popular mind to welcome a novelty of an extraordinary or startling description ?
To this there is but one reply. Harvey, Papin, and the rest pursued their theories from a given point to another of presumed utility: they had
a definite object in view, the value of which, when the object was attained, would speak plainly enough for itself.
But the alleged manifestations of joint-stools and commodes-elles sont, ma foi, bien commodes the inane revelations of spirits who have nothing to reveal, the utter objectless stupidity of the whole of these “spiritual” proceedings, answer no conceivable purpose save that of demonstrating the extraordinary amount of gobemoucherie that exists in human nature. What a pity that Robert-Houdin should have thrown away his instructions upon people who cannot learn! To be sure he made a living out of his exhibitions, and that, I suppose, is the case with those who now" fool” their London audiences - to the top of their bent,” as the divine Williams has it.
You may easily believe, mon cher, that none of these spiritualists have attempted to gain my suffrages in their favour, though they have aimed at aequiring those of far greater personages-indeed, if report speak true, they have in more than one instance succeeded with impressionable genius--but for all that, I became desirous of changing the atmosphere that was charged with so much wretched absurdity, and, leaving the London of the Thames, I have taken refuge in the London of the seashore, where, if there be absurdities, they are such as it is pleasant to witness. I am but newly arrived, and as yet my observation is confined within a very narrow limit. One fact, however, I am able to record, but whether it belong to the ridiculous or the useful I leave you to decide.
At this season, Brighton swarms on every Sunday and Monday with visitors from the metropolis, who are brought hither by the train at three francs a head, and have what the advertisements call “eight hours by the sea-side.” “By” the sea-side, mon cher ! Ah, but that is not it exactly. The greater part of the crowds that flock to Brighton by the cheap excursion trains do not understand their holiday in this restricted sense :
“ into” and “ on” the sea, as well as bask beside it. If they do not with Xenophon’s soldiers exultingly exclaim, “ Thalasses ! Thalasses!" it is simply because they speak English and not Greek, but they are all inspired with the same enthusiasm, and to the shore they rush the moment they emerge from the railway station ; and then what a scene ensues ! On the beach stand stalwart boatmen, the owners of vessels bearing the names of Jack's the Lad, Lord Palmerston, Lovely Polly, and other popular or cherished individuals; or of emblems of social enjoyment, The Happy Delight, The Ease and Comfort, The Crystal Spring, and so forth, who invite the crowds to enter and take a sail. Not one of them refuses! In an instant the boats are filled, and, fast as they are filled, are launched upon the heaving billows. And it is not the billows alone that heave. Red-faced are the Londoners when they begin their nautical experiences; white faces have they, et pour cause, when their maritime adventure is at an end. In fact, of two things, one: the Cockneys either seek the sea to be sick or else to make themselves sailors. I place them myself in the last-named category, and attribute their naval superiority to what is evidently an irresistible propensity. People who leave home for a day's pleasure, and find that pleasure on the sea, are a people to whom the sea of right belongs.—Entre nous, mon cher, they are welcome to it. Adieu.
FLEUR-DE-LYS AND THE TWO VISCOUNTS;
OR, CARLTON'S INCONNUE.
ALBANY, VISCOUNT CARLTON, MAKES AN ACQUAINTANCE ON THE BOULEVARDS.
6 You don't believe in nationalities? I do. If one of these French fellows is going out, and can catch sight of an inch of blue sky, he'll whisk his cane, and start off • Mais quel temps magnifique!'. If an Englishman's going out, and spies a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, he'll take his umbrella, and make the life of the woman with him wretched from horrible terrors for her toilette, by inspiriting assurances that · It's going to pour immediately. Yet, if the shower does come down, and catches them both out in it, the one will shiver, and shudder, and sacrer the “peste de pluie !' while the other will stalk along, not · thinking it worth while to put up his umbrella, nor caring a button
whether he's wet to the skin or not. If one does a French woman a service, en passant, she'll give you a smile and a bow, and a pleasant Mille remercimens, monsieur!" if you do an Englishwoman one, give
chair in a shop, or tell her she'll lose her bracelet, she'll stare at you, think. “Is that man going to insult me?' and draw her dress away as if you had a design on her pocket. The one is certain you must be courteous to her; the other is everlastingly on the qui vive lest you should intend an impertinence. Not believe in nationalities? Why, my dear fellow, I could bring you fifty thousand instances where the idiosyncrasies of the two nations are as strongly marked as the difference between a two-year old trotter, who can't carry more than five stone, and a ten-year old hunter at a Welter race, with twelve stone odd. Not believe in nationalities ?-why-Hallo ! prenez garde, mademoiselle ! the devil !--deuce take it !"
And Albany Lord Carlton, too absorbed in his peroration to drive as carefully as he should have done along the Boulevard des Italiens, threw his thorough-bred back on his haunches, just in time to prevent his tilbury from going over a young lady crossing the road, who between an omnibus, a carriage, and Carlton's tilbury, seemed as completely between the horns of a dilemma as the royal commissioners, who can't mend England's weak points without showing them to the public, and can't show them to the public without showing them also to the imperial bête noire who is to some of our countrymen what the donkeys were to Miss Trotwood, or the “ bogy" that was always coming and never came, to our own infantine minds, when held in terrorem by judicious nurserymaids.
Carlton, who was something like Jehu in the matter of furious driving, checked the horse, with an anathema undeserved by that very
innocent animal, and, women's faces seldom coming amiss to him, especially when joined to youth and a jolie taille, Aung the reins to the man who was
with him, jumped out, and apologised in his most elegant Tuileries French for his own carelessness, running an imminent risk of being retaliated upon by a rencontre with the omnibus wheels.
“ Ce n'est rien, monsieur, merci, il ne m'a pas fait de mal. inquiétez pas, je vous en prie,” said the owner of the jolie taille, with the pure, sweet, Parisian accent, making good Albany's assertion that a Frenchwoman smiles where an English woman stares.
· By George, what a sweet little face ! and, bon Dieu, quels beaux yeux ! If Mademoiselle Mars's were like those, I don't wonder old ClosVougeot sees no beauty in anything after her. I wonder who the deuce she is!” said Carlton, getting into his tilbury, after the jolie taille had bent to him and passed on, lost in the throng, which at that time of day, or rather evening, sauntered along the Boulevards. “ She looks like a lady, yet it's very queer for her to be walking about here by herself. Now don't you believe in nationalities, Phil ? if I'd nearly killed a girl in Regent-street like that, she would have scowled like a Medusa, and very likely given me in charge for furious driving, and set her solicitor to get five pounds out of me as damages. This little darling only smiled, and assured me “Ce n'est rien, monsieur.'
“I wonder if she's as sweet-tempered at home," said his companion, Phil Bruce, of the Guards. “I admit courtesy and complaisance is a French characteristic, but then it's a query whether it's any more than surface-deep."
“Very possibly; she may call me in private 'la bête d'Anglais.' Still, I think it must spring from something deeper than mere outside, or it would scarcely be so general; it must be some inborn kindliness and generosity, or at least some inherent good taste and good breeding, which makes a French labouring man more polite in manner than many an English gentleman thinks it worth his while to be. At all events, it has a humanising effect ; and I think if the courtesies of life were more kept up at home and abroad, if men were as pleasant to their wives and sisters as they are to their fiancées and acquaintances
, and women had as many pretty petits soins for their belongings in private as they have for their friends in public, life would be much smoother and more pleasant ; and I do believe, on my honour, that marriages would turn out better than they do; but Strass Engel, Haus Teufel's too much the order of the day.'
“Upon my life, Carlton,” said his friend, “I do wish you'd leave off philosophising till we are dining or smoking; you don't care a straw where you drive, and if we come across the voiture impériale, and upset it, we shall be had up for conspiracy. Why will you have horses only half broken in ?"
“Because I like difficulties, my good fellow. If a thing's easy it's no fun to me ; for that very reason I fancy I shall set about to find who that demoiselle is whose legs or neck I so nearly broke, though I do know all the handsomest women in Paris."
“ And are pretty tolerably au mieux with them, too. A propos of your much-admired courtesy, do you think, though she was a Frenchwoman, that you'd have had such a divine smile if you had been seventy instead of thirty!"
“Very probably not, but then if she'd been seventy instead of twenty,
do you think I should have made such an elaborate apology? I hope I should, but I'm not quite sure. There are no end of people out to-night. I wish we had Boulevards round London; but if we had we should look as solemn in them as we do in the Ring and the Ride, where each separate individual looks as if had been presiding over the interment all his relatives, and had the funeral expenses weighing on his mind. England was Puritan once, and though she has taken again to vanities and fripperies, she can't quite get the nasal twang out of her psalms, nor the stiff starch out of her ruffles."
With which fillip to his native country, of which admiring county papers termed him one of the “ Corinthian pillars,” though Carlton was wont to say he was more likely to pull down the constitution, as Samson did the Temple, than to do much good by upholding it, Albany threw the ribbons to his groom, and went into a café for some sherry and Seltzer, which he drank, amusing himself with the people passing on the Boulevards—those pleasant Boulevards ! full of such amusing specimens of the genus homo, the blondins of the jeunesse dorée, with their Jockey Club and their Cercle, their pur sang and their perfect Jouvins; the British homme marié-with his wife on his arm, la drôle de chose !-casting fierce Bluebeard looks on those who dared to glance at madame's fresh colour; messieurs the épiciers or the boulangers, laughing and chattering volubly with their wives, content with being bourgeoises, and not aping the grand dame like their compeers across the Channel; English milords and wildacres driving Mademoiselle Fifine, or Estelle of the Odéon, in their dashing mail phaetons, looking haughty, handsome, and high over the heads of everybody else ; British gentlemen from 'Change, puffing along with a grown-up daughter on each arm, and looking at every dish handed to them in Tortoni's with muttered suspicion of frogs; worn-out femmes du monde rolling along in their barouches, with no interest left them in life save “ le jeu," and the “ révérend père.” What sketches Mr. Leech might give us if he would leave London for a while, and picture us all that paterfamilias may see on those charming Paris Boulevards! All these specimens, and many more, Carlton watched, as he had watched them fifty times, smoking and drinking his Seltzer that pleasant September evening. He was very fond of Paris
, and having thirty thousand a year, and no particular " mission,” either political or patriarchal, to throw out bills in the Lords or build up schools on his estate, he had a suite of rooms in the Hôtel de Londres as well as in the Albany, and rather preferred them of the two, Paris being a place eminently enjoyable by a man who has thirty thousand to spend in it, a knack of making all women like him, and a title that passes him into the most exclusive of cliques. French and English alike courted Carlton; he had the pas both in boudoir and coulisses, and being half lion and half dilettante, was used to say he looked on the beau sexe at once en amant and en artiste. However that might be, he was a favourite with them all, and was seldom ungrateful, and was no less popular with men, being as generous-hearted a fellow, and as, gallant a gentleman, in the best sense of those good old English words, with as right a ring of the true metal in all his thoughts and deeds as any man with or without those hereditary strawberry-leaves, to which our good friends across the Atlantic lower their republican stars and stripes with such inimitable