A Bundle of Letters
Henry James




September 5th, 1879.

My dear mother--I have kept you posted as far as Tuesday week last,
and, although my letter will not have reached you yet, I will begin
another before my news accumulates too much. I am glad you show my
letters round in the family, for I like them all to know what I am
doing, and I can't write to every one, though I try to answer all
reasonable expectations. But there are a great many unreasonable
ones, as I suppose you know--not yours, dear mother, for I am bound
to say that you never required of me more than was natural. You see
you are reaping your reward: I write to you before I write to any
one else.

There is one thing, I hope--that you don't show any of my letters to
William Platt. If he wants to see any of my letters, he knows the
right way to go to work. I wouldn't have him see one of these
letters, written for circulation in the family, for anything in the
world. If he wants one for himself, he has got to write to me first.
Let him write to me first, and then I will see about answering him.
You can show him this if you like; but if you show him anything more,
I will never write to you again.

I told you in my last about my farewell to England, my crossing the
Channel, and my first impressions of Paris. I have thought a great
deal about that lovely England since I left it, and all the famous
historic scenes I visited; but I have come to the conclusion that it
is not a country in which I should care to reside. The position of
woman does not seem to me at all satisfactory, and that is a point,
you know, on which I feel very strongly. It seems to me that in
England they play a very faded-out part, and those with whom I
conversed had a kind of depressed and humiliated tone; a little dull,
tame look, as if they were used to being snubbed and bullied, which
made me want to give them a good shaking. There are a great many
people--and a great many things, too--over here that I should like to
perform that operation upon. I should like to shake the starch out
of some of them, and the dust out of the others. I know fifty girls
in Bangor that come much more up to my notion of the stand a truly
noble woman should take, than those young ladies in England. But
they had a most lovely way of speaking (in England), and the men are
REMARKABLY HANDSOME. (You can show this to William Platt, if you

I gave you my first impressions of Paris, which quite came up to my
expectations, much as I had heard and read about it. The objects of
interest are extremely numerous, and the climate is remarkably
cheerful and sunny. I should say the position of woman here was
considerably higher, though by no means coming up to the American
standard. The manners of the people are in some respects extremely
peculiar, and I feel at last that I am indeed in FOREIGN PARTS. It
is, however, a truly elegant city (very superior to New York), and I
have spent a great deal of time in visiting the various monuments and
palaces. I won't give you an account of all my wanderings, though I
have been most indefatigable; for I am keeping, as I told you before,
a most EXHAUSTIVE journal, which I will allow you the PRIVILEGE of
reading on my return to Bangor. I am getting on remarkably well, and
I must say I am sometimes surprised at my universal good fortune. It
only shows what a little energy and common-sense will accomplish. I
have discovered none of these objections to a young lady travelling
in Europe by herself of which we heard so much before I left, and I
don't expect I ever shall, for I certainly don't mean to look for
them. I know what I want, and I always manage to get it.

I have received a great deal of politeness--some of it really most
pressing, and I have experienced no drawbacks whatever. I have made
a great many pleasant acquaintances in travelling round (both ladies
and gentlemen), and had a great many most interesting talks. I have
collected a great deal of information, for which I refer you to my
journal. I assure you my journal is going to be a splendid thing. I
do just exactly as I do in Bangor, and I find I do perfectly right;
and at any rate, I don't care if I don't. I didn't come to Europe to
lead a merely conventional life; I could do that at Bangor. You know
I never WOULD do it at Bangor, so it isn't likely I am going to make
myself miserable over here. So long as I accomplish what I desire,
and make my money hold out, I shall regard the thing as a success.
Sometimes I feel rather lonely, especially in the evening; but I
generally manage to interest myself in something or in some one. In
the evening I usually read up about the objects of interest I have
visited during the day, or I post up my journal. Sometimes I go to
the theatre; or else I play the piano in the public parlour. The
public parlour at the hotel isn't much; but the piano is better than
that fearful old thing at the Sebago House. Sometimes I go
downstairs and talk to the lady who keeps the books--a French lady,
who is remarkably polite. She is very pretty, and always wears a
black dress, with the most beautiful fit; she speaks a little
English; she tells me she had to learn it in order to converse with
the Americans who come in such numbers to this hotel. She has given
me a great deal of information about the position of woman in France,
and much of it is very encouraging. But she has told me at the same
time some things that I should not like to write to you (I am
hesitating even about putting them into my journal), especially if my
letters are to be handed round in the family. I assure you they
appear to talk about things here that we never think of mentioning at
Bangor, or even of thinking about. She seems to think she can tell
me everything, because I told her I was travelling for general
culture. Well, I DO want to know so much that it seems sometimes as
if I wanted to know everything; and yet there are some things that I
think I don't want to know. But, as a general thing, everything is
intensely interesting; I don't mean only everything that this French
lady tells me, but everything I see and hear for myself. I feel
really as if I should gain all I desire.

I meet a great many Americans, who, as a general thing, I must say,
are not as polite to me as the people over here. The people over
here--especially the gentlemen--are much more what I should call
ATTENTIVE. I don't know whether Americans are more SINCERE; I
haven't yet made up my mind about that. The only drawback I
experience is when Americans sometimes express surprise that I should
be travelling round alone; so you see it doesn't come from Europeans.
I always have my answer ready; "For general culture, to acquire the
languages, and to see Europe for myself;" and that generally seems to
satisfy them. Dear mother, my money holds out very well, and it IS
real interesting.



September 16th.

Since I last wrote to you I have left that hotel, and come to live in
a French family. It's a kind of boarding-house combined with a kind
of school; only it's not like an American hoarding-house, nor like an
American school either. There are four or five people here that have
come to learn the language--not to take lessons, but to have an
opportunity for conversation. I was very glad to come to such a
place, for I had begun to realise that I was not making much progress
with the French. It seemed to me that I should feel ashamed to have
spent two months in Paris, and not to have acquired more insight into
the language. I had always heard so much of French conversation, and
I found I was having no more opportunity to practise it than if I had
remained at Bangor. In fact, I used to hear a great deal more at
Bangor, from those French Canadians that came down to cut the ice,
than I saw I should ever hear at that hotel. The lady that kept the
books seemed to want so much to talk to me in English (for the sake
of practice, too, I suppose), that I couldn't bear to let her know I
didn't like it. The chambermaid was Irish, and all the waiters were
German, so that I never heard a word of French spoken. I suppose you
might hear a great deal in the shops; only, as I don't buy anything--
I prefer to spend my money for purposes of culture--I don't have that

I have been thinking some of taking a teacher, but I am well
acquainted with the grammar already, and teachers always keep you
bothering over the verbs. I was a good deal troubled, for I felt as
if I didn't want to go away without having, at least, got a general
idea of French conversation. The theatre gives you a good deal of
insight, and as I told you in my last, I go a good deal to places of
amusement. I find no difficulty whatever in going to such places
alone, and am always treated with the politeness which, as I told you
before, I encounter everywhere. I see plenty of other ladies alone
(mostly French), and they generally seem to be enjoying themselves as
much as I. But at the theatre every one talks so fast that I can
scarcely make out what they say; and, besides, there are a great many
vulgar expressions which it is unnecessary to learn. But it was the
theatre, nevertheless, that put me on the track. The very next day
after I wrote to you last I went to the Palais Royal, which is one of
the principal theatres in Paris. It is very small, but it is very
celebrated, and in my guide-book it is marked with TWO STARS, which
is a sign of importance attached only to FIRST-CLASS objects of
interest. But after I had been there half an hour I found I couldn't
understand a single word of the play, they gabbled it off so fast,
and they made use of such peculiar expressions. I felt a good deal
disappointed and troubled--I was afraid I shouldn't gain all I had
come for. But while I was thinking it over--thinking what I SHOULD
do--I heard two gentlemen talking behind me. It was between the
acts, and I couldn't help listening to what they said. They were
talking English, but I guess they were Americans.

"Well," said one of them, "it all depends on what you are after. I'm
French; that's what I'm after."

"Well," said the other, "I'm after Art."

"Well," said the first, "I'm after Art too; but I'm after French

Then, dear mother, I am sorry to say the second one swore a little.
He said, "Oh, damn French!"

"No, I won't damn French," said his friend. "I'll acquire it--that's
what I'll do with it. I'll go right into a family."

"What family'll you go into?"

"Into some French family. That's the only way to do--to go to some
place where you can talk. If you're after Art, you want to stick to
the galleries; you want to go right through the Louvre, room by room;
you want to take a room a day, or something of that sort. But, if
you want to acquire French, the thing is to look out for a family.
There are lots of French families here that take you to board and
teach you. My second cousin--that young lady I told you about--she
got in with a crowd like that, and they booked her right up in three
months. They just took her right in and they talked to her. That's
what they do to you; they set you right down and they talk AT you.
You've got to understand them; you can't help yourself. That family
my cousin was with has moved away somewhere, or I should try and get
in with them. They were very smart people, that family; after she
left, my cousin corresponded with them in French. But I mean to find
some other crowd, if it takes a lot of trouble!

I listened to all this with great interest, and when he spoke about
his cousin I was on the point of turning around to ask him the
address of the family that she was with; but the next moment he said
they had moved away; so I sat still. The other gentleman, however,
didn't seem to be affected in the same way as I was.

"Well," he said, "you may follow up that if you like; I mean to
follow up the pictures. I don't believe there is ever going to be
any considerable demand in the United States for French; but I can
promise you that in about ten years there'll be a big demand for Art!
And it won't be temporary either."

That remark may be very true, but I don't care anything about the
demand; I want to know French for its own sake. I don't want to
think I have been all this while without having gained an insight . .
. The very next day, I asked the lady who kept the books at the hotel
whether she knew of any family that could take me to board and give
me the benefit of their conversation. She instantly threw up her
hands, with several little shrill cries (in their French way, you
know), and told me that her dearest friend kept a regular place of
that kind. If she had known I was looking out for such a place she
would have told me before; she had not spoken of it herself, because
she didn't wish to injure the hotel by being the cause of my going
away. She told me this was a charming family, who had often received
American ladies (and others as well) who wished to follow up the
language, and she was sure I should be delighted with them. So she
gave me their address, and offered to go with me to introduce me.
But I was in such a hurry that I went off by myself; and I had no
trouble in finding these good people. They were delighted to receive
me, and I was very much pleased with what I saw of them. They seemed
to have plenty of conversation, and there will be no trouble about

I came here to stay about three days ago, and by this time I have
seen a great deal of them. The price of board struck me as rather
high; but I must remember that a quantity of conversation is thrown
in. I have a very pretty little room--without any carpet, but with
seven mirrors, two clocks, and five curtains. I was rather
disappointed after I arrived to find that there are several other
Americans here for the same purpose as myself. At least there are
three Americans and two English people; and also a German gentleman.
I am afraid, therefore, our conversation will be rather mixed, but I
have not yet time to judge. I try to talk with Madame de Maisonrouge
all I can (she is the lady of the house, and the REAL family consists
only of herself and her two daughters). They are all most elegant,
interesting women, and I am sure we shall become intimate friends. I
will write you more about them in my next. Tell William Platt I
don't care what he does.



September 21st.

We had hardly got here when father received a telegram saying he
would have to come right back to New York. It was for something
about his business--I don't know exactly what; you know I never
understand those things, never want to. We had just got settled at
the hotel, in some charming rooms, and mother and I, as you may
imagine, were greatly annoyed. Father is extremely fussy, as you
know, and his first idea, as soon as he found he should have to go
back, was that we should go back with him. He declared he would
never leave us in Paris alone, and that we must return and come out
again. I don't know what he thought would happen to us; I suppose he
thought we should be too extravagant. It's father's theory that we
are always running up bills, whereas a little observation would show
him that we wear the same old RAGS FOR MONTHS. But father has no
observation; he has nothing but theories. Mother and I, however,
have, fortunately, a great deal of PRACTICE, and we succeeded in
making him understand that we wouldn't budge from Paris, and that we
would rather be chopped into small pieces than cross that dreadful
ocean again. So, at last, he decided to go back alone, and to leave
us here for three months. But, to show you how fussy he is, he
refused to let us stay at the hotel, and insisted that we should go
into a FAMILY. I don't know what put such an idea into his head,
unless it was some advertisement that he saw in one of the American
papers that are published here.

There are families here who receive American and English people to
live with them, under the pretence of teaching them French. You may
imagine what people they are--I mean the families themselves. But
the Americans who choose this peculiar manner of seeing Paris must be
actually just as bad. Mother and I were horrified, and declared that
main force should not remove us from the hotel. But father has a way
of arriving at his ends which is more efficient than violence. He
worries and fusses; he "nags," as we used to say at school; and, when
mother and I are quite worn out, his triumph is assured. Mother is
usually worn out more easily than I, and she ends by siding with
father; so that, at last, when they combine their forces against poor
little me, I have to succumb. You should have heard the way father
went on about this "family" plan; he talked to every one he saw about
it; he used to go round to the banker's and talk to the people there-
-the people in the post-office; he used to try and exchange ideas
about it with the waiters at the hotel. He said it would be more
safe, more respectable, more economical; that I should perfect my
French; that mother would learn how a French household is conducted;
that he should feel more easy, and five hundred reasons more. They
were none of them good, but that made no difference. It's all
humbug, his talking about economy, when every one knows that business
in America has completely recovered, that the prostration is all
over, and that immense fortunes are being made. We have been
economising for the last five years, and I supposed we came abroad to
reap the benefits of it.

As for my French, it is quite as perfect as I want it to be. (I
assure you I am often surprised at my own fluency, and, when I get a
little more practice in the genders and the idioms, I shall do very
well in this respect.) To make a long story short, however, father
carried his point, as usual; mother basely deserted me at the last
moment, and, after holding out alone for three days, I told them to
do with me what they pleased! Father lost three steamers in
succession by remaining in Paris to argue with me. You know he is
like the schoolmaster in Goldsmith's "Deserted Village"--"e'en though
vanquished, he would argue still." He and mother went to look at some
seventeen families (they had got the addresses somewhere), while I
retired to my sofa, and would have nothing to do with it. At last
they made arrangements, and I was transported to the establishment
from which I now write you. I write you from the bosom of a Parisian
menage--from the depths of a second-rate boarding-house.

Father only left Paris after he had seen us what he calls comfortably
settled here, and had informed Madame de Maisonrouge (the mistress of
the establishment--the head of the "family") that he wished my French
pronunciation especially attended to. The pronunciation, as it
happens, is just what I am most at home in; if he had said my genders
or my idioms there would have been some sense. But poor father has
no tact, and this defect is especially marked since he has been in
Europe. He will be absent, however, for three months, and mother and
I shall breathe more freely; the situation will be less intense. I
must confess that we breathe more freely than I expected, in this
place, where we have been for about a week. I was sure, before we
came, that it would prove to be an establishment of the LOWEST
DESCRIPTION; but I must say that, in this respect, I am agreeably
disappointed. The French are so clever that they know even how to
manage a place of this kind. Of course it is very disagreeable to
live with strangers, but as, after all, if I were not staying with
Madame de Maisonrouge I should not be living in the Faubourg St.
Germain, I don't know that from the point of view of exclusiveness it
is any great loss to be here.

Our rooms are very prettily arranged, and the table is remarkably
good. Mamma thinks the whole thing--the place and the people, the
manners and customs--very amusing; but mamma is very easily amused.
As for me, you know, all that I ask is to be let alone, and not to
have people's society forced upon me. I have never wanted for
society of my own choosing, and, so long as I retain possession of my
faculties, I don't suppose I ever shall. As I said, however, the
place is very well managed, and I succeed in doing as I please,
which, you know, is my most cherished pursuit. Madame de Maisonrouge
has a great deal of tact--much more than poor father. She is what
they call here a belle femme, which means that she is a tall, ugly
woman, with style. She dresses very well, and has a great deal of
talk; but, though she is a very good imitation of a lady, I never see
her behind the dinner-table, in the evening, smiling and bowing, as
the people come in, and looking all the while at the dishes and the
servants, without thinking of a dame de comptoir blooming in a corner
of a shop or a restaurant. I am sure that, in spite of her fine
name, she was once a dame de comptoir. I am also sure that, in spite
of her smiles and the pretty things she says to every one, she hates
us all, and would like to murder us. She is a hard, clever
Frenchwoman, who would like to amuse herself and enjoy her Paris, and
she must be bored to death at passing all her time in the midst of
stupid English people who mumble broken French at her. Some day she
will poison the soup or the vin rouge; but I hope that will not be
until after mother and I shall have left her. She has two daughters,
who, except that one is decidedly pretty, are meagre imitations of

The "family," for the rest, consists altogether of our beloved
compatriots, and of still more beloved Englanders. There is an
Englishman here, with his sister, and they seem to be rather nice
people. He is remarkably handsome, but excessively affected and
patronising, especially to us Americans; and I hope to have a chance
of biting his head off before long. The sister is very pretty, and,
apparently, very nice; but, in costume, she is Britannia incarnate.
There is a very pleasant little Frenchman--when they are nice they
are charming--and a German doctor, a big blonde man, who looks like a
great white bull; and two Americans, besides mother and me. One of
them is a young man from Boston,--an aesthetic young man, who talks
about its being "a real Corot day," etc., and a young woman--a girl,
a female, I don't know what to call her--from Vermont, or Minnesota,
or some such place. This young woman is the most extraordinary
specimen of artless Yankeeism that I ever encountered; she is really
too horrible. I have been three times to Clementine about your
underskirt, etc.



September 25th.

My dear Harvard--I have carried out my plan, of which I gave you a
hint in my last, and I only regret that I should not have done it
before. It is human nature, after all, that is the most interesting
thing in the world, and it only reveals itself to the truly earnest
seeker. There is a want of earnestness in that life of hotels and
railroad trains, which so many of our countrymen are content to lead
in this strange Old World, and I was distressed to find how far I,
myself; had been led along the dusty, beaten track. I had, however,
constantly wanted to turn aside into more unfrequented ways; to
plunge beneath the surface and see what I should discover. But the
opportunity had always been missing; somehow, I never meet those
opportunities that we hear about and read about--the things that
happen to people in novels and biographies. And yet I am always on
the watch to take advantage of any opening that may present itself; I
am always looking out for experiences, for sensations--I might almost
say for adventures.

The great thing is to LIVE, you know--to feel, to be conscious of
one's possibilities; not to pass through life mechanically and
insensibly, like a letter through the post-office. There are times,
my dear Harvard, when I feel as if I were really capable of
everything--capable de tout, as they say here--of the greatest
excesses as well as the greatest heroism. Oh, to be able to say that
one has lived--qu'on a vecu, as they say here--that idea exercises an
indefinable attraction for me. You will, perhaps, reply, it is easy
to say it; but the thing is to make people believe you! And, then, I
don't want any second-hand, spurious sensations; I want the knowledge
that leaves a trace--that leaves strange scars and stains and
reveries behind it! But I am afraid I shock you, perhaps even
frighten you.

If you repeat my remarks to any of the West Cedar Street circle, be
sure you tone them down as your discretion will suggest. For
yourself; you will know that I have always had an intense desire to
see something of REAL FRENCH LIFE. You are acquainted with my great
sympathy with the French; with my natural tendency to enter into the
French way of looking at life. I sympathise with the artistic
temperament; I remember you used sometimes to hint to me that you
thought my own temperament too artistic. I don't think that in
Boston there is any real sympathy with the artistic temperament; we
tend to make everything a matter of right and wrong. And in Boston
one can't LIVE--on ne peut pas vivre, as they say here. I don't mean
one can't reside--for a great many people manage that; but one can't
live aesthetically--I may almost venture to say, sensuously. This is
why I have always been so much drawn to the French, who are so
aesthetic, so sensuous. I am so sorry that Theophile Gautier has
passed away; I should have liked so much to go and see him, and tell
him all that I owe him. He was living when I was here before; but,
you know, at that time I was travelling with the Johnsons, who are
not aesthetic, and who used to make me feel rather ashamed of my
artistic temperament. If I had gone to see the great apostle of
beauty, I should have had to go clandestinely--en cachette, as they
say here; and that is not my nature; I like to do everything frankly,
freely, naivement, au grand jour. That is the great thing--to be
free, to be frank, to be naif. Doesn't Matthew Arnold say that
somewhere--or is it Swinburne, or Pater?

When I was with the Johnsons everything was superficial; and, as
regards life, everything was brought down to the question of right
and wrong. They were too didactic; art should never be didactic; and
what is life but an art? Pater has said that so well, somewhere.
With the Johnsons I am afraid I lost many opportunities; the tone was
gray and cottony, I might almost say woolly. But now, as I tell you,
I have determined to take right hold for myself; to look right into
European life, and judge it without Johnsonian prejudices. I have
taken up my residence in a French family, in a real Parisian house.
You see I have the courage of my opinions; I don't shrink from
carrying out my theory that the great thing is to LIVE.

You know I have always been intensely interested in Balzac, who never
shrank from the reality, and whose almost LURID pictures of Parisian
life have often haunted me in my wanderings through the old wicked-
looking streets on the other side of the river. I am only sorry that
my new friends--my French family--do not live in the old city--au
coeur du vieux Paris, as they say here. They live only in the
Boulevard Haussman, which is less picturesque; but in spite of this
they have a great deal of the Balzac tone. Madame de Maisonrouge
belongs to one of the oldest and proudest families in France; but she
has had reverses which have compelled her to open an establishment in
which a limited number of travellers, who are weary of the beaten
track, who have the sense of local colour--she explains it herself;
she expresses it so well--in short, to open a sort of boarding-house.
I don't see why I should not, after all, use that expression, for it
is the correlative of the term pension bourgeoise, employed by Balzac
in the Pere Goriot. Do you remember the pension bourgeoise of Madame
Vauquer nee de Conflans? But this establishment is not at all like
that: and indeed it is not at all bourgeois; there is something
distinguished, something aristocratic, about it. The Pension Vauquer
was dark, brown, sordid, graisseuse; but this is in quite a different
tone, with high, clear, lightly-draped windows, tender, subtle,
almost morbid, colours, and furniture in elegant, studied, reed-like
lines. Madame de Maisonrouge reminds me of Madame Hulot--do you
remember "la belle Madame Hulot?"--in Les Barents Pauvres. She has a
great charm; a little artificial, a little fatigued, with a little
suggestion of hidden things in her life; but I have always been
sensitive to the charm of fatigue, of duplicity.

I am rather disappointed, I confess, in the society I find here; it
is not so local, so characteristic, as I could have desired. Indeed,
to tell the truth, it is not local at all; but, on the other hand, it
is cosmopolitan, and there is a great advantage in that. We are
French, we are English, we are American, we are German; and, I
believe, there are some Russians and Hungarians expected. I am much
interested in the study of national types; in comparing, contrasting,
seizing the strong points, the weak points, the point of view of
each. It is interesting to shift one's point of view--to enter into
strange, exotic ways of looking at life.

The American types here are not, I am sorry to say, so interesting as
they might be, and, excepting myself; are exclusively feminine. We
are THIN, my dear Harvard; we are pale, we are sharp. There is
something meagre about us; our line is wanting in roundness, our
composition in richness. We lack temperament; we don't know how to
live; nous ne savons pas vivre, as they say here. The American
temperament is represented (putting myself aside, and I often think
that my temperament is not at all American) by a young girl and her
mother, and another young girl without her mother--without her mother
or any attendant or appendage whatever. These young girls are rather
curious types; they have a certain interest, they have a certain
grace, but they are disappointing too; they don't go far; they don't
keep all they promise; they don't satisfy the imagination. They are
cold, slim, sexless; the physique is not generous, not abundant; it
is only the drapery, the skirts and furbelows (that is, I mean in the
young lady who has her mother) that are abundant. They are very
different: one of them all elegance, all expensiveness, with an air
of high fashion, from New York; the other a plain, pure, clear-eyed,
straight-waisted, straight-stepping maiden from the heart of New
England. And yet they are very much alike too--more alike than they
would care to think themselves for they eye each other with cold,
mistrustful, deprecating looks. They are both specimens of the
emancipated young American girl--practical, positive, passionless,
subtle, and knowing, as you please, either too much or too little.
And yet, as I say, they have a certain stamp, a certain grace; I like
to talk with them, to study them.

The fair New Yorker is, sometimes, very amusing; she asks me if every
one in Boston talks like me--if every one is as "intellectual" as
your poor correspondent. She is for ever throwing Boston up at me; I
can't get rid of Boston. The other one rubs it into me too; but in a
different way; she seems to feel about it as a good Mahommedan feels
toward Mecca, and regards it as a kind of focus of light for the
whole human race. Poor little Boston, what nonsense is talked in thy
name! But this New England maiden is, in her way, a strange type:
she is travelling all over Europe alone--"to see it," she says, "for
herself." For herself! What can that stiff slim self of hers do
with such sights, such visions! She looks at everything, goes
everywhere, passes her way, with her clear quiet eyes wide open;
skirting the edge of obscene abysses without suspecting them; pushing
through brambles without tearing her robe; exciting, without knowing
it, the most injurious suspicions; and always holding her course,
passionless, stainless, fearless, charmless! It is a little figure
in which, after all, if you can get the right point of view, there is
something rather striking.

By way of contrast, there is a lovely English girl, with eyes as shy
as violets, and a voice as sweet! She has a sweet Gainsborough head,
and a great Gainsborough hat, with a mighty plume in front of it,
which makes a shadow over her quiet English eyes. Then she has a
sage-green robe, "mystic, wonderful," all embroidered with subtle
devices and flowers, and birds of tender tint; very straight and
tight in front, and adorned behind, along the spine, with large,
strange, iridescent buttons. The revival of taste, of the sense of
beauty, in England, interests me deeply; what is there in a simple
row of spinal buttons to make one dream--to donnor a rever, as they
say here? I think that a great aesthetic renascence is at hand, and
that a great light will be kindled in England, for all the world to
see. There are spirits there that I should like to commune with; I
think they would understand me.

This gracious English maiden, with her clinging robes, her amulets
and girdles, with something quaint and angular in her step, her
carriage something mediaeval and Gothic, in the details of her person
and dress, this lovely Evelyn Vane (isn't it a beautiful name?) is
deeply, delightfully picturesque. She is much a woman--elle est bien
femme, as they say here; simpler, softer, rounder, richer than the
young girls I spoke of just now. Not much talk--a great, sweet
silence. Then the violet eye--the very eye itself seems to blush;
the great shadowy hat, making the brow so quiet; the strange,
clinging, clutching, pictured raiment! As I say, it is a very
gracious, tender type. She has her brother with her, who is a
beautiful, fair-haired, gray-eyed young Englishman. He is purely
objective; and he, too, is very plastic.



September 26th.

You must not be frightened at not hearing from me oftener; it is not
because I am in any trouble, but because I am getting on so well. If
I were in any trouble I don't think I should write to you; I should
just keep quiet and see it through myself. But that is not the case
at present and, if I don't write to you, it is because I am so deeply
interested over here that I don't seem to find time. It was a real
providence that brought me to this house, where, in spite of all
obstacles, I am able to do much good work. I wonder how I find the
time for all I do; but when I think that I have only got a year in
Europe, I feel as if I wouldn't sacrifice a single hour.

The obstacles I refer to are the disadvantages I have in learning
French, there being so many persons around me speaking English, and
that, as you may say, in the very bosom of a French family. It seems
as if you heard English everywhere; but I certainly didn't expect to
find it in a place like this. I am not discouraged, however, and I
talk French all I can, even with the other English boarders. Then I
have a lesson every day from Miss Maisonrouge (the elder daughter of
the lady of the house), and French conversation every evening in the
salon, from eight to eleven, with Madame herself, and some friends of
hers that often come in. Her cousin, Mr. Verdier, a young French
gentleman, is fortunately staying with her, and I make a point of
talking with him as much as possible. I have EXTRA PRIVATE LESSONS
from him, and I often go out to walk with him. Some night, soon, he
is to accompany me to the opera. We have also a most interesting
plan of visiting all the galleries in Paris together. Like most of
the French, he converses with great fluency, and I feel as if I
should really gain from him. He is remarkably handsome, and
extremely polite--paying a great many compliments, which, I am
afraid, are not always SINCERE. When I return to Bangor I will tell
you some of the things he has said to me. I think you will consider
them extremely curious, and very beautiful IN THEIR WAY.

The conversation in the parlour (from eight to eleven) is often
remarkably brilliant, and I often wish that you, or some of the
Bangor folks, could be there to enjoy it. Even though you couldn't
understand it I think you would like to hear the way they go on; they
seem to express so much. I sometimes think that at Bangor they don't
express enough (but it seems as if over there, there was less to
express). It seems as if; at Bangor, there were things that folks
never tried to say; but here, I have learned from studying French
that you have no idea what you can say, before you try. At Bangor
they seem to give it up beforehand; they don't make any effort. (I
don't say this in the least for William Platt, in particular.

I am sure I don't know what they will think of me when I get back.
It seems as if; over here, I had learned to come out with everything.
I suppose they will think I am not sincere; but isn't it more sincere
to come out with things than to conceal them? I have become very
good friends with every one in the house--that is (you see, I AM
sincere), with ALMOST every one. It is the most interesting circle I
ever was in. There's a girl here, an American, that I don't like so
much as the rest; but that is only because she won't let me. I
should like to like her, ever so much, because she is most lovely and
most attractive; but she doesn't seem to want to know me or to like
me. She comes from New York, and she is remarkably pretty, with
beautiful eyes and the most delicate features; she is also remarkably
elegant--in this respect would bear comparison with any one I have
seen over here. But it seems as if she didn't want to recognise me
or associate with me; as if she wanted to make a difference between
us. It is like people they call "haughty" in books. I have never
seen any one like that before--any one that wanted to make a
difference; and at first I was right down interested, she seemed to
me so like a proud young lady in a novel. I kept saying to myself
all day, "haughty, haughty," and I wished she would keep on so. But
she did keep on; she kept on too long; and then I began to feel hurt.
I couldn't think what I have done, and I can't think yet. It's as if
she had got some idea about me, or had heard some one say something.
If some girls should behave like that I shouldn't make any account of
it; but this one is so refined, and looks as if she might be so
interesting if I once got to know her, that I think about it a good
deal. I am bound to find out what her reason is--for of course she
has got some reason; I am right down curious to know.

I went up to her to ask her the day before yesterday; I thought that
was the best way. I told her I wanted to know her better, and would
like to come and see her in her room--they tell me she has got a
lovely room--and that if she had heard anything against me, perhaps
she would tell me when I came. But she was more distant than ever,
and she just turned it off; said that she had never heard me
mentioned, and that her room was too small to receive visitors. I
suppose she spoke the truth, but I am sure she has got some reason,
all the same. She has got some idea, and I am bound to find out
before I go, if I have to ask everybody in the house. I AM right
down curious. I wonder if she doesn't think me refined--or if she
had ever heard anything against Bangor? I can't think it is that.
Don't you remember when Clara Barnard went to visit New York, three
years ago, how much attention she received? And you know Clara IS
Bangor, to the soles of her shoes. Ask William Platt--so long as he
isn't a native--if he doesn't consider Clara Barnard refined.

Apropos, as they say here, of refinement, there is another American
in the house--a gentleman from Boston--who is just crowded with it.
His name is Mr. Louis Leverett (such a beautiful name, I think), and
he is about thirty years old. He is rather small, and he looks
pretty sick; he suffers from some affection of the liver. But his
conversation is remarkably interesting, and I delight to listen to
him--he has such beautiful ideas. I feel as if it were hardly right,
not being in French; but, fortunately, he uses a great many French
expressions. It's in a different style from the conversation of Mr.
Verdier--not so complimentary, but more intellectual. He is
intensely fond of pictures, and has given me a great many ideas about
them which I should never have gained without him; I shouldn't have
known where to look for such ideas. He thinks everything of
pictures; he thinks we don't make near enough of them. They seem to
make a good deal of them here; but I couldn't help telling him the
other day that in Bangor I really don't think we do.

If I had any money to spend I would buy some and take them back, to
hang up. Mr. Leverett says it would do them good--not the pictures,
but the Bangor folks. He thinks everything of the French, too, and
says we don't make nearly enough of THEM. I couldn't help telling
him the other day that at any rate they make enough of themselves.
But it is very interesting to hear him go on about the French, and it
is so much gain to me, so long as that is what I came for. I talk to
him as much as I dare about Boston, but I do feel as if this were
right down wrong--a stolen pleasure.

I can get all the Boston culture I want when I go back, if I carry
out my plan, my happy vision, of going there to reside. I ought to
direct all my efforts to European culture now, and keep Boston to
finish off. But it seems as if I couldn't help taking a peep now and
then, in advance--with a Bostonian. I don't know when I may meet one
again; but if there are many others like Mr. Leverett there, I shall
be certain not to want when I carry out my dream. He is just as full
of culture as he can live. But it seems strange how many different
sorts there are.

There are two of the English who I suppose are very cultivated too;
but it doesn't seem as if I could enter into theirs so easily, though
I try all I can. I do love their way of speaking, and sometimes I
feel almost as if it would be right to give up trying to learn
French, and just try to learn to speak our own tongue as these
English speak it. It isn't the things they say so much, though these
are often rather curious, but it is in the way they pronounce, and
the sweetness of their voice. It seems as if they must TRY a good
deal to talk like that; but these English that are here don't seem to
try at all, either to speak or do anything else. They are a young
lady and her brother. I believe they belong to some noble family. I
have had a good deal of intercourse with them, because I have felt
more free to talk to them than to the Americans--on account of the
language. It seems as if in talking with them I was almost learning
a new one.

I never supposed, when I left Bangor, that I was coming to Europe to
learn ENGLISH! If I do learn it, I don't think you will understand
me when I get back, and I don't think you'll like it much. I should
be a good deal criticised if I spoke like that at Bangor. However, I
verily believe Bangor is the most critical place on earth; I have
seen nothing like it over here. Tell them all I have come to the
conclusion that they are A GREAT DEAL TOO FASTIDIOUS. But I was
speaking about this English young lady and her brother. I wish I
could put them before you. She is lovely to look at; she seems so
modest and retiring. In spite of this, however, she dresses in a way
that attracts great attention, as I couldn't help noticing when one
day I went out to walk with her. She was ever so much looked at; but
she didn't seem to notice it, until at last I couldn't help calling
attention to it. Mr. Leverett thinks everything of it; he calls it
the "costume of the future." I should call it rather the costume of
the past--you know the English have such an attachment to the past.
I said this the other day to Madame do Maisonrouge--that Miss Vane
dressed in the costume of the past. De l'an passe, vous voulez dire?
said Madame, with her little French laugh (you can get William Platt
to translate this, he used to tell me he knew so much French).

You know I told you, in writing some time ago, that I had tried to
get some insight into the position of woman in England, and, being
here with Miss Vane, it has seemed to me to be a good opportunity to
get a little more. I have asked her a great deal about it; but she
doesn't seem able to give me much information. The first time I
asked her she told me the position of a lady depended upon the rank
of her father, her eldest brother, her husband, etc. She told me her
own position was very good, because her father was some relation--I
forget what--to a lord. She thinks everything of this; and that
proves to me that the position of woman in her country cannot be
satisfactory; because, if it were, it wouldn't depend upon that of
your relations, even your nearest. I don't know much about lords,
and it does try my patience (though she is just as sweet as she can
live) to hear her talk as if it were a matter of course that I

I feel as if it were right to ask her as often as I can if she
doesn't consider every one equal; but she always says she doesn't,
and she confesses that she doesn't think she is equal to "Lady
Something-or-other," who is the wife of that relation of her father.
I try and persuade her all I can that she is; but it seems as if she
didn't want to be persuaded; and when I ask her if Lady So-and-so is
of the same opinion (that Miss Vane isn't her equal), she looks so
soft and pretty with her eyes, and says, "Of course she is!" When I
tell her that this is right down bad for Lady So-and-so, it seems as
if she wouldn't believe me, and the only answer she will make is that
Lady So-and-so is "extremely nice." I don't believe she is nice at
all; if she were nice, she wouldn't have such ideas as that. I tell
Miss Vane that at Bangor we think such ideas vulgar; but then she
looks as though she had never heard of Bangor. I often want to shake
her, though she IS so sweet. If she isn't angry with the people who
make her feel that way, I am angry for her. I am angry with her
brother too, for she is evidently very much afraid of him, and this
gives me some further insight into the subject. She thinks
everything of her brother, and thinks it natural that she should be
afraid of him, not only physically (for this IS natural, as he is
enormously tall and strong, and has very big fists), but morally and
intellectually. She seems unable, however, to take in any argument,
and she makes me realise what I have often heard--that if you are
timid nothing will reason you out of it.

Mr. Vane, also (the brother), seems to have the same prejudices, and
when I tell him, as I often think it right to do, that his sister is
not his subordinate, even if she does think so, but his equal, and,
perhaps in some respects his superior, and that if my brother, in
Bangor, were to treat me as he treates this poor young girl, who has
not spirit enough to see the question in its true light, there would
be an indignation, meeting of the citizens to protest against such an
outrage to the sanctity of womanhood--when I tell him all this, at
breakfast or dinner, he bursts out laughing so loud that all the
plates clatter on the table.

But at such a time as this there is always one person who seems
interested in what I say--a German gentleman, a professor, who sits
next to me at dinner, and whom I must tell you more about another
time. He is very learned, and has a great desire for information; he
appreciates a great many of my remarks, and after dinner, in the
salon, he often comes to me to ask me questions about them. I have
to think a little, sometimes, to know what I did say, or what I do
think. He takes you right up where you left off; and he is almost as
fond of discussing things as William Platt is. He is splendidly
educated, in the German style, and he told me the other day that he
was an "intellectual broom." Well, if he is, he sweeps clean; I told
him that. After he has been talking to me I feel as if I hadn't got
a speck of dust left in my mind anywhere. It's a most delightful
feeling. He says he's an observer; and I am sure there is plenty
over here to observe. But I have told you enough for to-day. I
don't know how much longer I shall stay here; I am getting on so fast
that it sometimes seems as if I shouldn't need all the time I have
laid out. I suppose your cold weather has promptly begun, as usual;
it sometimes makes me envy you. The fall weather here is very dull
and damp, and I feel very much as if I should like to be braced up.



Paris, September 30th.

Dear Lady Augusta--I am afraid I shall not be able to come to you on
January 7th, as you kindly proposed at Homburg. I am so very, very
sorry; it is a great disappointment to me. But I have just heard
that it has been settled that mamma and the children are coming
abroad for a part of the winter, and mamma wishes me to go with them
to Hyeres, where Georgina has been ordered for her lungs. She has
not been at all well these three months, and now that the damp
weather has begun she is very poorly indeed; so that last week papa
decided to have a consultation, and he and mamma went with her up to
town and saw some three or four doctors. They all of them ordered
the south of France, but they didn't agree about the place; so that
mamma herself decided for Hyeres, because it is the most economical.
I believe it is very dull, but I hope it will do Georgina good. I am
afraid, however, that nothing will do her good until she consents to
take more care of herself; I am afraid she is very wild and wilful,
and mamma tells me that all this month it has taken papa's positive
orders to make her stop in-doors. She is very cross (mamma writes
me) about coming abroad, and doesn't seem at all to mind the expense
that papa has been put to--talks very ill-naturedly about losing the
hunting, etc. She expected to begin to hunt in December, and wants
to know whether anybody keeps hounds at Hyeres. Fancy a girl wanting
to follow the hounds when her lungs are so bad! But I daresay that
when she gets there she will he glad enough to keep quiet, as they
say that the heat is intense. It may cure Georgina, but I am sure it
will make the rest of us very ill.

Mamma, however, is only going to bring Mary and Gus and Fred and
Adelaide abroad with her; the others will remain at Kingscote until
February (about the 3d), when they will go to Eastbourne for a month
with Miss Turnover, the new governess, who has turned out such a very
nice person. She is going to take Miss Travers, who has been with us
so long, but who is only qualified for the younger children, to
Hyeres, and I believe some of the Kingscote servants. She has
perfect confidence in Miss T.; it is only a pity she has such an odd
name. Mamma thought of asking her if she would mind taking another
when she came; but papa thought she might object. Lady Battledown
makes all her governesses take the same name; she gives 5 more a
year for the purpose. I forget what it is she calls them; I think
it's Johnson (which to me always suggests a lady's maid).
Governesses shouldn't have too pretty a name; they shouldn't have a
nicer name than the family.

I suppose you heard from the Desmonds that I did not go back to
England with them. When it began to be talked about that Georgina
should be taken abroad, mamma wrote to me that I had better stop in
Paris for a month with Harold, so that she could pick me up on their
way to Hyeres. It saves the expense of my journey to Kingscote and
back, and gives me the opportunity to "finish" a little in French.

You know Harold came here six weeks ago, to get up his French for
those dreadful examinations that he has to pass so soon. He came to
live with some French people that take in young men (and others) for
this purpose; it's a kind of coaching place, only kept by women.
Mamma had heard it was very nice; so she wrote to me that I was to
come and stop here with Harold. The Desmonds brought me and made the
arrangement, or the bargain, or whatever you call it. Poor Harold
was naturally not at all pleased; but he has been very kind, and has
treated me like an angel. He is getting on beautifully with his
French; for though I don't think the place is so good as papa
supposed, yet Harold is so immensely clever that he can scarcely help
learning. I am afraid I learn much less, but, fortunately, I have
not to pass an examination--except if mamma takes it into her head to
examine me. But she will have so much to think of with Georgina that
I hope this won't occur to her. If it does, I shall be, as Harold
says, in a dreadful funk.

This is not such a nice place for a girl as for a young man, and the
Desmonds thought it EXCEEDINGLY ODD that mamma should wish me to come
here. As Mrs. Desmond said, it is because she is so very
unconventional. But you know Paris is so very amusing, and if only
Harold remains good-natured about it, I shall be content to wait for
the caravan (that's what he calls mamma and the children). The
person who keeps the establishment, or whatever they call it, is
rather odd, and EXCEEDINGLY FOREIGN; but she is wonderfully civil,
and is perpetually sending to my door to see if I want anything. The
servants are not at all like English servants, and come bursting in,
the footman (they have only one) and the maids alike, at all sorts of
hours, in the MOST SUDDEN WAY. Then when one rings, it is half an
hour before they come. All this is very uncomfortable, and I daresay
it will be worse at Hyeres. There, however, fortunately, we shall
have our own people.

There are some very odd Americans here, who keep throwing Harold into
fits of laughter. One is a dreadful little man who is always sitting
over the fire, and talking about the colour of the sky. I don't
believe he ever saw the sky except through the window--pane. The
other day he took hold of my frock (that green one you thought so
nice at Homburg) and told me that it reminded him of the texture of
the Devonshire turf. And then he talked for half an hour about the
Devonshire turf; which I thought such a very extraordinary subject.
Harold says he is mad. It is very strange to be living in this way
with people one doesn't know. I mean that one doesn't know as one
knows them in England.

The other Americans (beside the madman) are two girls, about my own
age, one of whom is rather nice. She has a mother; but the mother is
always sitting in her bedroom, which seems so very odd. I should
like mamma to ask them to Kingscote, but I am afraid mamma wouldn't
like the mother, who is rather vulgar. The other girl is rather
vulgar too, and is travelling about quite alone. I think she is a
kind of schoolmistress; but the other girl (I mean the nicer one,
with the mother) tells me she is more respectable than she seems.
She has, however, the most extraordinary opinions--wishes to do away
with the aristocracy, thinks it wrong that Arthur should have
Kingscote when papa dies, etc. I don't see what it signifies to her
that poor Arthur should come into the property, which will be so
delightful--except for papa dying. But Harold says she is mad. He
chaffs her tremendously about her radicalism, and he is so immensely
clever that she can't answer him, though she is rather clever too.

There is also a Frenchman, a nephew, or cousin, or something, of the
person of the house, who is extremely nasty; and a German professor,
or doctor, who eats with his knife and is a great bore. I am so very
sorry about giving up my visit. I am afraid you will never ask me



September 28th.

My Dear Prosper--It is a long time since I have given you of my news,
and I don't know what puts it into my head to-night to recall myself
to your affectionate memory. I suppose it is that when we are happy
the mind reverts instinctively to those with whom formerly we shared
our exaltations and depressions, and je t'eu ai trop dit, dans le bon
temps, mon gros Prosper, and you always listened to me too
imperturbably, with your pipe in your mouth, your waistcoat
unbuttoned, for me not to feel that I can count upon your sympathy
to-day. Nous en sommes nous flanquees des confidences--in those
happy days when my first thought in seeing an adventure poindre a
l'horizon was of the pleasure I should have in relating it to the
great Prosper. As I tell thee, I am happy; decidedly, I am happy,
and from this affirmation I fancy you can construct the rest. Shall
I help thee a little? Take three adorable girls . . . three, my good
Prosper--the mystic number--neither more nor less. Take them and
place thy insatiable little Leon in the midst of them! Is the
situation sufficiently indicated, and do you apprehend the motives of
my felicity?

You expected, perhaps, I was going to tell you that I had made my
fortune, or that the Uncle Blondeau had at last decided to return
into the breast of nature, after having constituted me his universal
legatee. But I needn't remind you that women are always for
something in the happiness of him who writes to thee--for something
in his happiness, and for a good deal more in his misery. But don't
let me talk of misery now; time enough when it comes; ces demoiselles
have gone to join the serried ranks of their amiable predecessors.
Excuse me--I comprehend your impatience. I will tell you of whom ces
demoiselles consist.

You have heard me speak of my cousine de Maisonrouge, that grande
belle femme, who, after having married, en secondes noces--there had
been, to tell the truth, some irregularity about her first union--a
venerable relic of the old noblesse of Poitou, was left, by the death
of her husband, complicated by the indulgence of expensive tastes on
an income of 17,000 francs, on the pavement of Paris, with two little
demons of daughters to bring up in the path of virtue. She managed
to bring them up; my little cousins are rigidly virtuous. If you ask
me how she managed it, I can't tell you; it's no business of mine,
and, a fortiori none of yours. She is now fifty years old (she
confesses to thirty-seven), and her daughters, whom she has never
been able to marry, are respectively twenty-seven and twenty-three
(they confess to twenty and to seventeen). Three years ago she had
the thrice-blessed idea of opening a sort of pension for the
entertainment and instruction of the blundering barbarians who come
to Paris in the hope of picking up a few stray particles of the
language of Voltaire--or of Zola. The idea lui a porte bonheur; the
shop does a very good business. Until within a few months ago it was
carried on by my cousins alone; but lately the need of a few
extensions and embellishments has caused itself to he felt. My
cousin has undertaken them, regardless of expense; she has asked me
to come and stay with her--board and lodging gratis--and keep an eye
on the grammatical eccentricities of her pensionnaires. I am the
extension, my good Prosper; I am the embellishment! I live for
nothing, and I straighten up the accent of the prettiest English
lips. The English lips are not all pretty, heaven knows, but enough
of them are so to make it a gaining bargain for me.

Just now, as I told you, I am in daily conversation with three
separate pairs. The owner of one of them has private lessons; she
pays extra. My cousin doesn't give me a sou of the money; but I make
bold, nevertheless, to say that my trouble is remunerated. But I am
well, very well, with the proprietors of the two other pairs. One of
them is a little Anglaise, of about twenty--a little figure de
keepsake; the most adorable miss that you ever, or at least that I
ever beheld. She is decorated all over with beads and bracelets and
embroidered dandelions; but her principal decoration consists of the
softest little gray eyes in the world, which rest upon you with a
profundity of confidence--a confidence that I really feel some
compunction in betraying. She has a tint as white as this sheet of
paper, except just in the middle of each cheek, where it passes into
the purest and most transparent, most liquid, carmine. Occasionally
this rosy fluid overflows into the rest of her face--by which I mean
that she blushes--as softly as the mark of your breath on the window-

Like every Anglaise, she is rather pinched and prim in public; but it
is very easy to see that when no one is looking elle ne demande qu'a
se laisser aller! Whenever she wants it I am always there, and I
have given her to understand that she can count upon me. I have
reason to believe that she appreciates the assurance, though I am
bound in honesty to confess that with her the situation is a little
less advanced than with the others. Que voulez-vous? The English
are heavy, and the Anglaises move slowly, that's all. The movement,
however, is perceptible, and once this fact is established I can let
the pottage simmer. I can give her time to arrive, for I am over-
well occupied with her concurrentes. Celles-ci don't keep me
waiting, par exemple!

These young ladies are Americans, and you know that it is the
national character to move fast. "All right--go ahead!" (I am
learning a great deal of English, or, rather, a great deal of
American.) They go ahead at a rate that sometimes makes it difficult
for me to keep up. One of them is prettier than the other; but this
hatter (the one that takes the private lessons) is really une file
prodigieuse. Ah, par exemple, elle brule ses vais-seux cella-la!
She threw herself into my arms the very first day, and I almost owed
her a grudge for having deprived me of that pleasure of gradation, of
carrying the defences, one by one, which is almost as great as that
of entering the place.

Would you believe that at the end of exactly twelve minutes she gave
me a rendezvous? It is true it was in the Galerie d'Apollon, at the
Louvre; but that was respectable for a beginning, and since then we
have had them by the dozen; I have ceased to keep the account. Non,
c'est une file qui me depasse.

The little one (she has a mother somewhere, out of sight, shut up in
a closet or a trunk) is a good deal prettier, and, perhaps, on that
account elle y met plus de facons. She doesn't knock about Paris
with me by the hour; she contents herself with long interviews in the
petit salon, with the curtains half-drawn, beginning at about three
o'clock, when every one is a la promenade. She is admirable, this
little one; a little too thin, the bones rather accentuated, but the
detail, on the whole, most satisfactory. And you can say anything to
her. She takes the trouble to appear not to understand, but her
conduct, half an hour afterwards, reassures you completely--oh,

However, it is the tall one, the one of the private lessons, that is
the most remarkable. These private lessons, my good Prosper, are the
most brilliant invention of the age, and a real stroke of genius on
the part of Miss Miranda! They also take place in the petit salon,
but with the doors tightly closed, and with explicit directions to
every one in the house that we are not to be disturbed. And we are
not, my good Prosper; we are not! Not a sound, not a shadow,
interrupts our felicity. My cousine is really admirable; the shop
deserves to succeed. Miss Miranda is tall and rather flat; she is
too pale; she hasn't the adorable rougeurs of the little Anglaise.
But she has bright, keen, inquisitive eyes, superb teeth, a nose
modelled by a sculptor, and a way of holding up her head and looking
every one in the face, which is the most finished piece of
impertinence I ever beheld. She is making the tour du monde entirely
alone, without even a soubrette to carry the ensign, for the purpose
of seeing for herself a quoi s'en tenir sur les hommes et les choses-
-on les hommes particularly. Dis donc, Prosper, it must be a drole
de pays over there, where young persons animated by this ardent
curiosity are manufactured! If we should turn the tables, some day,
thou and I, and go over and see it for ourselves. It is as well that
we should go and find them chez elles, as that they should come out
here after us. Dis donc, mon gras Prosper . . .



My dear brother in Science--I resume my hasty notes, of which I sent
you the first instalment some weeks ago. I mentioned then that I
intended to leave my hotel, not finding it sufficiently local and
national. It was kept by a Pomeranian, and the waiters, without
exception, were from the Fatherland. I fancied myself at Berlin,
Unter den Linden, and I reflected that, having taken the serious step
of visiting the head-quarters of the Gallic genius, I should try and
project myself; as much as possible, into the circumstances which are
in part the consequence and in part the cause of its irrepressible
activity. It seemed to me that there could be no well-grounded
knowledge without this preliminary operation of placing myself in
relations, as slightly as possible modified by elements proceeding
from a different combination of causes, with the spontaneous home-
life of the country.

I accordingly engaged a room in the house of a lady of pure French
extraction and education, who supplements the shortcomings of an
income insufficient to the ever-growing demands of the Parisian
system of sense-gratification, by providing food and lodging for a
limited number of distinguished strangers. I should have preferred
to have my room alone in the house, and to take my meals in a
brewery, of very good appearance, which I speedily discovered in the
same street; but this arrangement, though very lucidly proposed by
myself; was not acceptable to the mistress of the establishment (a
woman with a mathematical head), and I have consoled myself for the
extra expense by fixing my thoughts upon the opportunity that
conformity to the customs of the house gives me of studying the
table-manners of my companions, and of observing the French nature at
a peculiarly physiological moment, the moment when the satisfaction
of the TASTE, which is the governing quality in its composition,
produces a kind of exhalation, an intellectual transpiration, which,
though light and perhaps invisible to a superficial spectator, is
nevertheless appreciable by a properly adjusted instrument.

I have adjusted my instrument very satisfactorily (I mean the one I
carry in my good square German head), and I am not afraid of losing a
single drop of this valuable fluid, as it condenses itself upon the
plate of my observation. A prepared surface is what I need, and I
have prepared my surface.

Unfortunately here, also, I find the individual native in the
minority. There are only four French persons in the house--the
individuals concerned in its management, three of whom are women, and
one a man. This preponderance of the feminine element is, however,
in itself characteristic, as I need not remind you what an
abnormally--developed part this sex has played in French history.
The remaining figure is apparently that of a man, but I hesitate to
classify him so superficially. He appears to me less human than
simian, and whenever I hear him talk I seem to myself to have paused
in the street to listen to the shrill clatter of a hand-organ, to
which the gambols of a hairy homunculus form an accompaniment.

I mentioned to you before that my expectation of rough usage, in
consequence of my German nationality, had proved completely
unfounded. No one seems to know or to care what my nationality is,
and I am treated, on the contrary, with the civility which is the
portion of every traveller who pays the bill without scanning the
items too narrowly. This, I confess, has been something of a
surprise to me, and I have not yet made up my mind as to the
fundamental cause of the anomaly. My determination to take up my
abode in a French interior was largely dictated by the supposition
that I should be substantially disagreeable to its inmates. I wished
to observe the different forms taken by the irritation that I should
naturally produce; for it is under the influence of irritation that
the French character most completely expresses itself. My presence,
however, does not appear to operate as a stimulus, and in this
respect I am materially disappointed. They treat me as they treat
every one else; whereas, in order to be treated differently, I was
resigned in advance to be treated worse. I have not, as I say, fully
explained to myself this logical contradiction; but this is the
explanation to which I tend. The French are so exclusively occupied
with the idea of themselves, that in spite of the very definite image
the German personality presented to them by the war of 1870, they
have at present no distinct apprehension of its existence. They are
not very sure that there are any Germans; they have already forgotten
the convincing proofs of the fact that were presented to them nine
years ago. A German was something disagreeable, which they
determined to keep out of their conception of things. I therefore
think that we are wrong to govern ourselves upon the hypothesis of
the revanche; the French nature is too shallow for that large and
powerful plant to bloom in it.

The English-speaking specimens, too, I have not been willing to
neglect the opportunity to examine; and among these I have paid
special attention to the American varieties, of which I find here
several singular examples. The two most remarkable are a young man
who presents all the characteristics of a period of national
decadence; reminding me strongly of some diminutive Hellenised Roman
of the third century. He is an illustration of the period of culture
in which the faculty of appreciation has obtained such a
preponderance over that of production that the latter sinks into a
kind of rank sterility, and the mental condition becomes analogous to
that of a malarious bog. I learn from him that there is an immense
number of Americans exactly resembling him, and that the city of
Boston, indeed, is almost exclusively composed of them. (He
communicated this fact very proudly, as if it were greatly to the
credit of his native country; little perceiving the truly sinister
impression it made upon me.)

What strikes one in it is that it is a phenomenon to the best of my
knowledge--and you know what my knowledge is--unprecedented and
unique in the history of mankind; the arrival of a nation at an
ultimate stage of evolution without having passed through the mediate
one; the passage of the fruit, in other words, from crudity to
rottenness, without the interposition of a period of useful (and
ornamental) ripeness. With the Americans, indeed, the crudity and
the rottenness are identical and simultaneous; it is impossible to
say, as in the conversation of this deplorable young man, which is
one and which is the other; they are inextricably mingled. I prefer
the talk of the French homunculus; it is at least more amusing.

It is interesting in this manner to perceive, so largely developed,
the germs of extinction in the so-called powerful Anglo-Saxon family.
I find them in almost as recognisable a form in a young woman from
the State of Maine, in the province of New England, with whom I have
had a good deal of conversation. She differs somewhat from the young
man I just mentioned, in that the faculty of production, of action,
is, in her, less inanimate; she has more of the freshness and vigour
that we suppose to belong to a young civilisation. But unfortunately
she produces nothing but evil, and her tastes and habits are
similarly those of a Roman lady of the lower Empire. She makes no
secret of them, and has, in fact, elaborated a complete system of
licentious behaviour. As the opportunities she finds in her own
country do not satisfy her, she has come to Europe "to try," as she
says, "for herself." It is the doctrine of universal experience
professed with a cynicism that is really most extraordinary, and
which, presenting itself in a young woman of considerable education,
appears to me to be the judgment of a society.

Another observation which pushes me to the same induction--that of
the premature vitiation of the American population--is the attitude
of the Americans whom I have before me with regard to each other.
There is another young lady here, who is less abnormally developed
than the one I have just described, but who yet bears the stamp of
this peculiar combination of incompleteness and effeteness. These
three persons look with the greatest mistrust and aversion upon each
other; and each has repeatedly taken me apart and assured me,
secretly, that he or she only is the real, the genuine, the typical
American. A type that has lost itself before it has been fixed--what
can you look for from this?

Add to this that there are two young Englanders in the house, who
hate all the Americans in a lump, making between them none of the
distinctions and favourable comparisons which they insist upon, and
you will, I think, hold me warranted in believing that, between
precipitate decay and internecine enmities, the English-speaking
family is destined to consume itself; and that with its decline the
prospect of general pervasiveness, to which I alluded above, will
brighten for the deep-lunged children of the Fatherland!



October 22d

Dear Mother--I am off in a day or two to visit some new country; I
haven't yet decided which. I have satisfied myself with regard to
France, and obtained a good knowledge of the language. I have
enjoyed my visit to Madame de Maisonrouge deeply, and feel as if I
were leaving a circle of real friends. Everything has gone on
beautifully up to the end, and every one has been as kind and
attentive as if I were their own sister, especially Mr. Verdier, the
French gentleman, from whom I have gained more than I ever expected
(in six weeks), and with whom I have promised to correspond. So you
can imagine me dashing off the most correct French letters; and, if
you don't believe it, I will keep the rough draft to show you when I
go back.

The German gentleman is also more interesting, the more you know him;
it seems sometimes as if I could fairly drink in his ideas. I have
found out why the young lady from New York doesn't like me! It is
because I said one day at dinner that I admired to go to the Louvre.
Well, when I first came, it seemed as if I DID admire everything!

Tell William Platt his letter has come. I knew he would have to
write, and I was bound I would make him! I haven't decided what
country I will visit yet; it seems as if there were so many to choose
from. But I shall take care to pick out a good one, and to meet
plenty of fresh experiences.

Dearest mother, my money holds out, and it IS most interesting!


Back to Full Books