GREVILLE, OR A SEASON IN PARIS.
THIS novel exhibits Mrs. Goan's usual characteristics of easy, buoyant, and pointed composition ; a felicitous skill in depicting manners ; and a smart rather than a bitter satire, directed against the gross modes of vice, more than against vice itself. By laying the scene of her story for the most part on the Continent, she has been enabled to vary her subjects ; substituting French for English manners—the fashionable quarters of Paris for those of London—the Court of the Tuileries for that of St. James's: our most moral people gaining nothing by the comparison, according to the estimate of Mrs. GORE. Beyond these points, A Season in Paris confirms the opinion we broached in noticing The Dowager— that the vein of the authoress is getting exhausted, or rather, that fashionable life is a subject that very soon satiates. Worn down by constant collision to a uniform smoothness, its members have not only lost with the roughness (to follow out STERNE'S illustration of the shillings) all the crispness of the mint, and the markings of in- dividuality, but are devoid of emotion, feeling, and passion. An air of insolent or of polished well-breeding—a little more or little less regard to the principles of meum et tuum—a more or less mea- sured licentiousness, resulting rather from temperament or circum- stances than from any moral principle—with a tolerable taste in the executive part of the sensual arts—are the traits which charac- terize the fashionable world. Trained to regard pleasure as the summum bonum, they eschew any deep feeling or violent passion, as they would avoid physical pain ; perhaps from the ceaseless calls upon their attention—the whirl of' pleasure in which they live—they are incapable of feeling either one or the other. Angry they may be when they are thwarted ; excited, perhaps, when stung ; when injured, probably revengeful, if means of revenge should offer—for to provide them would be troublesome ; and not incapable, it would appear from Mrs. GORE, of "rapping out an oath." But violence of temper and bad language do not con- stitute passion in a critical sense ; or would a London blackguard in real life, and the heroes of Box in literature, vie with the Shak- sperian or Grecian drama.
This deficiency in the higher circles of a refined age, for the purposes of fiction, seems to be felt more or less by all who por- tray them. BULWER, and artists of a still more vulgar and melo- dramatic cast of mind, resort to the most absurd and exaggerated contrivances to give "effect" and " variety" to their pages ; in- termingling the fopperies of Mr. Pelham with the romantic grimace of Sir Reginald. .Even Mrs. GORE, though trusting, in her better works, to the portraiture of society as it apparently exists, with the illustration of some general principle to give it breadth and ob- ject—as Toryism, in The Haniiltons—at last finds herself reduced to endeavour after relief and variety by virtue and romantic interest ; neither of which things the society she depicts will supply. Hence, these introductions rather distract than divert : they injure the consistency of the work, without imparting to it any countervailing interest ; tempt the author to extend the story long after its proper elements are exhausted ; and, almost as matter of course, to make this extension by incongruous and unnatural means.
Greville narrates the adventures of an only son brought up by an only mother ; whose guardianship is to extend till the hero is five-and-twenty. By maternal affection and womanly art conjoined, Greville is kept out of society, and almost under petticoat government, till he is twenty-one. Fearful lest his person should be entrapped by some husband-hunter, or his fortune be de- spoiled by some titled blackleg, his mother persuades him to take a yacht voyage to the East ; and on his overlaid return, he falls in with an amiable French family, of high distinction and of the old regime. By them he is introduced into the most exclusive Parisian society, whither the English rarely penetrate; and, after falling in love with a married woman—transferring his affection to her sister—trying London, without success, to dissipate his pas- sion—he breaks it to his mother, and resolves to marry. Here really ends the tale, but only the second volume. A third is necessary to a novel ; so a third is added, and eked out by improbabilities of all kinds. Lord Greville, it appears, is not a lord, but an illegiti- mate son; his father having been entrapped into a foreign mar- riage when a young man, and his wife having turned up to plague him upon Greville's birth, after long seeming dead. His mother, after keeping her secret for twenty years, makes this confession to break off the French match ; because, " by the laws of France, it is indispensable to the validity of wedlock that the marriage- certificates of the parents of both parties should be produced": which could easily have been done in this case, for the ceremony of marriage had been properly performed. Mrs. GORE confounds the legal invalidity of a document with the existence of that docu- ment.
However, this poor contrivance, poorly managed, serves as the starting-point for another volume; whose contents are worthy of their origin. Interest is first aimed at by fever and solitariness in Upper Egypt ; then by a series of cross-purposes in Paris, where Greville supposes that the lady of his love is married, though every reader perceives that be is labouring under a mistake. At last, when mamma is reconciled, the illegitimacy cleared up, and every thing ready for a marriage, a suspense is attempted by the worn and vulgar contrivance of a duel, which, like the duel of Mrs. GORE'S last novel, The Dowager, was unlikely to have been fought ; and whether likely or not, inspires none of the interest aimed at, because the reader knows how it will terminate, in obedience to the circulating-library canon touching "happy endings." Nor should the ethics of Greville pass without comment. The hero is painted as the beau ideal of a high-born and high-bred Englishman, with an "almost feminine purity " : yet we find this pattern person in- dulging in the criminal pursuit of a wife whose husband had treated him with unbounded kindness and confidence, and to whose hospi- tality alone he is indebted for his opportunities. The facility with which Greville transfers his affection from the wife to her sister, is rather a critical than a moral defect ; but a defect it is.
The style and the piquancy of observation displayed by Mrs. GORE are as agreeable as ever ; and so are her portraits. Young Massingberd, the dandy rival, of moderate means, whose method of advancement is impudence and extravagance, is very capital, but not played out : the end of such men is "the Bench' or Boulogne.
The style will be exemplified in our extracts.
WOMEN AND A " MARIAGE DE CONVENANCE."
Of the many trials to which women are exposed among the ordeals of the great world, few more critical than those which beset them at the age of Made- moiselle de Nangis, while still incapacited by ignorance of the world, and of their own faculties and passions, to struggle with evil. The principles, however strict, in which they have been rcared by teachers and preachers, are precisely such as cannot be brought to bear upon their position. .Exposed to assiduities hitherto unfamiliar, to gallantries of look and speech which. they scarcely know how to interpret, their fancy is caught, nay, perhaps thew affections are en- gaged, by attentions that appear proofs of preference ; but which, they are afterwards assured by persons better experienced in the ways of the world, "meant nothing." They are even derided by these older and wiser heads, for
haying been so weak as to attribute sincerity to men gentle at least in birth, manners, and breeding. Meanwhile, the fatal seed is sown, to bring forth a plentiful crop of cares or coquetry. The girl, thus sharply roused from the reveries of a first attachment, becomes either disconsolate, peevish, and infirm of health, or rash and reckless, prepared to inflict on others the injury sus- tained by herself.
It is to avoid this crying evil, that the French have imagined the manage de canrenance. The great improbability, the almost impossibility, that the chances of society should unite in marriage persons attracted towards each other by a first mutual choice, first inspired the idea of leaving such selections to the dis- cretion of older beads; an arrangement modified bv the reforms of modern society into a suggestion of selection, to be approved or disapproved by the parties. To insure the success of such a system, it is necessary, however, to forestal the danger of adverse impressions. Hence the early marriages of the French ; hence their objection to the introduction of unmarried girls into worldly pas- times. Rarely do they visit a ball-room, still more rarely a theatre. The man destined to become their husband, is the first to offer them those attentions which rarely fail to move the feelings of a very young person, instructed to regard the vagaries of choice exercised among ourselves as indelicate and mon- strous. The influence of domestic affections, of a community of interests, of peremptory duties, completes the charm. And though much may be urged against the wisdom of conventional marriages, yet after examining the domes- tic history of the higher classes in both countries, more especially when in- cluding in the investigation the condition of the single as well as the morality of the married, it will be seen that the question is inure nicely balanced than a cursory glance would lead us to suppose.
THE OLD REGLME.
There was something in the intonation of their voices characteristic of per- sons trained from infancy in observance of the gentler courtesies of life. There was something in their countenances indicative of the exercise of intellect in conversation, rather than in research. No deep furrows resulting from reflec- tion—no intellectualization of the eye from habitual self-interrogation ; but, in their place, the shrewd glance—the rapid smile—the intelligent play of couu- tenance, consequent upon perpetual representation on the stage of the world ; the roundness and polish produced by continual friction against each other, while borne like pebbles along the current of life; and the fluency engendered by talking for half a century with those talkers par excellence' who, whatever may be their esprit de concluite, are without rivals as regards resprit de con- versation.
A PARLIAMENTARY LORD.
No man in England understood the science of borouglimoneery better than Lord Brooks; and if he congratulated himself on his rare good fortune in ob- taining for so many years the management of the Parliamentary interest of his young neighbour of Greville Abbey, most people were of opinion that the troublesome charge could not have been undertaken by a political overseer better skilled in the art of voter-driving. It was a whim to which his Lord- ship gave up his life as eagerly as some men to collecting. ,00arden-hugs or clas- sify ing vermin ; secure from being considered weak or trifling, so long as their bobby is dignified by a place among the ologies. Comporting himself, more- over, in his official calling with a turgid solemnity, such as Lord Grizzle might have envied, he filled his place as well as another, as a fractional representative of that abstract quintessence or quintessential abstraction, called, by the cour- tesy of nations, the wisdom of Parliament. The Senate—the Senate in its material form, rather than as the type of the Constitution—was the Temple of Jaggernaut in which his Lordship bowed the knee. Instead of crying "a plague o' both their houses," he daily invoked blessings on both Lords and Commons ! He would rather have found himself Speaker of either the one or the other, than Sovereign of the realm ; nay, the privilege of British sovereignty which he most envied, was that of addressing the senatorial "lords and gentlemen " twice a year from the throne, in a strain of "taffeta terms precise,' hold as the thunder of the property-room, and worthy the grandiloquence of the state papers of the Celestial Empire. Parliament, Parliament—he could talk of nothing but Parliament ! " Did they make a House ? "—" Has the House divided ? "—" Is the House up ? "— " What majority? "—were the only questions Lord Brooks ever thought of addressing to the friend who shook hands with him in the street. Even at his country-seat, his discourse was ever of the thens and sinews of his false god— corporations and registrations—votes and voters. His society was regulated by the dial of his Parliamentary interests. He bore with bores even greater than himself, if strong supporters on the hustings; and seldom gave away so much SS a brace of pheasants or a pine-apple without some view, remote or proximate, to a general election. Happy the country to sweep the crossings of whose con- stitution affords occupation so harmless to an elderly gentleman of Lord Brooks's importance.
A STRANGER AT A LONDON PARTY.
Discouraged and abashed, Greville looked vainly round for a single familiar face. Cold looks of investigation were fixed upon the entrance of the stranger. As he was one whom no one appeared to know, no one cared to know him. A few of the young men lounging about, perceiving something in the cut of his Parisian coat that differed slightly from their own, set him down as a tiger ; and poor Greville, apprehensive of making his retreat too precipitate, could only fix himself with his back against the wall, till the conclusion of the qua- drille enabled him to go in search of the Lady Dronelys.
" Fred Massingberd certainly reckoned without his hostess in fancying that - I should be too warmly welcomed in London," mused the Earl, as, one after another, the beauties of the evening honoured him by a cold stare, and went their way; and it was perhaps in repayal for their ungraciousness, that he began to play the critic, in his turn, upon the slovenliness of their dress and the ungainliness of their deportment. The room was ill-lighted ; the floor was mean. There was nothing of the brilliancy—nothing of the air de fete of a Paris ball. People seemed to be there because they could not help it—not for any pleasure they found in the entertainment. The women wore their ill-set, ill-cleaned diamonds, as if they would have considered it an act of coquetry to dispose them with taste ; the men to dance, as if it were an act of derogation to show civility to their partners. Such was Greville's resume, after com- paring the ball of Lady Wirksworth with the gracious, graceful fetes of the Faubourg St. Germain.
Still more disagreeably was lie impressed by the multitude of quizzical cha- perons disfiguring the ball-room. old ladies from sixty to eighty, and old gentlemen from sixty to a hundred, were seen nodding their heads and turbans an every direction. The dancers were girls and boys ; the rest mummies. Few or none of those fascinating creatures, who, retaining the freshness of youth in combination with the winning graces of matronhad, constitute the real attraction of a ball-room. After looking on for a quarter of an hour, Greville turned away without the slightest interest in the scene. There was nothing to captivate the eye of the mere spectator. Already he had made up his mind not to enter another ball-room during his stay in London.
Two withered faces, beaming with gracious smiles, presented themselves at that moment before him—the Marquis of Droneham and Lady Jane—profuse
in their expressions of regret at not impossible; having been there to present him in form as to the hostess. And now departure w for no sooner was the Inquiry set on foot by all present concerning the good-looking stranger to whom Lord Droneham was paying such marked attentions, answered by Lady Wirks-
Worth with the intelligence that it was Lord Greville of Greville Abbey, the greatest match of the day, than every one present was clamouring for an Intro- duction.
raftscie AND ENGLISH DANDIES. • Fred Massingberd himself became somewhat subdued in his impertinence, after a week's sojourn among those who were k sither intimidated nor capti- vated by his brusgueries. 1 he utmost emotion ne had excited was surprise; and when he discovered that his credit as a Crockfordite went for nothing, either in shop, club, or coterie—that he was required to pay his way in ready money and ready wit—he became reduced to his true level. The bravado of a London man of small fortune, out of London, is precisely the discomfited audacity of a buffoon in a pantomime, who attempts to astonish the audience with a wonderful leap, and has the trap-door slammed in his face. .Not that in Paris, especially in its less exclusive clubs, he did not find specimens of la Jeune France, having a cigar or a bet constantly in their mouths, who vied with himself in talking of steeple-chases and opera-dancers, though with less proficiency than their St. James's Street prototypes. But these were not the rising patricians of Paris. These were mere pretenders to consequence and fashion. The young associates of Lord Greville in the salons of the Fau- bourg Sr. Germain, if in truth equally dissolute, were at least well-brecLand ac- complished. Their slang was not introduced into such circles as those of Ma- dame de Rostanges. However high their stake at whist or their bets at the Jockey Club—however wild their pursuits there or elsewhere—no sooner did they present themselves in female society than their tone became insensibly re- fined, their manners deferential, and their conversation animated and polished. Massingberd would gladly have disparaged them. But, after calling them " spooneys " for a day or two, he was forced to admit (oh' universal criterion of merit in the mind of a young Englishman!) that they had horses which would not disgrace Hyde Park, and rode them with courage and address.
A " SUPERIOR " FRENCHMAN.
English people of superior abilities are apt to concentrate themselves into a stern gravity, which, with the uninformed, passes for:dulness. The French, even the most reflective, reflect aloud. Their meditative powers are vocable. If, according to our code, "happiness is born a twin," philosophy has with them a birth equally copartite. A superior man does not imply, in France, man too clever for ordinary purposes, who distinguishes himself by got-up speeches in Parliament, or articles in some quarterly review; but one who is ever ready to enlighten his associates by the exercise of his colloquial powers— one who "does not hold his ideas too sacred to be communicated—one who is prompt to aid in the circulation of the current coin of wisdom, without resting satisfied that in his sullen treasury lie hoarded the ingots of knowledge. It means a man who is a charming companion ; a man who talks as Montaigne writes ; a man of whose fluent, easy philosophy, one is never weary.
This readiness of speech is perhaps attributable to an irritability of tempera- ment rare in our phlegmatic clime. No one could watch the mutable expres- sion of the beautiful eyes of Eugenie de Nangis, or the rapid variations of her complexion, without discerning that she felt earnestly and thought rapidly ; that her sensibility was at least as keen as her intelligence. Still less could a person versed in the mysteries of the female character survey such demonstra- tions without feeling that for her own happiness and the happiness of others, a being thus endowed should have been trained under a very different system from the superficial modes of French education; that a mind thus organized should have been stored with information, not suffered to grow feeble and in- flated by inaction, in order that, through knowledge of others, it might attain knowledge of itself.