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much to lighten our task, great though it be, by gaining the affections and trust of the Mohammedan portion of the pop
ulation, once, but no longer hostile, and it rests with ourselves to do so.Nineteenth Century.
FRANCE AS IT IS AND WAS:
GOVERNMENT AND SOCIETY.
BY A PARISIAN.'
Il faut savoir où telle pensée est logée en son auteur, is one of the profoundest thoughts expressed by that profoundest of thinkers, Pascal. If this precept were strictly adhered to, there would be fewer mistakes in the judgments passed on different races. The common phrase, How such a nation has changed," is a merely superficial comment on outward appearances, for, as a matter of fact, races change very little. We do not sufficiently study the permanent but hidden sources whence the real nature of a race is derived. We neglect to learn accurately where such or such a parent force is "lodged" (où telle pensée est logée) and we omit to see that, according to this original cause, so will be produced the developments of the race in spite of all contrary appearances.
The true and persistent nature of a race is mainly to be discovered at those points where what the Germans term the prehistoric harmonies between the physical and spiritual elements are least disturbed; where the completest equilibrium is established in the individual specimens of a race-namely, where the type of the race is most perfect. Taking ourselves as an example, for instance, no nation has assumed greater varieties of aspect than the British; yet we shall be found unchanged if what constitutes our very cause of being be adequately bared to the touch.
We seemed different under Edward III. or Charles I., under Elizabeth, or Cromwell, or the Georges, or the present confused conditions of our life; but we are the Vikings we were a thousand years ago, and the home and the source of our thought "the idea of our very being-is" lodged "' for ever in strength and faith, the power to do deeds ourselves, and the capacity of trust in others. Behave as we may under some passing impulse or delusion, if once the
race realizes that it is being attacked in its might or its faithfulness, it will to a certainty prove that its true nature is unaltered.
Just so, too, with the French. The natural nature of the race-that which constitutes their physical and moral unity as a race-has never changed. The spring whence flows their being, the home where lodges their thought, is found in dependence and doubt. The Briton trusts others because he relies upon himself; the Frenchman doubts all men because he has no stubborn faith in himself, and, in general, no stubbornness of will.
Study the records of French history, dissect the finest fibres of the organism yclept Society; through every opposing semblance, through the basest servility and the fiercest revolt, through bigotry or atheism, and licentiousness or prudery, through despotism or demagogy, you will always seize the same guiding threads that lead to the centre of the maze, and you will find face to face with you a psychical unity that equally inspires, from the earliest ages down to the present day, all the apparent antagonisms of French society.
Under the Valois and the Bourbons, through Gallicans, Jesuits, or Voltairians, from Versailles and Louis XIV., down to the Malmaison of the First and the Compiègne of the Third Empire, you will recognize the same spirit fleshed. in varying garbs, and know that the racethought is lodged in the same places.
This is the chief reason which makes it in reality so much easier to understand society in France than in almost any other country; and, granted certain circumstances, gives a so much readier foresight into how they will meet them. You can almost always divine what they will do, because you have a sure key to why they will do it. But for this you must know them, not
take them for granted, but live with them, live of their inner life, which they never, if they can avoid it, share with a stranger. They have a Dictionnaire de l'Académie for their lives as for their language, and "cela n'est pas Français" applies equally to the men and women of France under the age of Grévy and Gambetta as to those of the eleventh century, when Anna Comnena scribbled about them at the Court of Byzantium. No second-hand information will avail here; no listening at key-holes à la Vassili; no treasuring up of anfe-room gossip. You must think with them, if you can, see with their eyes, sink a shaft deep into their mine, dig up their ore, whether copper, tin, or gold; for what is not theirs has no import. That done, they are easy enough to comprehend and to portray; but never seek to bring any external force to bear upon them, or apply any rules to them, save their own; you would drift into hopeless confusion, and their ever-changing outward manifestations would so jumble together all your faculties of discernment that you might as well try to live in a kaleidoscope.
Probably the two best tests of what a nation is, of its qualities and defects, are religion and marriage. How a man How a man mates, and how he believes, will give a tolerably sure clew to the nature of the man himself. In France the two are indissolubly bound together, but marriage comes first. Marriage makes the human creature which is, later on, to believe or disbelieve; and while half of his belief is the result of teaching, the other half comes from the quality of
his own mind. Now in both these matters, that of piety and that of marriage, France stands apart from almost all other countries. The French do not believe in love. This is a sweeping statement, it may be said, but if not accepted as a fundamental truth, the surest of all "Open Sesames to the arcana of French society fails the observer.
In every other civilized country love is admitted as a possible modifier and framer of morals and manners. In Italy and Spain, where-whatever may be the internal orthodoxy-the habits of life are Catholic, love marriages do occasionally take place. They may be deplored as inconvenient to family proj
ects, or imprudent or prejudicial to the man's interests or position, but a man is not lessened in the general esteem because he has married for love. In exclusive Austria (as also in more philosophical though scarcely less aristocratic Germany) the power of personal affection, i.e. the principle of this one and no other," is so universally acknowledged, that the most frequent form of love-match is the least admissible, that of the utterest mésalliance, the union of a grandee among grandees with a milkmaid, of a prince with a peasant. Setting aside the heart dramas that make Austrian and German history so interesting in the past, our own age tells us of Archduke John-him whom Immerman* apostrophizes as
Oh! Theurer, lieber, Erzherzog Johannand his brave stable-maiden of a wife, respected, honored, consulted by every Hapsburg in existence; and of Prince Oettinger Wallenstein, in Bavaria, and his beautiful Crescentia, by common consent exalted to the level of the bluest
blooded dames; and dozens of others may be quoted in nearly every European country-Catholic as well as Protestant. "" accident But not alone is the practice there to confirm our statement, but the theory has been laid down, and the principle established, in the same mode in which we seek to establish it
regarding France, by one of the acutest thinkers and one of the completest men
of the world of modern times.
famous Prince de Ligne, writing at the end of the last century, to a Grand Seigneur of France, his friend, says :
"... Take heed of what you are doing: by the sales you are encouraging of your sons to the daughters of soap-boilers and marchand de bois, you will make of their children mere hucksters and peddlers-at best, petty bourgeois; while when an Austrian or Hungarian prince marries a peasant-girl for love, his progeny are princely as himself."
In those words lies the whole secret —true then, still truer now. Nearly all the successive social modifications of French society may be traced to the fact of the inability of the French nation to conceive of real love, and from this negation has gradually grown up the
formidable power of clericalism (as distinct from religion), of that clericalism which has mainly contributed to transform the external aspects of society in France to what we see them now.
France is the only country in the world in which a man is positively lessened if he has married for love. It casts on him a kind of taint of insanity, leads people generally to doubt of his being employable for any practical purpose and, as a matter of fact, he hardly ever is so and entirely isolates him from his kind. Of course there are particular cases in which some daring individual has in this way challenged public opinion; but if those (comparatively few) who have committed this folly would produce the long list of failure and misery it has entailed upon them-the exile in some distant province, the exclusion from common pursuits, the destruction of healthy ambitions, the distrust of their fellows, and ultimate admission by both of their own mistakeit would be seen that the price paid for, at best, a questionable happiness, is so high as to deter the immense majority from accepting such a risk.
Marriage is a business, love a phase to be lived through; and it is the attempt at mixing up the two that is so bitterly punished. A man may marry his cook if he likes it, or he may live with his mistress (provided he have some reason for it); in the one case, as in the other, he remains virtually single; and if he is of any practical value to society he is made use of, without any regard to the "encumbrances" that are left at home and never taken into account. But what is forbidden is that love shall be raised to the dignity of a social constituent, a source of consideration, a power to be parleyed with like money, or rank, or any genuine indisputable superiority. If that could come to pass, it would transform too many time-honored customs and ways, and this brings us direct to the juxtaposition of religion and marriage in France, and to some of the most curious aspects of French society at the present hour.
A fact or two may prove more than whole pages of disquisitions. Under the later years of the Restoration, one of the greatest ladies in France, one of those with whose family almost every
historic name in the country has been allied, was left a widow with an infant son. She had delicate health, and may be said to have owed her life to the talent and devoted care of a young and very distinguished physician. They were much attached to each other, and her family so patronized the man who had preserved to them a (then) much beloved relative, that his fortune was to be considered made, and his fame brilliantly established; but the lady was a true Christian, taking the articles of her faith au serieux, and she decided for marriage. They married, and survivors of the wedding ceremony tell to this day how the great lords of her line assembled at the doors of the vestry to mock and insult bride and bridegroom as they passed. The event created a never forgotten sensation. The man was ruined; the woman crushed, driven into solitude, and held up to the eyes of her son, by all who bore his name, as an object of scandal and of shame. "But you all encouraged the intimacy. at first?" was objected by certain simple-minded people. "Intimacy!'' was the invariable retort; yes, but we supposed it was of quite another sort! We could never have supposed one of our blood would commit the crime of marrying a plebeian! (and for love!)''
"Then why do you marry your sons to girls out of the gutter?" was sometimes rejoined.
"That is altogether different—we ennoble the individual woman. Her family disappears; she dies to them.'
And there we come to the greatest political as well as social transformation that has occurred in France since '89, and in which the clergy is the prominent factor. But of this anon. Reverting
to our former theme: if love were to be acknowledged as a constituent element of society, as it is in England, an enduring force, what would become of the present system of education? and what of that tremendous power, the mothers? It is the mothers in France who are responsible for the men, and they refuse to admit of any rival, and what is termed the world sides with them.
One of the brightest and most illustrious of all France's sons, Alexis de Tocqueville, could tell a curious tale of this divided allegiance between the fam
ily and the wife. He knew what it cost him, spite of all his superiority, to be allowed to fill high places. Without the February Revolution of '48 he never could have done so. And, worst of all, the cause of the crime was a foreigner, an English woman. But Tocqueville's was a highly chivalrous nature, and the partner of his fault never felt the price paid. He loved on to the end, but was she forgiven? Never! Tocqueville's career was soon cut short; he died relatively young, and is now mostly spoken of by his own connections as "ce pauvre Alexis."
Now, about the education and the main educator, the mother. We have said she tolerates no rival. She is jealous of everything, to begin with, of whatsoever expands or elevates the mind, for this leads away from the spirit of dependence. She takes no interest in classical studies, but rather votes Greeks and Romans subversive. "What's Hecuba to her?" is more than true, for she dislikes Hecuba consumedly," and will none of her.
But, then, where are the dangers and where the safeguards of her supremacy? They are two love and marriage. If these could join together she would be lost; therefore, while recognizing both, but keeping them well asunder, she obliges each to destroy the integrity of the other. She is unconsciously the accomplice of all her son's shortcomings, for she calls all this by other names, and raves of "maternal affection" and indulgence," for which reason let unconsciousness be pleaded.
What is the average bringing-up" of the vast majority of Frenchmen? During the first seven or eight years of childhood wholly and solely the government of the mother, with all the fatal spoiling that an uneducated woman finds conducive to her own ease and comfort; with absence of all proper examples, "duty" being a word the boy never hears; with irregularity and disorder of more than one description pervading the household, and perpetual disputes between husband and wife, and conversations at meals that no decent person (let alone a child) should have his ears polluted by. From this home nurture he migrates to le Collège (whether lay or clerical). There begins
his "battle," not of "life," unfortunately, but of all his worst instincts against the silliest, pettiest of compressions, which makes learning hateful. Memory is the one faculty cultivated; cramming is resorted to unlimitedly, and here again "duty" is a word the sound whereof is unheard. Discipline, healthy discipline, which teaches sacrifice, consideration for others, and, above all, the respect of self, this discipline is unknown. known. The proud self-respect which through life guides a gentleman as to the things that he may do, fails the "bringing-up" of Frenchmen in both the systems-Catholic or lay-to which they are subjected. The lay teacher inculcates it not, because he ignores it, and the Catholic tramples it under foot because it is contrary to that so-called "humility" whence springs self-abasement, and whereon is founded (let this never be forgotten) the moral rule of the clergy in France.
Well, at from fifteen to eighteen this ill-trained youth escapes from the schools which, under every imaginable circumstance, he hates, and reverts to the domestic centre, where years have usually been far from bettering matters. He brings the semi-maturity of earliest manhood to bear upon what, in childhood, was a mere image to his sense, and he is at the outset deprived of any wish to discriminate or judge, because he is without all motive to admire or esteem. His mind has been left fallow, and his heart (if he happen to have one) beats for false and sickly sentiment only. All human nature being, as he conceives, weak and unworthy, there can be but one virtue-indulgence, commiseration for inevitable wrong.
Here, again, he finds his mother, who seizes upon him, body and soul, and with far worse effect than during the earlier period of her sway.
The real aim of life is supposed by all to be enjoyment. The largest and surest source of enjoyment is money; so money must be got. This means marriage with a rich wife.
Yes! Marriage is the one goal which a French mother foresees while her firstBut as she
born is lying in his cradle. (the mother) is to be protected before all else, and to retain possession of "her boy" as long as possible, marriage
is to be to the utmost extent shorn of its dangers, rendered as little mischievous as may be. If the man be possessed for his wife of that pure, holy, ennobling, satisfying love which in Christian lands is, at all events theoretically, admitted as the basis of the conjugal union, he will be absorbed, carried away into other regions, and become half of a dual whole. He might, for his mother, as well be dead. Yet he must marry, and be wealthy, so that he may enjoy life. But marriage is the end; in order that it may be a haven of rest and comfort," there must, in the beginning, have been something else! And here you obtain a clear vision of those two fatal halves of a Frenchman's life. Half a century ago, the process entailed far less misery, less wickedness, and less mental deterioration than it does in the present, because the immorality of France was, if more licentious perhaps, far less vicious; it was, so to say, a manner of innocent immorality and did far less harm. But, since then, what is dignified by the name of la passion has come, seen, and conquered," and we have made acquaintance with the "Antonys," and, worst of all, with the "Dames aux Camellias."
Nor, as will be easy to see, has this militated in any way against the proper division of existence into two separate halves, but just the reverse the wife, if in any degree a charming or superior woman, has more than a fair chance with a husband whose only distractions have been those of a lower species; but if you come to Traviatas of an interesting kind, to Marguerite Gauthiers who may have surrounded themselves with imitation respectability to any amount, and in truth want nothing except the right to their neighbors' respect-if you waylay the heart, and subjugate whatever there may be of it, once, it has later in life but a remnant to dispose of, and the other one, the legitimate companion, comes in for the small portion only of what in former times was reputed to constitute the whole happiness and dignity of life. The "dignity" remains, and the wife lays claim to it entire, and that far, she gets the mother as a firm ally; but as the affections of a Frenchman rarely yield a second crop, she must content herself with
the lesser harvest the spring, with its exuberance, its freshness, its blooms, is not for her it is over, and was another's; and when life wanes, there is nothing to recall between these two partners." She is an object of the highest consideration as la mère de mes enfants, if there are any; but there is no blessed past they have gone through together, and that, with reflective radiance, rises like a rainbow and bridges over any transient storm. On the contrary there is mostly an unhallowed memory somewhere, that may assume a sudden form, and, in a crowded theatre or a railway station, confront the former lover, whose lawful owner will feel a tremor of the arm she leans on, nor guess at what has caused the electric shock, so little of magnetism is there between him and her. On such occasions he recurs to his mother, if she still live, for in former days she was the consoler. And in the hours of agony, and what the sufferer-if he be worth anything-likes to think despair, she was ever ready to pity and sympathize with what she knew could not endure. For there lies the mortal ill.
But don't Frenchmen fall in love like other people?" is a natural question to ask. Assuredly they do "fall in love'' after a fashion, but not quite 'like other people.' Our assertion is not that they do not fall (namely, tumble or drift) into love, but that they do not believe in love. They do fall in love," but avec des reserves! and that calm reserve of themselves for future contingencies, there (where enthusiasm, wrapt self-oblivion, are the power and virtue of the circumstance) will be found at the root of all the weakness, the indifference, the emptiness of mind and soul that are now culminating in the contemptible pessimism that is the soidisant inspirer of modern society in France. In whatever he attempts the Frenchman is half-hearted: he is supposed to love, he is "reserving" himself for marriage; he marries, and brings to his wife ses restes. He is always drinking from a riven cup. He knows the rift is there, and that one day it must break and lie shattered in his hands; and yet he would fain dream of pouring into that damaged vessel the pure nectar of the gods.