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NORTH BRITISH REVIEW.
FEBRUARY AND MAY, 1860.
AMERICAN EDITION, VOL. XXVII.
79 FULTON STREET, CORNER OF GOLD STREBT.
Art. I.- Souvenirs et Correspondance tirés not a fact to be disputed; and therefore the
des papiers de Madame Récamier. 2 Vols. institution—" salon," is of importance. But Paris : Michel Levy.
from its de facto importance to its actual
worth, and to the admission of its beneficial It has been a constant subject of regret with influence, there is some distance. We do men of the world in our own country, that not think it easy to exaggerate the mere imthe social habits of France in former times portance of salon life, as it once was, in (namely, the establishment of social inter. France. The questions that depend 'imcourse upon intellectual bases) should never mediately upon it are no less than these : have been introduced into England. From the superiority of domestic over social inHorace Walpole to Lord Holland, you fluences, and vice versa ; the more or less meet everywhere with the strong feeling of active power of women in public affairs ; French superiority, as far as the organiza- the respect for intelligence, or the subtion of society is concerned. It is quite serviency to wealth; the substitution of clear that we envy the French their salons, coterieism for public opinion, and several and that directly an Englishman ceases to others we could name. Because all these be an irreclaimable “ sporting character," or questions bear upon the morals of a nation, to be riveted to the mere drudgery of poli
. and have mainly contributed to fashion the tical life, he is ready at once to exclaim, public life of France to what we now see, “Why don't we talk like the French? why we maintain that le salon, as the term was are we so utterly ignorant of what they understood some years back by our neighterm la causerie?"
bours, is a thing of very great importance, Now, at the same time with this, may be and ought to be studied by all who wish to observed in France the disposition to cast a obtain an accurate knowledge of French regretful, retrograde glance upon society as civilization as it has been and is. it once existed in that country, and to say Whether our inability ever to found the with a sigh, " The real genuine salon exists salon-sovereignty in our own society be, or no longer—it is extinct.” From the sad- be not, to be regretted, -that, we take to ness with which Frenchmen speak of the belong to a different order of topics, and to decline and fall of salon life, and from the be subject to a different system of disregret expressed by Englishmen whom we cussion. have been thought to regard as of superior The first salon established in France (for intelligence, that no such thing could be in social life especially Paris is France) was established in our own country, we might that of Madame de Rambouillet in 1620; reasonably infer that the Paris salon was a the last one was that of Madame Récamier. social institution of importance and undeni. What precedes the former, and what follows able worth.
the latter, are equally without action, and That the “salon,” such as it was consti- undeserving of note. The great Revolution tuted in France from Madame de Ram- of '89-'93 has passed between the two bouillet down to Madame Récamier, was epochs, and has torn up out of the political one of the chief springs whereby the poli- soil all the roots wherefrom other nations tical and social machine was set working, is draw their political existence. A crown has VOL. XXXII.