But it was reserved for the reign of Louis the Fifteenth to develope still more extensively the corruption planted by his predecessor. The influence exercised on society by the baleful example of his court had not yet ceased, and time had not been allowed for the reign of the mild monarch who succeeded that gross voluptuary to work the reform in manners, if not in morals, which his own personal habits were so well calculated to produce. It required the terrible lesson given by the Revolution to awaken the natural feelings of affection that had so long slumbered supinely in the enervated hearts of the higher classes in France, corrupted by long habits of indulgence in selfish gratifications. The lesson at once awoke even the most callous; while those, and there were many such, who required it not, furnished the noblest examples of high courage and self-devotion to the objects dear to them.
In exile and in poverty, when all extraneous sources of consolation were denied them, those who if still plunged in pleasure and splendour might have remained insensible to the blessings of family ties, now turned to them with the yearning fondness with which a last comfort is clasped, and became sensible how little they had hitherto estimated them.
Once awakened from their too long and torpid slumber, the hearts purified by affliction learned to appreciate the blessings still left them, and from the fearful epoch of the Revolution a gradual change may be traced in the habits and feelings of the French people. Terrible has been the expiation of their former errors, but admirable has been the result; for nowhere can be now found more devoted parents, more dutiful children, or more attached relatives, than among the French noblesse.
If the lesson afforded by the Revolution to the upper class has been attended with a salutary effect, it has been scarcely less advantageous to the middle and lower; for it has taught them the dangers to be apprehended from the state of anarchy that ever follows on the heels of popular convulsions, exposing even those who participated in them to infinitely worse evils than those from which they hoped to escape by a subversion of the legitimate government.
These reflections have been suggested by a description given to me, by one who mixed much in Parisian society previously to the Revolution, of the habits, modes, and usages of the haute noblesse of that period, and who is deeply sensible of the present regeneration. This person, than whom a more impartial recorder of the events of that epoch cannot be found, assured me that the accounts given in the memoirs and publications of the state of society at that epoch were by no means exaggerated, and that the domestic habits and affections at present so universally cultivated in France were, if not unknown, at least neglected.