The Princesse is sister to our friend Prince Ischetella at Naples, and, like all her country-women, appears sensible and unaffected. She and Mademoiselle Dorotea speak English perfectly well, and profess a great liking to England and its inhabitants. The Dowager Lady Hawarden, the Marquise de Brehan, the Baroness d’Etlingen, Madame d’Ocaris, Lady Barbara Craufurd, and Lady Combermere, composed the rest of the female portion of the party.
Lady Hawarden has been very pretty: what a melancholy phrase is this same has been! The Marquise de Brehan is still a very fine woman; Lady Combermere is very agreeable, and sings with great expression; and the rest of the ladies, always excepting Lady Barbara Craufurd, who is very pretty, were very much like most other ladies of a certain time of life—addicted to silks and blondes, and well aware of their relative prices.
Madame Craufurd is very amusing. With all the naivete of a child, she possesses a quick perception of character and a freshness of feeling rarely found in a person of her advanced age, and her observations are full of originality.
The tone of society at Paris is very agreeable. Literature, the fine arts, and the general occurrences of the day, furnish the topics for conversation, from which ill-natured remarks are exploded. A ceremoniousness of manner, reminding one of la Vieille Cour, and probably rendered a la mode by the restoration of the Bourbons, prevails; as well as a strict observance of deferential respect from the men towards the women, while these last seem to assume that superiority accorded to them in manner, if not entertained in fact, by the sterner sex.
The attention paid by young men to old women in Parisian society is very edifying, and any breach of it would be esteemed nothing short of a crime. This attention is net evinced by any flattery, except the most delicate—a profound silence when these belles of other days recount anecdotes of their own times, or comment on the occurrences of ours, or by an alacrity to perform the little services of picking up a fallen mouchoir de poche, bouquet, or fan, placing a shawl, or handing to a carriage.
If flirtations exist at Paris, they certainly are not exhibited in public; and those between whom they are supposed to be established observe a ceremonious decorum towards each other, well calculated to throw discredit on the supposition. This appearance of reserve may be termed hypocrisy; nevertheless, even the semblance of propriety is advantageous to the interests of society; and the entire freedom from those marked attentions, engrossing conversations, and from that familiarity of manner often permitted in England, without even a thought of evil on the part of the women who permit these indiscretions, leaves to Parisian circles an air of greater dignity and decorum, although I am not disposed to admit that the persons who compose them really possess more dignity or decorum than my compatriots.