It is not wise to exhibit to a people, and above all to so inflammable a people as the French, what they can effect; and I confess I felt uneasy when I witnessed the deep interest and satisfaction evinced by many in the parterre during the representation.
The Apres, the third epoch, is even more calculated to encourage revolutionary principles, for in it was displayed the elevation to the highest grades in the army and in the state of those who in the ancien regime would have remained as the Revolution found them, in the most obscure stations, but who by that event had brilliant opportunities afforded for distinguishing themselves.
Heroic courage, boundless generosity, and devoted patriotism, are liberally bestowed on the actors who figure in this last portion of the drama; and, as these qualities are known to have appertained to many of those who really filled the roles enacted at the period now represented, the scene had, as might be expected, a powerful effect on a people so impressible as the French, and so liable to be hurried into enthusiasm by aught that appeals to their imaginations.
The applause was deafening; and I venture to say, that those from whom it proceeded left the theatre with a conviction that a revolution was a certain means of achieving glory and fortune to those who, with all the self-imagined qualities to merit both, had not been born to either.
Every Frenchman in the middle or lower class believes himself capable of arriving at the highest honours. This belief sometimes half accomplishes the destiny it imagines; but even when it fails to effect this, it ever operates in rendering Frenchmen peculiarly liable to rush into any change or measure likely to lead to even a chance of distinction.
As during the performance of Avant, Pendant et Apres, my eye glanced on the faces of some of the emigrant noblesse, restored to France by the entry of the Bourbons, I marked the changes produced on their countenances by it. Anxiety, mingled with dismay, was visible; for the scenes of the past were vividly recalled, while a vague dread of the future was instilled. Yes, the representation of this piece is a dangerous experiment, and so I fear it will turn out.
I am sometimes amused, but more frequently irritated, by observing the moeurs Parisiennes, particularly in the shop-keepers. The airs of self-complacency, amounting almost to impertinence, practised by this class, cannot fail to surprise persons accustomed to the civility and assiduity of those in London, who, whether the purchases made in their shops be large or small, evince an equal politeness to the buyers.
In Paris, the tradesman assumes the right of dictating to the taste of his customers; in London, he only administers to it. Enter a Parisian shop, and ask to be shewn velvet, silk, or riband, to assort with a pattern you have brought of some particular colour or quality, and the mercer, having glanced at it somewhat contemptuously, places before you six or eight pieces of a different tint and texture.