Take it as a maxim, unalterable as the laws of the Medes and Persians, that whenever you are invited to a supper at Paris, Lyons, or any of the great cities, where a little trifling play commences before supper, that GREAT PLAY is intended after supper; and that you are the marked pigeon to be plucked. Always remember Lord Chesterfield’s advice to his son: “If you play with men, know with whom you play; if with women, for what:” and don’t think yourself the more secure, because you see at the same table some of your own countrymen, though they are Lords or Ladies; a London gambler would have no chance in a Parisian party.
Dress is an essential and most important consideration with every body in France. A Frenchman never appears till his hair is well combed and powdered, however slovenly he may be in other respects.—Not being able to submit every day to this ceremony, the servant to a gentleman of fashion at whose house I visited in Marseilles, having forgot my name described me to his master, as the gentleman whose hair was toujours mal frise.—Dress is a foolish thing, says Lord Chesterfield; yet it is a foolish thing not to be well dressed.
You cannot dine, or visit after dinner, in an undress frock, or without a bag to your hair; the hair en queue, or a little cape to your coat, would be considered an unpardonable liberty. Military men have an advantage above all others in point of dress, in France; a regimental or military coat carries a man with a bonne grace into all companies, with or without a bag to his hair; it is of all others the properest dress for a stranger in France, on many accounts.
In France it is not customary to drink to persons at table, nor to drink wine after dinner: when the dessert is taken away, so is the wine;—an excellent custom, and worthy of being observed by all nations.
It is wrong to be led into any kind of conversation, but what is absolutely necessary, with the common, or indeed the middling class of people in France. They never fail availing themselves of the least condescension in a stranger, to ask a number of impertinent questions, and to conclude, you answer them civilly, that they are your equals.—Sentiment and bashfulness are not to be met with, but among people of rank in France: to be free and easy, is the etiquette of the country; and some kinds of that free and easy manner, are highly offensive to strangers, and particularly to a shy Englishman.
When well-bred people flatter strangers, they seldom direct their flattery to the object they mean to compliment, but to one of their own country:—As, what a bonne grace the English have, says one to the other, in a whisper loud enough to be heard by the whole company, who all give a nod of consent; yet in their hearts they do not love the English of all other nations, and therefore conclude, that the English in their hearts do not love them.