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73 Works of Eliot Gregory

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The phrase at the head of this chapter and other sentences, such as “American Society in Paris,” or London, are constantly on the lips of people who should know better. In reality these societies do not exist. Does my reader pause, wondering if he can believe his eyes? He has doubtless heard all his life […]

Few of the “carriage ladies and gentlemen” who disport themselves in Newport during the summer months, yachting and dancing through the short season, then flitting away to fresh fields and pastures new, realize that their daintily shod feet have been treading historic ground, or care to cast a thought back to the past. Oddly enough, […]

The most important event in modern history is the discovery of Europe by the Americans. Before it, the peoples of the Old World lived happy and contented in their own countries, practising the patriarchal virtues handed down to them from generations of forebears, ignoring alike the vices and benefits of modern civilization, as understood on […]

It is all very well for us to have invaded Europe, and awakened that somnolent continent to the lights and delights of American ways; to have beautified the cities of the old world with graceful trolleys and illuminated the catacombs at Rome with electricity. Every true American must thrill with satisfaction at these achievements, and […]

Introspection

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Introspection {276} Footnote: {276} December thirty-first, 1888. The close of a year must bring even to the careless and the least inclined toward self-inspection, an hour of thoughtfulness, a desire to glance back across the past, and set one’s mental house in order, before starting out on another stage of the journey for that none […]

The saying that “One-half of the world ignores how the other half lives” received for me an additional confirmation this last week, when I had the good fortune to meet again an old friend, now for some years retired from the stage, where she had by her charm and beauty, as well as by her […]

The Introducer

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We all suffer more or less from the perennial “freshness” of certain acquaintances–tiresome people whom a misguided Providence has endowed with over-flowing vitality and an irrepressible love of their fellowmen, and who, not content with looking on life as a continual “spree,” insist on making others happy in spite of themselves. Their name is legion […]

DEAR IDLER: I have been reading your articles in The Evening Post. They are really most amusing! You do know such a lot about people and things, that I am tempted to write and ask you a question on a subject that is puzzling me. What is it that is necessary to succeed–socially? There! It […]

Thackeray devoted a chapter in “Vanity Fair” to the problem “How to Live Well on Nothing a Year.” It was neither a very new nor a very ingenious expedient that “Becky” resorted to when she discounted her husband’s position and connection to fleece the tradespeople and cheat an old family servant out of a year’s […]

So completely has the dandy disappeared from among us, that even the word has an old-time look (as if it had strayed out of some half-forgotten novel or “keepsake”), raising in our minds the picture of a slender, clean-shaven youth, in very tight unmentionables strapped under his feet, a dark green frock-coat with a collar […]

On being taken the other day through a large and costly residence, with the thoroughness that only the owner of a new house has the cruelty to inflict on his victims, not allowing them to pass a closet or an electric bell without having its particular use and convenience explained, forcing them to look up […]

There has been too much said and written in the last dozen years about breaking down the “great wall” behind which the aristocrats of the famous Faubourg, like the Celestials, their prototypes, have ensconced themselves. The Chinese speak of outsiders as “barbarians.” The French ladies refer to such unfortunates as being “beyond the pale.” Almost […]

Men’s Manners

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Nothing makes one feel so old as to wake up suddenly, as it were, and realize that the conditions of life have changed, and that the standards you knew and accepted in your youth have been raised or lowered. The young men you meet have somehow become uncomfortably polite, offering you armchairs in the club, […]

When sixty years ago Lord Brougham, en route for Italy, was thrown from his travelling berline and his leg was broken, near the Italian hamlet of Cannes, the Riviera was as unknown to the polite world as the centre of China. The grand tour which every young aristocrat made with his tutor, on coming of […]

Governments may change and all the conditions of life be modified, but certain ambitions and needs of man remain immutable. Climates, customs, centuries, have in no way diminished the craving for consideration, the desire to be somebody, to bear some mark indicating to the world that one is not as other men. For centuries titles […]

Changing Paris

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Paris is beginning to show signs of the coming “Exhibition of 1900,” and is in many ways going through a curious stage of transformation, socially as well as materially. The Palais De l’Industrie, familiar to all visitors here, as the home of the Salons, the Horse Shows, and a thousand gay fetes and merry-makings, is […]

The Climber

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That form of misplaced ambition, which is the subject of the preceding chapter, can only be regarded seriously when it occurs among simple and sincere people, who, however derided, honestly believe that they are doing their duty to themselves and their families when they move heaven and earth to rise a few steps in the […]

A Rock Ahead

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Having had occasion several times during this past season, to pass by the larger stores in the vicinity of Twenty-third Street, I have been struck more than ever, by the endless flow of womankind that beats against the doors of those establishments. If they were temples where a beneficent deity was distributing health, learning, and […]

The Grand Prix

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In most cities, it is impossible to say when the “season” ends. In London and with us in New York it dwindles off without any special finish, but in Paris it closes like a trap-door, or the curtain on the last scene of a pantomime, while the lights are blazing and the orchestra is banging […]

"The Treadmill"

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A half-humorous, half-pathetic epistle has been sent to me by a woman, who explains in it her particular perplexity. Such letters are the windfalls of our profession! For what is more attractive than to have a woman take you for her lay confessor, to whom she comes for advice in trouble? opening her innocent heart […]

A frequent and naive complaint one hears, is of the unsatisfactoriness of servants generally, and their ingratitude and astonishing lack of affection for their masters, in particular. “After all I have done for them,” is pretty sure to sum up the long tale of a housewife’s griefs. Of all the delightful inconsistencies that grace the […]

The complaint is so often heard, and seems so well founded, that there is a growing inclination, not only among men of social position, but also among our best and cleverest citizens, to stand aloof from public life, and this reluctance on their part is so unfortunate, that one feels impelled to seek out the […]

We certainly are the most eccentric race on the surface of the globe and ought to be a delight to the soul of an explorer, so full is our civilization of contradictions, unexplained habits and curious customs. It is quite unnecessary for the inquisitive gentlemen who pass their time prying into other people’s affairs and […]

A Holy Land

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Not long ago an article came under my notice descriptive of the neighborhood around Grant’s tomb and the calm that midsummer brings to that vicinity, laughingly referred to as the “Holy Land.” As careless fingers wandering over the strings of a violin may unintentionally strike a chord, so the writer of those lines, all unconsciously, […]

Royalty At Play

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Few more amusing sights are to be seen in these days, than that of crowned heads running away from their dull old courts and functions, roughing it in hotels and villas, gambling, yachting and playing at being rich nobodies. With much intelligence they have all chosen the same Republican playground, where visits cannot possibly be […]

Slouch

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I should like to see, in every school-room of our growing country, in every business office, at the railway stations, and on street corners, large placards placed with “Do not slouch” printed thereon in distinct and imposing characters. If ever there was a tendency that needed nipping in the bud (I fear the bud is […]

The question of how far we are unconsciously influenced by people and surroundings, in our likes and dislikes, our opinions, and even in our pleasures and intimate tastes, is a delicate and interesting one, for the line between success and failure in the world, as on the stage or in most of the professions, is […]

Bohemia

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Lunching with a talented English comedian and his wife the other day, the conversation turned on Bohemia, the evasive no-man’s-land that Thackeray referred to, in so many of his books, and to which he looked back lovingly in his later years, when, as he said, he had forgotten the road to Prague. The lady remarked: […]

Social Exiles

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Balzac, in his Comedie Humaine, has reviewed with a master-hand almost every phase of the Social World of Paris down to 1850 and Thackeray left hardly a corner of London High Life unexplored; but so great have been the changes (progress, its admirers call it,) since then, that, could Balzac come back to his beloved […]

The progress through life of active-minded Americans is apt to be a series of transformations. At each succeeding phase of mental development, an old skin drops from their growing intelligence, and they assimilate the ideas and tastes of their new condition, with a facility and completeness unknown to other nations. One series of metamorphoses particularly […]

It is a sad commentary on our boasted civilization that cases of shoplifting occur more and more frequently each year, in which the delinquents are women of education and refinement, or at least belong to families and occupy positions in which one would expect to find those qualities! The reason, however, is not difficult to […]

A dear old American lady, who lived the greater part of her life in Rome, and received every body worth knowing in her spacious drawing-rooms, far up in the dim vastnesses of a Roman palace, used to say that she had only known one really happy marriage made by an American girl abroad. In those […]

Full as small intellects are of queer kinks, unexplained turnings and groundless likes and dislikes, the bland contentment that buoys up the incompetent is the most difficult of all vagaries to account for. Rarely do twenty-four hours pass without examples of this exasperating weakness appearing on the surface of those shallows that commonplace people so […]

The complacency that buoys up self-sufficient souls, soothing them with the illusion that they themselves, their towns, country, language, and habits are above improvement, causing them to shudder, as at a sacrilege, if any changes are suggested, is fortunately limited to a class of stay- at-home nonentities. In proportion as it is common among them, […]

Charm

Story type: Essay

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Women endowed by nature with the indescribable quality we call “charm” (for want of a better word), are the supreme development of a perfected race, the last word, as it were, of civilization; the flower of their kind, crowning centuries of growing refinement and cultivation. Other women may unite a thousand brilliant qualities, and attractive […]

The truth of the saying that “it is always the unexpected that happens,” receives in this country a confirmation from an unlooked-for quarter, as does the fact of human nature being always, discouragingly, the same in spite of varied surroundings. This sounds like a paradox, but is an exceedingly simple statement easily proved. That the […]

When our parents went to Europe fifty years ago, it was the event of a lifetime–a tour lovingly mapped out in advance with advice from travelled friends. Passports were procured, books read, wills made, and finally, prayers were offered up in church and solemn leave-taking performed. Once on the other side, descriptive letters were conscientiously […]

Claude Frollo, holding the first printed book he had seen in one hand, and pointing with the other to the gigantic mass of Notre Dame, dark against the sunset, prophesied “Ceci tuera cela.” One might to-day paraphrase the sentence which Victor Hugo put into his archdeacon’s mouth, and pointing to the elaborately appointed dinner-tables of […]

Most of the historic cities of Europe have a distinct local color, a temperament, if one may be allowed the expression, of their own. The austere calm of Bruges or Ghent, the sensuous beauty of Naples, attract different natures. Florence has passionate devotees, who are insensible to the artistic grace of Venice or the stately […]

In early days of steam navigation on the Mississippi, the river captains, it is said, had the playful habit, when pressed for time or enjoying a “spurt” with a rival, of running their engines with a darky seated on the safety-valve. One’s first home impression after a season of lazy Continental travelling and visiting in […]

Buildings become tombs when the race that constructed them has disappeared. Libraries and manuscripts are catacombs where most of us might wander in the dark forever, finding no issue. To know dead generations and their environments through these channels, to feel a love so strong that it calls the past forth from its winding-sheet, and […]

Idling up through the south of France, in company with a passionate lover of that fair land, we learned on arriving at Lyons, that the actors of the Comédie Fran´┐Żaise were to pass through there the next day, en route for Orange, where a series of fêtes had been arranged by “Les Félibres.” This society, […]

The historic Ocean House of Newport is a ruin. Flames have laid low the unsightly structure that was at one time the best-known hotel in America. Its fifty-odd years of existence, as well as its day, are over. Having served a purpose, it has departed, together with the generation and habits of life that produced […]

Near the centre of that verdant triangle formed by Saint Cloud, Versailles, and Saint Germain lies the village of Marly-le-Roy, high up on a slope above the lazy Seine-an entrancing corner of the earth, much affected formerly by French crowned heads, and by the “Sun King” in particular, who in his old age grew tired […]

Inconsistencies

Story type: Essay

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The dinner had been unusually long and the summer evening warm. During the wait before the dancing began I must have dropped asleep in the dark corner of the piazza where I had installed myself, to smoke my cigar, away from the other men and their tiresome chatter of golf and racing. Through the open […]

After witnessing the performance given by the Comédie Fran´┐Żaise in the antique theatre at Orange, we determined-my companion and I-if ever another opportunity of the kind offered, to attend, be the material difficulties what they might. The theatrical “stars” in their courses proved favorable to the accomplishment of this vow. Before the year ended it […]

Since those “precious” days when the habitués of the Hôtel Rambouillet first raised social intercourse to the level of a fine art, the morals and manners, the amusements and intrigues of great French ladies have interested the world and influenced the ways of civilized nations. Thanks to Memoirs and Maxims, we are able to reconstruct […]

There comes, we are told, a crucial moment, “a tide” in all lives, that taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. An assertion, by the bye, which is open to doubt. What does come to every one is an hour fraught with warning, which, if unheeded, leads on to folly. This fateful date coincides […]

Around A Spring

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The greatest piece of good luck that can befall a Continental village is the discovery, within its limits, of a spring supplying some kind of malodorous water. From that moment the entire community, abandoning all other plans, give themselves over to hatching their golden egg, experience having taught them that no other source of prosperity […]

The Better Part

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As I watch, year after year, the flowers of our aristocratic hothouses blooming behind the glass partitions of their conservatories, tended always by the same gardeners, admired by the same amateurs, and then, for the most part, withering unplucked on their virgin stems, I wonder if the wild flowers appreciate the good luck that allows […]

Those who have not lived in France can form little idea of the important place the café occupies in the life of an average Frenchman, clubs as we know them or as they exist in England being rare, and when found being, with few exceptions, but gambling-houses in disguise. As a Frenchman rarely asks an […]

Reading that a sentinel had been punished the other day at St. Petersburg for having omitted to present arms, as her Imperial Highness, the Grand Duchess Olga, was leaving the winter palace-in her nurse’s arms-I smiled at what appeared to be needless punctilio; then, as is my habit, began turning the subject over, and gradually […]

In former years, we inquiring youngsters in foreign studios were much bewildered by the repetition of a certain phrase. Discussion of almost any picture or statue was (after other forms of criticism had been exhausted) pretty sure to conclude with, “It’s all very well in its way, but it’s not Art.” Not only foolish youths […]

There undoubtedly is something in the American temperament that prevents our doing anything in moderation. If we take up an idea, it is immediately run to exaggeration and then abandoned, that the nation may fly at a tangent after some new fad. Does this come from our climate, or (as I am inclined to think) […]

I knew, in my youth, a French village far up among the Cevennes Mountains, where the one cultivated man of the place, saddened by the unlovely lives of the peasants around him and by the bare walls of the village school, organized evening classes for the boys. During these informal hours, he talked to them […]

“Once upon a time,” reads the familiar nursery tale, while the fairies, invited by a king and queen to the christening of their daughter, were showering good gifts on the baby princess, a disgruntled old witch, whom no one had thought of asking to the ceremony, appeared uninvited on the scene and revenged herself by […]

We are apt to fall into the error of assuming that only American cities have displaced their centres and changed their appearance during the last half-century. The “oldest inhabitant,” with his twice-told tales of transformations and changes, is to a certain extent responsible for this; by contrast, we imagine that the capitals of Europe have […]

Until the beginning of this century men played the beau rôle in life’s comedy. As in the rest of the animal world, our males were the brilliant members of the community, flaunting their gaudy plumage at home and abroad, while the women-folk remained in seclusion, tending their children, directing the servants, or ministering to their […]

"Carolus"

Story type: Essay

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In the early seventies a group of students-dissatisfied with the cut-and-dried instruction of the Paris art school and attracted by certain qualities of color and technique in the work of a young Frenchman from the city of Lille, who was just beginning to attract the attention of connoisseurs-went in a body to his studio with […]

Without being more curious than my neighbors, there are several social mysteries that I should like to fathom, among others, the real reasons that induce the different classes of people one sees at the opera to attend that form of entertainment. A taste for the theatre is natural enough. It is also easy to understand […]

Myriads of people have no ear for music and derive but little pleasure from sweet sounds. Strange as it may appear, many gifted and sensitive mortals have been unable to distinguish one note from another, Apollo’s harmonious art remaining for them, as for the elder Dumas, only an “expensive noise.” Another large class find it […]

To those fortunate mortals from whom Poseidon exacts no tribute in crossing his broad domain, a transatlantic voyage must afford each year an ever new delight. The cares and worries of existence fade away and disappear in company with the land, in the deep bosom of the ocean buried. One no longer feels like the […]

The expression “Little Englander,” much used of late to designate an inhabitant of the Mother Isle in contra-distinction to other subjects of Her Majesty, expresses neatly the feeling of our insular cousins not only as regards ourselves, but also the position affected toward their colonial brothers and sisters. Have you ever noticed that in every […]

While I was making a “cure” last year at Lamalou, an obscure Spa in the Cevennes Mountains, Madame Calvé, to whom I had expressed a desire to see her picturesque home, telegraphed an invitation to pass the day with her, naming the train she could meet, which would allow for the long drive to her […]

Those who walk through the well-to-do quarters of our city, and glance, perhaps a little enviously as they pass, toward the cheerful firesides, do not reflect that in almost every one of these apparently happy homes a pitiless tyrant reigns, a misshapen monster without bowels of compassion or thought beyond its own greedy appetites, who […]

Among the proverbs of Spanish folk-lore there is a saying that good wine retains its flavor in spite of rude bottles and cracked cups. The success of M. Rostand’s brilliant drama, Cyrano de Bergerac, in its English dress proves once more the truth of this adage. The fun and pathos, the wit and satire, of […]

Among the commonplace white and yellow envelopes that compose the bulk of one’s correspondence, appear from time to time dainty epistles on tinted paper, adorned with crests or monograms. “Ha! ha!” I think when one of these appears, “here is something worth opening!” For between ourselves, reader mine, old bachelors love to receive notes from […]

Parnassus

Story type: Essay

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Many years ago, a gentleman with whom I was driving in a distant quarter of Paris took me to a house on the rue Montparnasse, where we remained an hour or more, he chatting with its owner, and I listening to their conversation, and wondering at the confusion of books in the big room. As […]

If a foreign tourist, ignorant of his whereabouts, were to sail about sunset up our spacious bay and view for the first time the eccentric sky-line of lower New York, he would rub his eyes and wonder if they were not playing him a trick, for distance and twilight lend the chaotic masses around the […]

Uncle Sam

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The gentleman who graced the gubernatorial armchair of our state when this century was born happened to be an admirer of classic lore and the sonorous names of antiquity. It is owing to his weakness in bestowing pompous cognomens on our embryo towns and villages that to-day names like Utica, Syracuse, and Ithaca, instead of […]

The False Start

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Having had, during a wandering existence, many opportunities of observing my compatriots away from home and familiar surroundings in various circles of cosmopolitan society, at foreign courts, in diplomatic life, or unofficial capacities, I am forced to acknowledge that whereas my countrywoman invariably assumed her new position with grace and dignity, my countryman, in the […]

Contentment

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As the result of certain ideal standards adopted among us when this country was still in long clothes, a time when the equality of man was the new “fad” of many nations, and the prizes of life first came within the reach of those fortunate or unscrupulous enough to seize them, it became the fashion […]

Husks

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Among the Protestants driven from France by that astute and liberal-minded sovereign Louis XIV., were a colony of weavers, who as all the world knows, settled at Spitalfields in England, where their descendants weave silk to this day. On their arrival in Great Britain, before the looms could be set up and a market found […]