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Bradley-Martin Bal-Masque
by [?]

It is not a little suggestive that the participants in this foolish fandango should have turned for inspiration to the court of Louis XV., whose debauchery and depravity, the historian declares, had not been paralleled since the year of Tiberius and Commodus–that the Bradley-Martin “function” should have been copied from the extravaganzas of a harlot! What glorious exemplars for New York’s Four Hundred!–a dissolute king, and a woman thus apostrophized by Thomas Carlyle: “Thou unclean thing, what a course was thine: from that first truckle-bed, where thy mother bore thee to an unnamed father; forward, through lowest subterranean depths, and over highest sunlit heights of harlotdom and rascaldom–to the guillotine-axe, which shears away thy vainly whimpering head!” Of the 350 male revelers more than 100 were costumed as Louis XV., while but three considered Washington worthy of imitation. Was this the result of admiration in New York’s “hupper sukkles” for this wretched Roi Faineant, or King Donothing, whose palace was a brothel, and whose harlots stripped his subjects of their paltry earnings and left them to perish? Louis XV., who permitted his country to be wined, its revenues squandered, its provinces lost, and half-a-million men sent to an untimely death that a prostitute might be revenged for an epigram! Is that the kind of man our money lords admire? Louis lived until the fleur-de-lis of France was struck down in every land and dishonored on every sea, then died, deserted by his drabs, cursed by his country, and was consigned to the grave and the devil as unceremoniously as though he were a dead dog! And now more than one hundred men who have stripped the people to enhance the splendor of palaces, don the royal robes of this godless rake and do homage to bogus DuBarrys! Small wonder that Dr. Rainsford feared such colossal impudence might serve to remind Americans how France got rid of royalty; might evoke a hoarse growl from the many-headed monster; might cause some “dangerous demagogue” to stir–perchance a Danton! Fit patron saint for our own plutocracy is this swinish king, once called Bien aime, the Well-beloved; but after some thirty years of Bradley-Martinism, named Ame de boue–A soul of mud! How much our super-select society resembles the Madame DuBarrys, the Duc d’Aiguillons and Abbe Terrays, who made the court of Louis a byword and a reproach, his reign a crime, himself a hissing and a shaking of the head of the nations!

Suggestive indeed that at the swellest of all swell affairs in the American metropolis there should appear, according to the press dispatches, “ten Mme. de Pompadours, eight Mme. de Maintenons, four Mme. de la Vallieres, and three Catherines of Russia.” Good God! Has our “best society” come to such a pass that its proudest ladies delight to personate notorious prostitutes?” There was no Racine or Moliere, no Charlotte Corday or Mme. de Stael”–the men posed as profligate kings, the women as courtesans! Yet in that same city young Mr. Seeley is arrested for looking at a naked dancing-girl, and “Little Egypt” has to “cut it” when she hears the cops! And what is the difference, pray, between a Pompadour and a Five Points nymph du pave? Simply this: The one rustles in silks for diamonds, the other hustles in rags for bread, their occupation being identical. New York was Tory even in Revolutionary times. From its very foundation it has been at the feet of royalty and mouthing of “divine right.” It is ever making itself an obtuse triangle before the god of its idolatry–its knees and nose on the earth, its tail-feathers in the air; but we had yet to learn that it considered “that divinity which doth behedge a king” capable of sanctifying a woman’s shame, transforming a foul leman into an angel of light! Catherine of Russia was an able woman, but a notorious harlot, foul as Milton’s portress of Hell; a woman who, as Byron informs us, loved all he-things except her husband. Is that why the masqueraders preferred the character of Empress Catherine to that of Martha Washington? Did they consider it more in keeping with the company? Strange that each Russian empress was not attended by a few of her favorite grenadiers, with “the fair- faced Lanskoi,” her boy-lover, thrown in as lagniappe. More than one hundred Louis XVths and only ten Pompadours! What a pity! But we may presume that each Pompadour, like the frail original, was “in herself a host”! Eight Maintenons, four Vallieres, and only one Louis XIVth present to look after his personal property! How proud a genuine American gentleman–one untainted with royalist fever–would have felt to see his wife or daughter posing as the leman of Lanskoi, of Louis XVth, or le Grande Monarque–of whom Three-Eyed Billy of England once said that he selected young men for his ministers and corrupt old cats for his mistresses!

Half a million dollars gone up in frippery and flowers, and the bedizened gang didn’t get half the fun out of it that a party of country yaps will extract from a candy-pulling or a husking-bee. The Pompadours and DuBarrys didn’t know how. Louis XVth went around by himself in droves, stiff and uncomfortable as a Presbyterian Sunday-school, wishing every time his rapier galled his kibes or tangled his royal legs that he had remained comfortably dead in that dog-hole at St. Denis. There was entirely too much formality for fun. The next time New York’s toad-eaters give a bal-masque they should disguise themselves as American sovereigns and their consorts. Of course it will be a trifle difficult for them to play the part of respectable people; but they will find even awkward effort in that direction refreshing, and calculated to inspire them with respect for their country’s flag.