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Archive for the ‘manners’ Category

Jean Béraud: Boulevard St. Denis

Jean Béraud: Boulevard St. Denis

 

William Walton, author of Paris from the Earliest Period to the Present Day (published in 1899) writes:

Paris may be said to be a very well-policed city. The police regulations are intelligent, and cover all those points in which the safety, or comfort, or peace of mind of the majority of well-meaning citizens may be menaced or disturbed by the inconsiderate action of individuals, and yet these strict ordonnances, which might become harsh or tyrannical, are generally administered with discretion and, in the case, for example, of the peripatetic vendors of vegetables, the marchands and marchandes des quatre-saisons—with due consideration for the difficulties of the poor.

Great care is taken to assure the free circulation in the streets, with one very important exception: the householder must not deposit any garbage, or mud, or broken bottles on the sidewalk, he must wash his shop-windows only between certain hours in the morning, he must not beat nor shake carpets out the window nor in the streets, he must not put his flower-pots in the windows where there is any danger of their falling on the passer-by, he must not keep domestic animals in such numbers or of such a kind as to be disagreeable to his neighbor, he must not burn coffee, nor card the wool of his mattresses, on the public highway, and he must not set out chairs or tables on the sidewalk. This last regulation, however, is practically a dead letter, all the cafés, big and little, on the wide trottoirs of the boulevards and on the two-foot sidewalks of the narrow streets, monopolize from a half to three-fourths of the pavement for pedestrians. The latter file along cheerfully on the curb-stone, or turn out in the street altogether, and make no protest. In the poorer quarters, a great number of domestic occupations and maternal cares are transferred to the street in front of the dwelling; in fact, the fondness of the French for out-of-doors is one of their most striking characteristics. The women and young girls will sit sewing or knitting in the streets or the public parks, and the men at the open-air tables of the cafés, in the wettest and rawest of days, and the women of the lower orders, concierges, workwomen, small shopkeepers, etc., constantly go with their heads uncovered. This healthy hankering of all classes for the open air contrasts very strongly with their imbecile terror of fresh air, or courants d’air, in a closed vehicle or under a roof.

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The Gangs of Paris: Les Apaches

 

 

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1840

 

The following text, published in 1842, offers an interesting look at the mid-19th century Frenchwoman and, surprisingly, at the French esteem of quietness:

A stranger would not appreciate the degree of praise which is contained in the word quiet when used by the French, who appear to consider it as comprising all the cardinal virtues; when seeking a house or apartments, if you say anything favourable or unfavourable of them, they never fail to remind you that they are so quiet. The same eulogy they will pronounce on their daughters with peculiar pride and energy, when they wish to extol them to the skies, and in good truth their demoiselles are quiet enough in all conscience, for it requires often a considerable degree of ingenuity to extract from them more than monosyllables. We have been accustomed to consider the French as a restless, capricious, volatile people, and so I suppose they might have been formerly, but now they are undoubtedly the reverse, being a quiet routine plodding sort of people, particularly as regards the provincials; and even amongst the Parisians there are thousands that reside in one quarter of the city, which they seldom quit, never approaching what they consider the gay portion of Paris, but live amongst each other, visiting only within their own circle, consisting almost entirely of their relations and family connexions.

The women consider, even down to a housemaid, that their sex demands a certain tone of deference, however humble their position, and if a nobleman did not touch his hat to them when they open or shut the door for them, with the usual salutation of good day or good morning, they would pronounce his manners brutal, and say, that although he was a man of title he was not a gentleman; hence the very unceremonious manner that an Englishman has of addressing servants, whether male or female, has kept them very much out of favour with that class of the French community. A scullion, or what may be termed a girl of all work, that has not met with that degree of respect from some of our countrymen to which she considered herself entitled, will remark, that the English may be very rich, but they certainly are not enlightened as we are, with a little drawing up of the head, implying their consciousness of superiority over us semi-barbarians; your charwoman, your washerwoman’s drudge, fish woman, or girl that cries turf about the streets, are all Madame and Mademoiselle when they speak of each other, and with them there is no such word as woman; if a female, she must be a lady, even if her occupation be to pick up rags in the street.

Source:

HOW TO ENJOY PARIS IN 1842,

INTENDED TO SERVE AS A

COMPANION AND MONITOR

Indicating all that is useful and interesting

IN THE FRENCH METROPOLIS,

Containing

HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, COMMERCIAL, ARTISTICAL, THEATRICAL AND STATISTICAL INFORMATION.

AS ALSO A DESCRIPTION

Of the manners and customs of the Parisians of the present day;

WITH INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE STRANGER.

In Respect to Economy, and Advice to his general proceedings with the French.

By F. Hervé

Author of A Residence in Turkey and Greece, etc, etc.

 

 Related post: Mending their manners

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The oldest gourmet restaurant in Paris

Early visitors to Paris, unless they were guests of the aristocracy, reported no outstanding culinary experiences. Before the storming of the Bastille, there was only one good restaurant in Paris – the Beauvillier’s, founded in 1782. This changed when the unemployed chefs of the beheaded nobles launched themselves into the hospitality industry. The upper middle class got a taste of sumptuous food and as early as1820, the number of restaurants mushroomed to three thousand. During the Second Empire, Paris boasted twenty thousands cafés and restaurants. By the middle of the 19th century France achieved its status as the paradise for gastronomers.           

What made France, and notably Paris, the cradle of haute cuisine? The main reason was that unlike the males of other nations, the Frenchman did not consider matters of food unmanly. Approached with the same seriousness men devote to science, cooking and eating were–and still are–one of the main topics around the table. Dedicated gourmets and culinary critics discussed the matter at length. The cooks themselves became theorists and many put their pens to paper.

“Because of the art we practice,” a famous chef wrote, “we have the right to respect and consideration because cooking can and must march hand in hand with the liberal arts.”

The illustrious chef Carême claimed that cooks were in fact doctors, with far more influence on their employers’ well-being than the charlatans that posed as doctors.

 Dining became worshipping at the altar of food and as such required a set of rituals.

“One should never talk of politics at table,” admonishes Le Gourmet magazine in the 1830′s. “The conversation should always be light, so as not to distract from the main interest, which is the food. In a dinner of knowledgeable people, the arrival of soup is followed by a silence. Until the third course, there should be no talk about anything except what one was eating, what one has eaten, and what one will eat. But after one has eaten well, one has a duty to make witty conversation.”

In fact, the acquisition of a good recipe became a noteworthy event even among the top artists of the era and could make and break the reputation of such a giant of literature as Alexander Dumas.

Judging by the proportion of advertisements for indigestion and constipation pills of the era, the culinary excesses, both at home and in restaurants, took their toll on the digestive system. To remain true to themselves, the French cannot equate food with vulgar indigestion. The correct term is “la crise de foie”, although a foreigner cannot imagine why only liver should be mentioned in a process in which all parts of the digestive system rebel with equal force.

Anonymous source

Marie-Antoine Carême Wikipedia

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James Tissot: Too Early, 1873

The occupations of the higher classes in Paris are much the same as they are in other capitals; both sexes are more fond of taking baths than they are in London, and even when they have that convenience in their own houses, the men often prefer lounging to the most fashionable public baths. The young sparks of fashion are very fond of sumptuous breakfasts at the most stylish coffee-houses in Paris, and often begin by taking a few dozen of oysters by way of giving them an appetite; beefsteaks dressed in the English style, a few choice French dishes, two or three sorts of wine, desert, and coffee, generally compose the repast until the dinner hour. The time is filled up with walking, riding, driving, practising gymnastic exercises, pistol-shooting, fencing, etc. After dinner, which usually terminates about eight, and is in fact the same thing as the breakfast on a more extensive scale, they proceed to the theatres; those most in vogue with the beau monde are the Italian Opera, the French Opera or Académie de Musique, the Comic Opera, and the Théâtre Français. After the performances are over, they generally lounge into some favourite coffee-house, and then close the day to recommence another, following much the same course, with some trifling variation. But now the favourite pursuit amongst young men of fashion, is that of riding and everything which is connected with horses, such as racing, leaping, steeple chasing, and discussing their different qualities and the various modes of breaking them in, in England and in France.

Although their pursuits are not so numerous nor so various as those of the men, yet women opportunities of killing time are greater; as shopping alone employs often some hours of the day, the importance attached to a bonnet, a cap, a turban and above all to a dress, causes many and long dissertations. Exhibitions and morning concerts frequently occupy also much of the ladies’ leisure, a little walking in the Tuileries gardens at a certain hour and in a certain part whilst their carriage waits for them, an airing in it, or a turn on horseback, fill up the rest of the day, and after dinner, if not at the theatre, they either receive or pay visits, as it is the fashion to do so of an evening in Paris.

I must not quit this sketch of the Parisians and their occupations without giving my readers some idea of what is called La Jeune France, which consists of a number of young men, who wear comical shaped hats, their hair very long hanging below their ears, and let the greater part of their beards grow; they also have their throats bare and their shirt collars turned down; they have rather a wild look, and their political theories are somewhat wilder than their looks; they are republican in principle, and in manner, adopting a sort of rough abrupt style, as far from courteous as can well be imagined. They amount to perhaps a few thousands in Paris, comprising a number of the students in law and medicine, many of the painters, musical professors, and at least half the literary characters in Paris; some of them are either the editors their subs or the communicators to two-thirds of the newspapers at Paris.

How to Enjoy Paris in 1842 by F. Herve

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Parisians in 1842: The working class

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The following text was published in 1854:

The French generally have been celebrated for possessing no inconsiderable share of conceit, but in regard to a most exalted respect for themselves, the Parisians far surpass all their provincial brethren; the very circumstance of their happening in Paris, they imagine at once confers upon them a diploma of the very highest acme of civilisation, causing them to feel a sort of pity for a person who is born elsewhere; however, as one of these enlightened spirits once observed to me, that a person might by coming to live at Paris in the course of time imbibe the same tone of refinement. Now this was said in all the true spirit of human kindness; he knew that I was not born in Paris, and conceiving that I might feel the bitterness of that misfortune, though it might afford me a degree of consolation to be assured, that there were some means of repairing the disadvantages under which I laboured, from not having made my entrance to the world in the grand metropolis of France.

It matters not how low may be the calling of a Parisian, he will still flatter himself that the manner in which he acquits himself in the department in which he is placed, evinces a degree of superiority over his fellow labourer, and gratifies his amour propre with the thought. Even a scavenger would endeavour to persuade you that he has a peculiar manner of sweeping the streets exclusively his own, and that his method of shovelling up the mud and pitching it into the cart is quite unique, and in fact that his innate talent is such that, it has eventually placed him at the summit of his profession. This may appear, perhaps, to some of my readers rather overdrawn, but the following instance which came under my own observation is not much less extravagant.

A man who was in the habit of cleaning my boots, had a most incorrigible propensity for garrulity, and as I like in a foreign country to obtain some insight into the ideas and feelings of all classes, I did not care to check the poor fellow in the indulgence of his favourite penchant, particularly as his remarks were always proffered with a tone of the most profound respect for my august person. Finding one morning that my boots had not been polished quite so well as usual, the next time I saw the shoeblack I mentioned the circumstance to him. “Ah! Sir,” he exclaimed with a deep sigh, “that is one of the many instances of the ingratitude of human nature; I confided those boots to the boy whom you must have seen come with me to fetch yours and the other gentlemen’s shoes or clothes for brushing, etc. Well, sir, that young urchin is a protégé of mine; I took him, sir, from the lowest obscurity and made him what he is; I taught him my profession, I endowed him with all the benefit of my experience, and with respect to blacking shoes, I have initiated him into all the little mysteries of the art, and can declare that there is not one in the business throughout all Paris that can surpass him, when he chooses to exert his talents; and therefore it renders it the more unpardonable that he should slight one of my best customers.” Judging, I suppose, from the expression of my countenance that I did not appear to be deeply infused with a very exalted idea of what he termed the mysteries of his art, he continued, “You may think as you please, sir, but there is much more ability required in blacking shoes than you may imagine, and that boy is well aware of it; he knows how I began by first instructing him in all the fundamental principles of the art; and gradually led him on until I accomplished him in giving the last polish, and can now proudly say he is a true artist in the profession.”

David W. Bartlett,  Paris: With Pen and Pencil

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Excerpt from the Goncourt Journals 1851-1896

2 June 1868

Dinner at Magny’s. We heard some curious details about the German scholars Froenher and Oppert, a couple of pedants who are no more learned than anybody else but to whom the present-day cult of Germanism in the world of learning has brought ironic blessings—to the first a cosy sinecure in the Louvre, and to the other a prize of a hundred thousand francs for his work on cuneiforms, a language of which he alone knows the secrets and which nobody has ever been able to check.

One of our number had known Froehner when he was humble, poor, and wretched, and, like all Germans, played a piano in his garret. When he met him again, Froehner was wearing a cravat with pink spots and an astonishing suit, the sort of suit you can imagine a German scholar turned dandy would wear. “I dare say you find me changed, my dear fellow,” he said. “The fact is that I discovered that hard work, application, and all that was just nonsense. Hase told me that the only way to get to the top here was through women. Look at Longpérier: if he hadn’t begun frequenting drawing rooms…”

On another occasion Froehner got hold of our guest, taken him into a window recess and anxiously asked him if he thought that a German like himself, Froehner, would ever be able to talk smut to women as Frenchmen did, saying that he had tried but that what he said always became so coarse and filthy that he could never finish it properly.

What a comic sign of the times, erudition applying this method to achieve success! Erudition represented by these two Germans, these two vulgar natives of the land of artlessness, trying to succeed by means of the delicate corruption of France.

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 (From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

Jean -Louis Forrain "At the Public Garden", 1884

Beware of the flower girls at the bals publics, cafés chantants, and outside the theatres, as well as the wily advances of well-dressed and spoken women. The uncouth boldness of the street-walker will strike the visitor with immediate amazement and distaste: but how could one expect that under a lady-like appearance and language the Parisian gay woman hides the evil designs of a fallen angel, and laughs inwardly at the gullibility of her victims?        

In markets barter is the rule: let an inexperienced lady make her appearance, and she will at once be asked the double the price that would be expected from an obviously sharp-witted French cook. There are no fishmongers in Paris: all fish are sold at the market.

Jews selling lorgnettes, plated jewellery &c., who may also offer you licentious, forbidden literature and illustrations.

The concierge, or caretaker of apartment buildings. This person, if offended, has it in his or her power to give much annoyance, mislaying letters, misinforming callers, and speaking ill of you to tradespeople.

It is desirable to avoid the free discussion of politics. The police are ubiquitous and zealous, with wide powers of arrest and detention. The wiser course must certainly be to express yourself with great temperance in referring to the Emperor and government of France, and not to do or say anything that may serve to lessen the entente cordiale at present existing between our nations.

***

This  concludes the The Guide series. I hope you have enjoyed the trip to the Second Empire Paris. Let me know!

 Next: How to succeed in Paris

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