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LEADERS OF FASHION.
FROM GRAMONT TO D'ORSAY.
LEADERS of Fashion !—and why should they not have their biographies as well as Doctors, Lawyers, or Soldiers ? If they have not done as much good in their career, at least they have done far less harm; besides, that life, to make it tolerable, needs its lighter as well as graver side.
Coxcombry is of very ancient date. It might be shown to have existed in full force amongst the Hebrews; but to pursue the subject would lead us into forbidden ground, the proofs of Jewish dandyism lying even in the Scriptures. With their conquerors, the Romans, there is no occasion for the same reserve. And very accomplished fops they seem to have had amongst them, and young exquisites who painted, rouged, and curled their hair, and wore rings light or heavy, according to the season. Kings, too, in more modern times, have countenanced, by their example, the race of dandies; as for instance, Louisle-Grand of France, who never allowed even his own valet to see him without his full-bottomed wig. Nor have poets or men of learning escaped the infection of the beau malady. Petrarch, in writing to his brother, says, “Recollect the time when we wore white habits, on which the least spot, or a plait ill plaited, would have been a subject of grief, and when our shoes were so tight that we suffered martyrdom.” The Abbé de Lille, the poet-priest, although considered by all, except himself, the ugliest man of his day, was in the habit-even when advanced in life of dressing his hair with rose-coloured powder. Byron confesses that in his minority he had a touch of dandyism; and adds that “he had retained enough of it to conciliate the great ones at four-and-twenty. The celebrated Austrian minister, Prince de Kaunitz, wore satin stays, and passed a portion of every morning in walking up and down a room, in which four valets puffed a cloud of scented powder, but each of a different colour, in order that it might assume the precise shade that was most agreeable to the taste of the grave diplomatist. Still more surprising is it to find such fierce vanities lurking in the breast of a man like Nelson, the reputed author of the “Whole Duty of Man.” Raffaelle, too, has been complimented with the title of coxcomb. Charles James Fox was a perfect maccaroni in his youth, and, like his friends, Lords Carlisle and Essex, wore red-heeled shoes, although, as he grew older, he turned a very sloven. The late Marquis Wellesley, one of the brightest intellects of his age, carried the spirit of foppery so far, that he would often play the coxcomb solely for his own amusement. There he would sit in his own room for hours, with no other spectator than what he saw reflected in the mirror, dressed out in full costume, and decorated with the blue riband and the garter, as if he meant to appear at a chapter of the order, or a royal levee.
We shall now open the ball—or, perhaps, we should rather call it, masquerade of beauxwith the Count De GRAMONT, who appears to have possessed much the same medley of vices and virtues that we shall presently find distinguishing his successors in the fashionable world. In three points, they all closely resembled each other; they were gamblers and wits, and dressed not foppishly, but with the most perfect taste. A thorough knowledge, too, of mankind was common to them all.
In those days, every French gentleman, if not an Abbé, commenced life as a soldier; sometimes they united the two characters, however discordant, and such, we believe, was the case with Gramont, when he assisted at the siege of Irino. Then, too, war had two faces, being much whatVoltaire said of the French themselves—a compound of the tiger and the monkey ; men laughed and joked in the very face of death ; a ball or a play the night before a battle was no uncommon thing. In such a camp Gramont was quite at home, as much so as in the salons of Paris. His wit and his extravagance made him welcome to all, and when he had exhausted his own funds, he replenished his purse by the arts of the gambler.
The campaign being ended, he passed over to Turin, and intrigue being an essential part in the character of a man of fashion, he devoted himself to the levities and libertinism of the times. The subject, however, is not one into which we care to enter.
We next find our gay adventurer passing over to England, for no other purpose than to see Oliver Cromwell, whose greatness hung like a mighty shadow over all Europe, filling the boldest states with awe and apprehension.
His second visit to England was under very different circumstances, when the Puritans, by their absurd tyranny over the minds and amusements of men had opened a way for the Restoration. In a little time he became a general favourite in the court of Charles the Second ; gambling, intriguing, dressing, and scattering about repartees with the most brilliant of that brilliant, but utterly corrupted, circle. The king, with his usual profuseness and total disregard of the people over whom he ruled, offered to settle a handsome pension upon this gay and profligate foreigner, but De Gramont had the good sense to refuse it; why, indeed, should he not, when he had an enchanted Peru in the gaming-table?
To secure the favour of Charles, he now procured from Paris a handsome chariot, valued at two thousand guineas, and presented it to the king. The unlucky chariot, however, proved a mere apple of discord. The Queen desired to appear first in so bright a vehicle with the Duchess of York. Lady Castlemaine had a no less violent longing, and, being enceinte at the time, vowed she would miscarry if her demand were not complied with. Finally, Mrs. Steward protested that she never would be enceinte, if the vehicle were not first lent to her. The threats of the last carried off the prize from her competitors.
A letter from Madame de Chaumoit now announced to De Gramont that Louis permitted his return to the French court, from which he had so long been banished. He accordingly