The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
Society in London
Society in London.
Madame Adam is a clever Parisienne, who has started, and carried on for some years. La Nouvelle Revue, a rival to the Revue des Deux Mondes. One of her best writers is M. Vasili, whose books on Society in Berlin, Vienna, and Paris are very pungent and clever, particularly that on Berlin. He incautiously announced his intention of writing one upon London Society, and now he has been forestalled by some Mr. Labby Yeats, who calls himself "A Foreign Resident," and issues a book on "Society in London."
It used to be said that two of the best known old Australians in London, Mr. Edward Wilson and another, were bosom friends, but never could agree on any one point, except that a revolution in England was inevitable. Madame de Stael wrote that no successful revolution was ever carried through without the support, at the commencement, of a portion of the aristocracy. The names of Mirabeau, Talleyrand, and Philippe Egalité will rise to mind. When Marie Antoinette and her Court patronised Beaumarchais with his "Marriage of Figaro," in the festivities of Little Trianon, they did not perceive that the mordant satire of Beaumarchais was co-operating with the writings of Voltaire, Rousseau, and the Encyclopœdists, in sapping the foundations of the Monarchy.
"Progress and Poverty" itself is not half such a crushing and grinding book against the aristocracy as "Society in London." Nothing more devilishly ingenious has been published since Chesterfield wrote from Paris that he saw around him all the signs of an impending Revolution.
This author, the "Foreign Resident," wields to perfection a style of obliquity and implication, the strictly moral double entendre. Snake, in the "School For Scandal," flatters one of the ladies with an assurance that Mrs. Candour "lacks that mellowness of sneer which distinguishes your ladyship's scandal." The "Foreign Resident" has all this quality. His book is all on a tittup, like a Palais Royal farce in five acts. The comedian Tousez was described untranslateably as "un brúleur des planches,' one whose presence "scorched the boards." The Foreign Resident scorches the Salon, and smears Petroleum over page 69 the Drawingroom. The moral which he perpetually insinuates, though never utters, is, "Working people, regard the maggots of the dunghill. Taxpayers—here are the Drones."
The book is an elaborate impeachment of Society and high life, as hopelessly corrupt and rotten. A sting lurks in every sentence. This rapier is infinitely more effective than the stiletto of the late Grenville Murray. The pillules are all sugared, but they enter the liver as a dart. Yet Society laughs!
Stung with his forestalling by the "Foreign Resident," Count Vasili—whoever he is—publishes some atrocious libels on the Queen, Mr. Gladstone, and other distinguished English personages, in La Nouvelle Revue.
In the lowest deep,
A lower deep.
Cannot we throw off this horrid incubus?
Now we have the Pall Mall Gazette threatened for exposing immorality in high places. The revolution marches on. The Gospel Purity Society drags out the names of kings, princes noblemen, and clubbists. A purifying hot-wind is required in the aristocratic slums and gutters, where the stagnant water displays its vivid iridescent hues. A judge, on circuit, dies in a bagnio—but this is not legitimate news. That stops at his sentences on vulgar criminals, with due moralization.