Page:The sleeping beauty and other fairy tales from the old French (1910).djvu/13

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


whereas, M. Cuchet's forty-one volumes most pertinently as well as amply illustrated some real qualities, and those the most amiable of the Ancien Régime. When we think of the French upper classes from the days of Louis XIV. to the Revolution, we associate them with a certain elegance, a taste fastidious and polite, if artificial, in the arts of living and the furniture of life; and in this we do them justice. But, if I mistake not, we seldom credit them with the quality which more than any other struck the contemporary foreign observer who visited France with a candid mind—I mean their good temper. We allow the Bastille or the guillotine to cast their shadows backward over this period, or we see it distorted in the glare of Burke's rhetoric or of Carlyle's lurid and fuliginous history. But if we go to an eyewitness, Arthur Young, who simply reported what he saw, having no rhetorical axe to grind or guillotine to sharpen, we get a totally different impression. The last of Young's Travels in France (1787-1789) actually coincided with the close of M. Cuchet's pleasant enterprise in publishing; and I do not think it fanciful to suppose that, had this very practical