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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

***EARLY LAFAYETTE VIEWING THE OUTSIDE WORLD

Lagniappe:

THE AMERICAN WOMAN.

A Famous French Novelist Gives His Views Regarding Her.


The apotheosis of woman, which is the so original feature of "society" in America, is first and above all the apotheosis of the young girl. These words, so simple, are still two words to be explained, for it is probable that on all the points - reserving , let it be understood, that of honor - they express exactly the opposite in the United States to what they do in France. What first strikes the traveler who has heard so much of the young American girls is the absolute impossibility of distinguishing them from the young women. The fact, so much commented upon, that they come and go alone as they please would not suffice to establish the confusion. The identity goes further. They have the same jewels, the same toilets, the same liberty of speech and laughter, the same books to read, the same manner, the same beauty already fully developed, and thanks to the invention of the "chaperon," there is not a theater or restaurant party to which they cannot go, alone naturally, and at the invitation of any gentleman of their acquaintance.

The quality of the official surveillance may be measured from another fact, that the young lady for whom the bachelor gives the party chooses herself the chaperon. The younger that chaperon is the more she is appreciated. The young widow and the "grass widow" - the woman separated, divorced or simply isolated temporarily from her husband - fills the ideal conditions of the part. You might just as well say that the young girls whom you see at Delmonico's in the company of three young men and the said chaperon, or who go and take tea at the rooms of another young man, or as free as though they had no one to look after them than themselves. It is that habit of acting for themselves without control which is manifested in the singular assurance of their countenances.

One of the most amiable men of New York, who is a poet, has had the idea of forming a collection of miniatures, where he places, with their permission, all the professional beauties of the town. I remember that in examining them with the magnifying glass through the pane behind which those hundreds of pretty and fine faces smile forth, I sought to guess those who had known marriage and could not succeed. What, in truth, will it bring them more when it comes? Duties, a husband to bear with, children to care for, a house to look after. T0-day the young girl has none of the burden of those chains. She knows it, and she enjoys the the time she has to the utmost. She will not have one liberty the more when she is married, and she will have less time to amuse herself. But in most cases she marries late. If it is not quite and end to her, as it is for the young man in Paris when he decides to break off his bachelor life, it is at least a commencement of abdication. The majority do not conceal it.

"We must amuse ourselves before marriage," said one of them gayly to me. "Does one know what will come after?"

The divorce cases, of which the newspapers publish the details from time to time, prove that the young person had as much sense as beauty. For my part, after having closely investigated the human conditions here and in Europe, I think that for a young man of twenty-five years the best chances for happiness are to be an Englishman of good family, concluding his studies at Oxford, and for a young girl to be born American, with a father who has made his money in mines, railways or land speculation, and to arrive with good sponsors in the society of New York or Washington.


Original source unknown. In the Lafayette Advertiser 1/12/1895.

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