Saturday, March 18, 2017

comme il faut ... with a twist?

Sketch of Mary Clarke Mohl's salon by Hilary Bonham Carter
I suppose it marks some aspect of my inner catacombs, but there is occasionally something rousing and peppy about the era of the salon and its often-feisty population .... men, women... snappy, witty, and threatened with opprobrium if they grew boring or too obviously manipulative. I assume they were all wealthy to one degree or another -- gatherings like salons and Gstaad do not materialize without some muted tinkling of treasure behind a politely closed door.

I guess I would be out of breath in an instant these days -- all these wits and wags and well-versed, fine-calfed wig-wearers... and yet, there is some small portion of me that likes to hear the excitements of the well-informed mind that is willing to stretch its arms and yawn ... and sing.
In much of the 19th Century, one of the most influential of the salons was held at 120 Rue du Bac in the Saint-Germain district. Here gathered writers and thinkers like Victor Hugo and Alexis de Toqueville, politicians like the Adolphe Thiers, the future president, painters like Eugene Delacroix, historians, orientalists, economists.
And presiding over them all was an Englishwoman.
Clarkey was her nickname. Madame de Mohl became her formal title. Mary Clarke was how she was born in 1793 in London.
Arrogance, whether subtle or gross, is not an attractive trait and I suppose I must be found in some measure guilty. But also I sort of wonder if the foul-but-prancing odor is reduced depending on what, precisely, anyone might be arrogant about. Patriotism, intellect, religion, history .... it's sort of exciting when placed cheek-by-jowl with big-box specials... or is it?

And French does seem to lend a shiver of disgust and/or delight.

1 comment:

  1. The rise of science over superstition, the secular over the church. They called it philosophy.