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About The courier. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1894-1903 | View Entire Issue (Oct. 20, 1894)
to clothe a Hebo, destined for a fountain, which ho had made with
out draperies. All these circumstances have had the result that the
attraction of woman has remained secondary in the preoccupations
of man; that attraction, when it received satisfaction, was able not
to become morbid and painful. The species of cruelty which is de
veloped in the too ardeut desire is the true principle of inequalities
of the legislation and of habits, through which the secret fury of the
male in defiance to the female is manifested. It does not exist in
the sensibility of the American. It seems that this relative dimin
uation in the importance given to sensual life ha9 modified very
lightly, but modified all the same, the difference in the aspect be
tween the two sexes.
I remember that at Cambridge, when visiting the "Hasty Pud
ding," one of the clubs where the students of Harvard have private
theatricals, I had occasion to examine the photographs where those
young men were represented in the roles and in the costumes of
women. The similitude was astonishing, almost indontity, between
their portraits and those of their sisters or their cousins, of those big
girls without much chest, with sloping shoulders and straight figure,
who have followed the classes of suppleness and of high kicking,
who can throw their feet as high as their heads and fall from their
own height without hurting themselves. It seems as if the type of
man, in refining itself in the sense of nervous vigor, had lost his
primitive heaviness, and that on the other hand the type of woman
strong, energetic and trained, had acquired a more decided grace,
more assertive, less voluptous and delicately masculine. These are
but indications, but which help one to u iderstand the better what
makes not the whole of the nation but its undercurrent, the animal
ism of tho race.
And however luxurious, artificial and overdone be the social life,
it is that race which gives it its foundation, and, to take a more
exact comparison, the threads of the cloth which the embroideries
will later flower.
That apotheosis of woman, which is the so original feature of "so
ciety' 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 under
stood,that of honor they express exactly the opposite in the United
States to what they do in France. What first strikes the traveller
who has heard so much of the young American girls, is the absolute
impossibility of distinguishing them from the young married wo
men. The fact, so much commented upon, that they can come and
go alone as they please, would not suffice to establish the confusion.
The identity goes farther. They have the same Jewels, the same
toilets, the same liberty of speech and laughter, the same books to
read, the same manner, tho same beauty already fully developed, and
thanks to tho invention of the "chaperon," thero is not a theatre or
restaurant party to which they cannot go, alone naturally, and at
tho invitation of any gentleman of their acquaintance.
The quality of that 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 the chaperon is
the more she is appreciated. The young widow and the "grass
widow" the woman separated, divorced or simply isolated tempo
rarily from her husband fills the ideal conditions of the part. You
might just as well say that the young girls whom you see at Del
monico's in tho company of three young men and the said chaperon
or who go and take tea at the rooms of another young man, are as
free as though they had no one too 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.
"We must amuse ourselves before marriage," said one of them
gayly to me. "Does one know what will come after?"
The dvorce cases, of which the newspapers publish the details
from time to time that the young person had as much good 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 of happiness are to be an English
man of good family, concluding his studies at Oxford, and for a
young girl to be born American, with a father wno has made his
money in mines, railways or land speculation, and to arrive with
good sponsors in tho society of New York or Washington.
At first sight that absolute liberty gives all the young girls an
idontic appearance. It is after them that authors, not one of whom
has given himself the trouble to come over here, have composed for
the stage and in romances the type classical with us, of the Ameri
can woman. Our people have built her up in the simpleet fashion,
with vory bad manners and a certain naivote, and tht.ro stands the
doll. However, it is but a doll, and the two elements of which it has
been made are equally false
The young American woman, whon you see her among us, may
appear to you badly brought up, because wo compare her to tho con
ventional type of young woman among us, which, between paren
theses, is not very exact. Seen either at homo and quito closely,
one understands that liberty of manner can be associated alike with
tho worst and tho best of educations. After a vory short time you
can distinguish among them, and very clearly, those who are fast, aa
they say.and those who are not the one who likes to excite interest,
to call forth the desire of man, and the one with whom moral and
less still physical familarity is impossible.
As to naviote, when wo apply that term to young girls, we French
men, we alwajB take for granted that there is but one question to
them in the world that ib love. We admit that it is the essential
of their existence, as that of the oxistence of all women. Wo ask
ourselves what they dream of it, what they know of it, and our
measure of their innocence of their virginity of soul, if you prefer
it is entirely in the answer. It is implicitly understood that their
knowledge of the realities of life is in accordance with that unique
The same measure is not applicable to the American girl. For
her, as for the American man, that question of love is habitually
relegated to the bacKground. To know whether she will be married
according to the dictates of her heart, if she will live a romance or
if she will not, does not, as a rule play any great part in her imagina
tion. Even for those who seem tho most occupied in pleasing, and
who make abuse of physical coquetry the Bpecies is rarer than the
French think, more common than tho Americans acknowledge
that intercourse with man represents, nine times out of ton, a fact
of social life. It is means of assuring the triumphs of amour
propre, to become what the newspapers call "prominent people in
society," by the abundance of adorers.
That coquetry is not so dangerous for them as it would be else
where, on the one side because of the reserve of the youths, and on
the other on account of their profound knowledge of masculine
character, So young have they commenced to live in intimacy with
men that they are with them as the children of a c;rcus rider are
with tho horses. One of them, talking to me about a mutual ac
quaintancea married Spanish woman living at Rome and very un
happysaid to me: "She does not know how to manage her huB
band . . .'and then she proceeded to tell me how the rival of
that woman had set about to seduce and keep the faithless husband.
The kind of knowing innocence which such reflections conveyed is
not very intelligible to us. A young French diplomat who has lived
here several years, and whom I told of this conversation in order to
know its exact value, defined his own impression, which is very
severe, with this saying:
"They have a kind of chaste depravity." . . .
He added in proof of his epigram anecdotes concerning the en
gagements and the betrothals:
"I have known many young girls engaged to young men, whom
they had no intention of marrying. They liked them, to be
engaged to them, but they would not have suited them as husbands.
T have known others who for months hid a seriou i engagement, in
order the longer to retain tho homage which is withdrawn from an
'engageed girl.' The engagement among those girls in nine cases
out of ten is what the motherhood is to the woman. She dissimu
lates it until the very last moment, when it is po longer possible to
conceal it." . . .
I, for my own part, however, do not see in these small things,
which I have grounds to believe true, any proof of duplicity or per
versity. It means that that young American woman is, above all
things, a person of will, trained by nature, and by education to keep
herself under constant control. "What is the matter with you?"
was asked one of them by a compatriot of mine on his way to tho
Chicago Exhibition and who had been delayed in New York. He
had sat next to the young lady at two different dinners on previous
nights, his neighbor striking him as being extremely different from
the other times.
"I am rather nervous," she replied. "Some one came to see me at
five o'clock and behaved in a way that I do not like. I shall be
compelled to stop my flirtation with him; it is a great pity .
he is so bright a fellow"
Why is the young married woman in the United States less court
ed than the young girl? This is the first question which offers it-
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