« AnteriorContinuar »
this terrible practice, by the institution of a Court of Honour. We had hoped that this, together with the wider spread of religious feeling, would have produced a beneficial effect in this particular; but we are sorry to find, from our author's account, that the experiment has totally failed, and that public opinion is so strongly in favour of that mode of avenging insult, that no one has yet dared to stem its current. He professes to say from the experience of a considerable residence there, that “an appointment for a duel is talked of with the nonchalance of an invitation to a dinner party." We trust that this opinion is unsound; or if the evil have risen to the pitch described, that the strong arm of the legislative power will be interposed to wipe out this stain upon the morals of the land. It has been done in the case of gambling, another of the excesses of human passion which the traveller encountered to such an extent in this same city. At the period of his arrival, gambling establishments were regularly licensed, and paid, annually, for their pernicious privileges, more than sixty thousand dollars. Their number was, consequently, very large, compared with the size of New Orleans; they were situated in the most public streets-open from mid-day until early next morning, and thronged with all classes of the community, from the lowest black-leg to men of high standing. The temptations held out in the shape of large dividends, induced many monied men, in other respects of unobjectionable character, to become stockholders in these institutions, whose establishment was effected by the sale of shares in the same manner as that of other companies.
These infernos (and it is not to his discredit that we mention it) appear to have been quite a novelty to our : Yankee" visiter; and he therefore describes them minutely and graphically to his friend at home, presenting what was intended to be a startling picture, to the unsophisticated inhabitants of his native state. As we presume most of our readers have, either from personal observation, or the accounts of others, obtained a pretty definite idea of what such places are, and of what is carried on in their precincts, we shall pass over our author's account of them, though it is very well written, and no doubt made his correspondents raise their eyes in horror at the wickedness of their kind. These “ Rooms” are located generally over the coffee-houses,” (as they are termed, quasi lucus, fc.) being one step higher in the grade of dissipation than the latter. It is stated, that there are at least one hundred of these cafés in New Orleans, thronged throughout the day with "thirsty, time-killing, and news-seeking visiters." We will extract the notice of one, which we presume to be a fair specimen of the rest:
vol. XVIII.- No. 37. 5
" As the coffee-houses here do not differ materially from each other except in size and richness of decoration, though some of them certainly are more fashionable resorts than others, the description of one of them will enable you perhaps to form some idea of other similar establishments in this city. Though their usual denomination is coffee-house,' they have no earthly, whatever may be their spiritual, right to such a distinction; it is merely a nom de profession,' assumed, I know not for what object. We entered from the street, after passing round a large Venetian screen within the door, into a spacious rooin, lighted by numerous lamps, at the extremity of which stood an extensive bar, arranged, in addition to the usual array of glass ware, with innumerable French decorations. There were several attendants, some of whom spoke English, as one of the requirements of their station. This is the case of all employés throughout New Orleans; nearly every store and place of public resort being provided with individuals in attendance who speak both languages. Around the room were suspended splendid engravings and fine paintings, most of them of the most licentious description, and though many of their subjects were classical, of a voluptuous and luxurious character. This is French taste, however. There are suspended in the exchange in Chartres street-one of the most magnificent and public rooms in the city-paintings which, did they occupy an equally conspicuous situation in Merchant's Hall, in Boston, would be instantly defaced by the populace.
"Around the room, beneath the paintings, were arranged many small tables, at most of which three or four individuals were seated, some alternately sipping negus and puffing their segars, which are as indispensable necessaries to a creole at all times, as his right hand, eyebrows, and left shoulder, in conversation. Others were reading newspapers, and occasionally assisting their comprehension of abstruse paragraphs, by hot coffee,' alias warm punch and slings, with which, on little japanned salvers, the active attendants were flying in all directions through the spacious room, at the beck and call of customers. The large circular bar was surrounded by a score of noisy applicants for the liquid treasures which held out to them such strong temptations. Trios, couples, and units of gentlemen, were promenading the well sanded floor, talking in loud tones, and gesticulating with the peculiar vehemence and rapidity of Frenchmen. Others, and by far the majority, were gathered by twos and by fours around the little tables, deeply engaged in playing that most intricate, scientific, and mathematical of games termed domino.' This is the most common game resorted to by the creoles. In every café and cabaret, from early in the morning, when the luxurious mint-julep has thahed out their intellects and expanded their organ of combativeness, till late at night, devotees to this childish amusement will be found clustered around the tables, with a tonic often renewed and properly sangareed, at their elbows. Enveloped in dense clouds of tobacco-smoke issuing from their eternal segars—those inspirers of pleasant thoughts,-to whose density, with commendable perseverance and apparent good will, all in the café contribute,- they manœuvre their little dotted, black and white parallelograms with wonderful pertinacity and skill."
The existence of such a state of things could hardly be permanent in any section of our country, and after repeated attempts by the citizens of Louisiana for the suppression of at least the public countenance given to gambling, (which were for a long time unavailing,) the cause of good morals finally
triumphed. The nuisances we have referred to were suppressed, under very severe penalties for an infraction of the law. We shall give our author's abstract of the provisions of the statute, as well to show the extent of the evil, and the importance which the legislature attached to it, as for the purpose of a wider dissemination of so wise and decided a measure. We regard it as a happy presage of what public opinion may finally accomplish with respect to private combat. The abstract we referred to, is this :
“During the last session of the legislature of Louisiana, however, a bill to suppress gambling-houses in New Orleans, passed both houses, and has become a law. One of the enactments provides that the owners or occupants of houses in which gambling is detected, are liable to the penalties of the law. For the first offence, a fine of from one to five thousand dollars; for the second, from ten to fifteen thousand, and confinement in the penitentiary from one to five years, at the discretion of the court. Fines are also imposed for playing at any public gaming table, or any banking game. The owners of houses where gaming tables are kept, are liable for the penalty, if not collected of the keeper; unless they are able to show that the crime was committed so privately that the owner could not know of it. It also provides for the recovery of any sums of money lost by gaming.
"To make up the deficiency in the revenue arising from the abolition of gaming houses, a bill has been introduced into the legislature, providing for the imposition of a tax on all passengers arriving at, or leaving New Orleans, by ships or steamboats."
With the appearance of the city generally, and with the society, our Eastern friend was delighted ; and he confirms our previous impressions of the widely cast seeds of future commercial wealth and eminence in this great southern metropolis. These cannot now be enlarged upon; let us rather turn to what he says of the personal appearance of the New Orleans women. His descriptions of the beauty of the creole ladies is certainly vivid,--and if not overcharged, places them in the highest grade of feminine loveliness. For perfection (or, as the enthusiastic writer terms it, “magnificence”) of form, the quadroons are eminently distinguished. In the following passages the subject is touched upon, and a characteristic comparison instituted with the belles of the Green Mountains. He was at a public ball.
“During our promenade through the room I had an opportunity of, taking my first survey of the gay world of this city, and of viewing al my leisure the dark-eyed fascinating creoles, whose peculiar cast of beauty and superb figures are every where celebrated. Of the large assembly of ladies present, and there were nearly two hundred, “maid. wife, and widow, 'there were many very pretty, if coal-black hair, regular features, pale, clear complexions, intelligent faces, lighted up by
Eyes that flash and burn
and graceful figures, all of which are characteristic of the creole, come under this definition. There were others who would be called handsome,' any where, except in the Green Mountains, where a pretty face and a red apple, a homely face and a lily, are pretty much synonymous terms. A few were eminently beautiful."
Again; at the theatre-
“The parquette was brilliant with bright eyes and pretty faces; and upon the bending galaxy of ladies which glittered in the front of the boxes around it, I seemed to gaze through the medium of a rainbow.There were, it must be confessed, some plain enough faces among them; but, at the first glance of the eye, one might verily have believed himself encircled by a gallery of houris. The general character of their faces was decidedly American; exactly such as one gazes upon at the Tremont or Park theatre; and I will henceforward eschew physiognomy, if 'I guess' would not have dropped more naturally from the lips of one half who were before me, while conversing, than I reckon. There were but few French faces among the females; but, with two or three exceptions, these were extremely pretty. Most of the delicately-reared creoles, or Louisianian ladies, are eminently beautiful. A Psyche-like fascination slumbers in their dark, eloquent eyes, whose richly fringed lids droop timidly over them-softening but not diminishing their brilliance. Their style of beauty is unique, and not easily classed. It is neither French nor English, but a combination of both, mellowed and enriched under a southern sky. They are just such creatures as Vesta and Venus would have moulded, had they united to form a faultless woman."
The legislative assembly of Louisiana impressed our traveller very favourably as respects the talent it contained. The amalgamation of the two races has been sufficient to exclude, at least from that floor, any jealous, much less hostile feelings. In one particular, however, it seems to us that the want of a common language by all classes produces what is to a degree destructive to the power of eloquence and of the spirit of debate; we allude to the necessity of an interpreter. This is more objectionable in its results, and occasionally, we should think, even more ludicrous in its management, than the system of haranguing from a tribune pursued in the French Chamber of Deputies. The contrast in the attitudes and countenances of the two disputants: one pouring forth torrents of fiery words which fall unheeded, because unintelligible, on the ears of the listener, who sits intensely anxious to know what it all means, until in his turn he becomes inflamed from the explanations of the interpreter, (" he says, sir,") --like John Kemble laughing an hour after the wit had been relished by every one beside, though probably unnoticed by those to whom habit has made it familiar, must to a stranger be inexpressibly comical. It is well described by our author.
"A spirit of mutual cordiality, as great as can be looked for in a political assembly, pervades their whole body, to the entire exclusion of
local prejudices. Neither is there an exclusive language used in their legislative proceedings. It is not necessary that the American members should speak French, or vice versa, though it would be certainly more agreeable were it universally understood by them; as all speeches made by Frenchmen are immediately translated into English, while those made by the Americans are repeated again, by the translator, to the French part of the house, in their own language. This method not only necessarily consumes a great deal of time, and becomes excessively tedious to all parties, but diminishes, as do all translations, the strength, eloquence, and force of a speech; and, of course, lessens the impression. It is not a little amusing, to study the whimsical contortions of a Frenchman, while, with shrugging shoulders and restless eyes, he listens to, and watches the countenance of some American party opponent, who may have the floor. The lalter thunders out his torrent of eloquence, wherein the nicest epithets are noi, perhaps, the most carefully chosen, in his zeal to express his political gall against his Gallic opponent; while Monsieur fidgets about in happy ignorance, till the honourable member concludes, -when he jumps up, runs his open hand, chin, and nose, almost in the face of the interpreter, 'arrectis auribus,' and chafing like a lion; and before the last sentence is hurriedly completed, flings down his gauntlet,—throws his whole soul into a rush of warm eloquence, beneath the edifying sound of which, his American antagonist feels that it is now his time to look foolish, which he does with a most commendable expression of mock sang froid, upon his twitching, try-to-be philosophic features."
Upon the whole, the writer presents an unfavourable picture of the state of morals in New Orleans. He particularly adverts to the disregard of the Sabbath ; that being the day especially selected for theatrical performances. It is the fashionable night. This and much else that we have alluded to, is owing, doubtless, to the original character of the population,--French and Spanish : American habits and principles not having yet become paramount. We hope for a change; and are beside disposed to think that our author has exhibited but one side of the sketch; and has overcharged his estimate of south-western immoralities. If so, we should be glad to see a correction from the injured quarter itself.
After speaking of churches and their negiect, the traveller turns to churchyards and cemeteries, and mourns over the want of care and respect paid to them in America. He makes against his countrymen, upon this head, the serious charge of want of civilisation ; for he asserts “that care for the dead keeps pace with civilisation.” We must dissent from the proposition in toto. The largest receptacles for the lifeless bodies of men and the greatest expenditures, both of labour and money, for their preservation, existed with a nation of antiquity we should be loth to consider more civilised than ourselves. Is England less so than France or Italy? Or are the Turks more advanced than the other nations of Europe ? These last have even their “city of the dead;" mighty in its proportions. We should rather be disposed to believe the converse of the