Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

Our stay in New Orleans was not long enough to permit our entering into society, but I was told that it contained two distinct sets of people, both celebrated, in their way, for their social meetings and elegant entertainments.

The first of these is composed of Creole families, who are chiefly planters and merchants, with their wives and daughters; these meet together, eat together, and are very grand and aristocratic; each of their balls is a little Almack's, and every portly dame of the set is as exclusive in her principles as a lady patroness.

The other set consists of the excluded but amiable Quadroons, and such of the gentlemen of the former class as can by any means escape from the high places, where pure Creole blood swells the veins at the bare mention of any being tainted in the remotest degree with the Negro stain.

Of all the prejudices I have ever witnessed, this appears to me the most violent, and the most inveterate. Quadroon girls, the acknowledged daughters of wealthy American and Creole fathers, educated with all of style and accomplishments which money can procure at New Orleans, and with all the decorum that care and affection can give; exquisitely beautiful, graceful, gentle, and amiable. These are not admitted, nay, are not on any terms admissible, into the society of the Creole families of Louisiana.

They cannot marry, that is to say, no ceremony can render an union with them legal or binding; yet such is the powerful effect of their very peculiar grace, beauty, and sweetness of manner, that unfortunately they perpetually become the objects of choice and affection. If the Creole ladies have privilege to exercise the awful power of repulsion, the gentle Quadroon has the sweet but dangerous vengeance of possessing that of attraction. 

The unions formed with this unfortunate race are said to be often lasting and happy, as far as any unions can be so, to which a certain degree of disgrace is attached.

~ from Domestic Manners of the Americans by Frances Trollope

Mrs. Trollope was an Englishwoman who traveled through the U.S. from 1827 to 1831. Her book is full of dislike for Americans and, as this passage shows, certain misunderstandings - and surprising insights - of and into the customs she encountered.

Header: Frances Trollope by Auguste Hervieu c 1832 via Wikipedia


Mike Hebert said...

Great post Pauline, as usual:-)

Kittie Howard said...

Mike Hebert suggested I visit your blog. Happy I did. Another LA follower here.

Timmy! said...

She does have a rather snooty tone to her writing, Pauline... And a rather unfortunately humorous sounding name.

Pauline said...

Mike: Merci - as always :)

Kittie: So glad to have you join us. Mike has added a lot to many of my posts here and over at Triple P. I look forward to your input, too!

Timmy!: Yeah; her name pretty much tops things off, so to say. Her book is quite interesting though, and Twain - in his inimitable way - gave her more than one back-handed compliment so there's that.