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Couleur de Bose.


Authoress of " George Geith," etc.

THE meanings we attach to particular words and phrases, and the meanings such words and phrases bear, seem frequently to be in inverse proportion.

There is a lack of exactness in the modern arrangement of men's ideas, which produces a similar want of precision in speech.

We talk by ear instead of by knowledge; and the consequence is that if a man choose to originate any phrase, no matter how erroneous such phrase may be, it is certain, before the year be over, to find its imitators, and defenders.

No form of expression need despair of making its way into society now-a-days, when people accept their language as they do their friends (with infinitely less excuse, however)—on trust.

We import phrases from foreign countries also, regardless of their inapplicability to express our ruder and more forcible ideas.

Not merely are they useless to us, but the charm which hung about them in their own land is lost in transit. Untranslatable, they are inapplicable for dovetailing into an English sentence; but, spite of this, people persist in using them, forgetful that in crossing the Channel they have lost the delicate aroma which, unhappily, caught the fancy of the first man who insisted on bringing the stranger back to Dover with him.

It is of one of these imported phrases "Couleur de Rose," I want to speak to readers of THE BROADWAY.

If we look in a dictionary we find the free translation of "Couleur de Rose" to be "something bright and pleasing;" further, it is stated that "voir quelque chose couleur de rose," means to see a thing in its brightest colours.


This is the wine which is generally presented to us by those who affect such novelties as a genuine, sparkling champagne, and if we object to the beverage, we are considered deficient in a sense. are no judges of foreign vintages, or we should at once perceive that there is no English expression calculated to fill the place of " Couleur de Rose."

Perhaps not; but then, on the other hand, we do not require the

expression at all, since there is no English mental equivalent whatever to that foreign frame of mind which "Couleur de Rose" is intended to imply.

It is precisely because a man is a judge of foreign wines that he objects to champagne so flat that no English bread, wherewith we essay to re-animate its sparkle, can produce even a bead on the surface. Here "Couleur de Rose" tastes dead like Clicquot a week uncorked-it is useless as a foreign delicacy, it is unavailable as an English necessary. The thing was very well in its own country, as a light, meagre way of expressing the self-delusions of a different race; but, in the midst of our own more ponderous language, the expression means-so far as it means anything-humbug.

Because when an Englishman thinks over much of his own prospects, the rose-tint has been laid on by a cleverer and less scrupulous artist than himself.

"Couleur de Rose !"-there was a piece of tinted glass held up to Eve's eyes in Paradise, before the French language or the latest Parisian fashions were thought of, and we have been looking for a few thousand years since then in cool blood at the naked reality, the idealization of which she thought so lovely.

"Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil," said the serpent, throwing, we may be sure, an exquisite rose-tint over flower and shrub; and thus beguiled, our unfortunate mother ate, to discover that good and evil meant ninety-nine and three-quarters per cent. of evil, and one-quarter per cent. of good.

In a minor degree, the consequences are much the same with us now. We first look through the glass and think everything lovely; then we see the other side, and think nothing comely, whereas were we to take "Couleur de Rose" for what it is worth, we should not feel disappointed when we behold reality face to face.

A blind faith is easier than scepticism, and wholesomer too, some people say; but this proposition is open to question, since there can be little doubt but that "Couleur de Rose" and its accompanying shams are fruitful sources of discontent, envy, jealousy, hatred, and all uncharitableness.

For people accept the false gloss, and knowing how rough a surface life presents to them, each amongst the number cries:

"Why is it that A, B, C, D, and so forth, meet with this good fortune, whilst I, I alone of all the letters of the alphabet, have to earn my living in the sweat of my brow ?"

Which is all very natural, only if he could see the circumstances of his fellows without the conversational glamour thrown over them, he would know life to be not so much sweeter to A than to Z, as A strives to make it appear.

As it is, Z grumbles at the remainder of the human alphabet in this fashion::

"They know charming people; they enjoy themselves out of town; they have delightful partics; they have good businesses; they are returned for Parliament; their pictures are well hung; their books well reviewed; they have helpful relations; they have nice parishes, with plenty of resident gentry, a roomy Rectory and rich globe lands; they get their sons well placed in the world; they are thought clever; they are always prosperous; they know no money worries-life is with them a gay scene: it is all 'Couleur de Rose.'"

Yes, my friend, it is, but "Couleur de Rose" in my sense of the word, not yours. It is fair and false, glittering and delusive. The rose-tint does no good to them, though it may mortify and disturb you.

Let us take a few examples of "Couleur de Rosc," out of, say, Jones' circle of ordinary acquaintances, and analyze the quality of the wares presented to him. At random, we select Mr. Brown speaking.

"Not know Mrs. Manx! But, my dear fellow, you must know her. No-positively-not joking. Ah, well, you should have been at her party last night. Half the world there; everybody worth seeing; and such a supper. Everybody from the Prince of Wales down. Charming woman!-delightful house! You ought to go there. Take my advice, and get an introduction."

Which sentence fills Jones with a devouring jealousy, since, humanly speaking, Mrs. Manx is as far removed from him as the kingdom of heaven.

But by some turn of the wheel, Jones at length finds himself in Mrs. Manx's drawing-room, and then the bare reality of Brown's terrestrial paradise proves to be stifling rooms; dull, second-rate people; some hanger-on of the court pointed out as a great man; a large, overdressed woman for hostess; a small, priggish individual for host; cold coffee, with plenty of chicory in it; hot ices, as an agreeable change after the coffee; gooseberry champagne for supper, which Jones is fain to take, in order to wash down the drumstick of a farm-yard patriarch, which has been presented to him together with a quarter of a yard of white satin ribbon.

Jones not being given to think evilly of his neighbours, forms at

first the amiable idea that Brown entertains singular ideas on the subject of desirable acquaintances, and is ready-though, perhaps, not quite so ready-to be duped by another friend, who, expatiating on the delights of his summer holiday, remarks

"Now, that is a house to stay at, if you like. Liberty Hall-horses, croquet, carriages, best in the land to eat and drink, pretty girls to flirt with, lots of parties and all that sort of thing. That is the way to enjoy a holiday, I can tell you."

Which duly impresses Jones with a sense of Robinson's superiority, and his own inferiority, until he one day meets his friend on his way to the Thames Tunnel, with Paterfamilias the owner of Liberty Hall. Then it all oozes out. Liberty Hall is only Wildpool Farm served up with "Couleur de Rose" sauce; and Farmer Hodges, the hospitable host of that charming retreat, proves less desirable as a visitor in town than he seemed as an entertainer amid the turnip fields of Norfolk.

Supposing, however, Liberty Hall to have been indeed the abode of one of England's elect-Jones, if he could only peep behind the scenes, would know in that abode of perfect freedom Robinson had to wear tighter stays than it ever was his ill fortune to have laced over his rebellious flesh before.

It was all very grand; but the only real enjoyment of the visit is, throwing on the rose-tint in sufficient quantity to make his neighbour curse the day in which he too was not invited to make one of the guests assembled at the hospitable seat of Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Algernon-Percy-Vere de Vere-Courcy.

Or Snooks is asked to the lordly table of Sir Duncan Furbisher, where he is carelessly introduced to the great contractor's wife as "Mr. Snooks, my dear," and is consequently received with a stately courtesy which makes him feel that Lady Furbisher is a kind of moral refrigerator, who has thoroughly iced him for the remainder of the evening.

He is duly requested to take a deaf old lady down to dinner, who wishes to know if he is one of the Brookes of Allingford Castle, and insists on having his rightful name screamed into her car, to the confusion of Snooks, the disgust of Lady F., and sardonic delight of the footmen who look at Snooks as though each knew something to his disadvantage, and hand him, with a sort of silent protest, food, which he is afraid to eat, and strange wines which he is afraid to refuse.

But only hear Snooks the next day, and one might imagine Sir Duncan had offered him his daughter to wife.

"Delightful people," says Snooks; "quite a pleasure to visit at the house. No form or ceremony. Thoroughly hospitable, kind-hearted people, useful connection." Whereupon Crookes leaves the omnibus where he has heard all these details, and returning to his home and to the bosom of his family (consisting of six children, with fine healthy appetites, all of a tender and unreasoning age), mentally considers, "Wherein is this twopenny-halfpenny timber-merchant better than I, that Sir Duncan Furbisher should take him by the hand and lift him to fortune, while I am left to grope about the bottom of the hill all my life."

And then comes in young Snooks, with an account of the opera, where he went "with a party" the previous evening, and his narrative flows on, a smooth unbroken stream of "Couleur de Rose." He does not tell how the heat of the place aloft, where he sat, made his head ache; how he had to crane his neck and stand up during half the performance to catch even a distant view of the stage; how the singers were not first-rate; how the night was a sort of off affair, when the best boxes were empty. He voted the whole thing a bore as he walked back to the paternal roof, but he does not spare his colours when talking to Crookes.

That once popular authoress who, writing in a labourer's cottage, surrounded by a cabbage-garden, conveyed to the mind of her titled correspondent visions of a velvet lawn, lovely flowers, noble trees, must have been a rare painter in "Couleur de Rose."

The Scotchman, with his thousand and one illustrious ancestorsthe Englishman, with the fabulous wealth of a foolish parent who would speculate the foreigner, with his descent from Charlemagne, and his intimate acquaintance with every famous statesman on the continent-the nobleman who talks as though a seat in the Cabinet were his to command-the unsuccessful candidate, who tells of the tremendous sensation caused by his speech at Little Cramlington-the successful M.P., who insists that the House listens spell-bound to his platitudes-the barrister who pooh-poohs the idea of any culprit having a chance of escape when he is for the Crown-the doctor who speaks as though the Almighty had confided some special secret to him for the cure of all diseases-the coachman who informs his future master, "One or a pair, sir, or four-in-hand! all the same, sir"-the friend who says, "I know all his affairs intimately; he consults me about everything "the acquaintance who declares, "I drop in whenever I like, as if it were my own house "-the author who implies all the

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