~~~To the custom of selling wives with halters round their necks among the lower classes in England, the French make constant allusions. Nothing places our own prejudices in so strong a light as thus coming in contact with the national prejudices of others. In England all French husbands are considered as des messieurs commodes; in France all English husbands are frequently distinguished by the epithet des brutals.—"Voilà" said a French lady with whom I was driving in the Champs Elysées—voilà miladi **** et son brutal!” pointing to an English couple not celebrated for their conjugal felicity. Of the frequency of divorces in England, the publicity which reflects the mother's shame on her innocent offspring, the indecent exposure of the trials, where every respect for manners is brutally violated, and the pecuniary remuneration accepted by the injured husband, the French speak with horror and contempt . . .
Legal divorces are rare in France: formal and eternal separations made privately by the parties are more general; and when love survives in one object the honour and fidelity of the other, measures of greater violence are sometimes adopted, more consonant to the impetuous character of a people whose passions are rather quick than deep seated, and who frequently act upon impulse in a manner which even a momentary reflection would disclaim.
During my residence in Paris, a young man of condition destroyed himself, on having obtained proofs of his wife's frailty. A few weeks afterwards a gentleman shot himself through the head in the churchyard of Vaugirard, not because his wife was faithless, but (as he declared in a written paper found in his pocket) because she was insensible to his own passion. . .
As long as the frailties of a Frenchwoman of fashion are peccate celate; as long as she lives upon good terms with her husband, and does the honours of his house, she has the same latitude and the same reception in society as is obtained by women similarly situated in England, where, like the Spartan boy, she is punished not for her crime but for its discovery.
—Character and manners of Frenchwomen, from Lady Morgan’s France, excerpted in Ackermann’s Repository August 1817.
*They do it differently in France Part I.
Illustration: "The celebration [fête] of the Order ofCuckoldry before the throne of her majesty, Infidelity, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.