Friday, July 11, 2008

The Duchess SPEAKS II

The main character in our next show is a fascinating woman known only as "The Duchess." As we approach the show's opening in October, we'll be sharing some carefully selected excerpts from her 6,000+ page biography/memoir. In this entry, The Duchess ponders the differences between the classes:

Ah, those were pleasant days! those were pleasant days! Few persons have seen so much of the various aspects—I may say of the two extremes of life—as myself; and few persons, therefore, can be better judges of the difference between great poverty and great wealth; but after all, this does not, by any means, constitute the chief and most important distinction between the high and low states. No, the signal, the striking contrast is not in the external circumstances, but in the totally opposite minds of the two classes as to their respective enjoyment of existence.

The society in which I formally moved was all cheerfulness—all high spirits—all fun, frolic, and vivacity; they cared for nothing thought of nothing, beyond the pleasures of the present hour, and to those they gave themselves up with the keenest relish. Look at the circles in which I now move; can anything be more “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable,” than their whole course of life? Why, one might as well be in the treadmill, as toiling in the stupid, monotonous round of what they call pleasure, but which is, in fact, very cheerless and heavy work. Pleasure indeed! There can be no cordiality when there is so much exclusiveness and primness,--no, all is coldness, reserve, and universal ennui, even where this starchness of manner is unaccompanied by any very strict rigour in matters of conduct.

I look out for cheerful people when I can find them—I do everything in my power to make them happy—and yet, were it not for the merry and frequent laugh of dear old General Phipps, could you not swear that my dinner parties were funeral feasts? Look, now, at those quadrille-dancers in the other room; they have been supping—they have been drinking as much of my champagne as they liked—the band is capital—the men are young, and the girls are pretty;--and yet did you ever see such crawling movements—such solemn looks—as if they were all dragging themselves through the most irksome task in the world! Oh, what a different thing was a country dance in my younger days!

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