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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Charm of Paris
By George William Curtis (1824–1892)
From ‘The Potiphar Papers’

“YES, my dear Madame,” answered the Pacha, “this is indeed making the best of one’s opportunities. This is well worth coming to Europe for. It is in fact for this that Europe is chiefly valuable to an American, as the experience of an observer shows. Paris is notoriously the great centre of historical and romantic interest. To be sure, Italy, Rome, Switzerland, and Germany—yes, and even England—have some few objects of interest and attention; but the really great things of Europe, the superior interests, are all in Paris. Why, just reflect. Here is the Café de Paris, the Trois Frères, and the Maison Dorée. I don’t think you can get such dinners elsewhere. Then there is the Grand Opera, the Comic Opera, and now and then the Italian—I rather think that is good music. Are there any such theatres as the Vaudeville, the Variétés, and the Montansier, where there is the most dexterous balancing on the edge of decency that ever you saw? and when the balance is lost, as it always is at least a dozen times every evening, the applause is tremendous, showing that the audience have such a subtle sense of propriety that they can detect the slightest deviation from the right line. Is there not the Louvre, where, if there is not the best picture of a single great artist, there are good specimens of all? Will you please to show me such a promenade as the Boulevards, such fêtes as those of the Champs Elysées, such shops as those of the Passages and the Palais Royal? Above all, will you indicate to such students of mankind as Mr. Boosey, Mr. Firkin, and I, a city more abounding in piquant little women, with eyes, and coiffures and toilettes, and je ne sais quoi, enough to make Diogenes a dandy, to obtain their favor? I think, dear madame, you would be troubled to do it. And while these things are Paris, while we are sure of an illimitable allowance of all this in the gay capital, we do right to remain here. Let who will, sadden in moldy old Rome, or luxuriate in the orange groves of Sorrento and the South, or wander among the ruins of the most marvelous of empires, and the monuments of art of the highest human genius, or float about the canals of Venice, or woo the Venus and the Apollo, and learn from the silent lips of those teachers a lore sweeter than the French novelists impart; let who will, climb the tremendous Alps, and feel the sublimity of Switzerland as he rises from the summer of Italian lakes and vineyards into the winter of the glaciers, or makes the tour of all climates in a day by descending those mountains towards the south; let those who care for it, explore in Germany the sources of modern history, and the remote beginnings of the American spirit;—ours be the boulevards, the demoiselles, the operas, and the unequaled dinners. Decency requires that we should see Rome, and climb an Alp. We will devote a summer week to the one, and a winter month to the other. They will restore us, renewed and refreshed, for the manly, generous, noble, and useful life we lead in Paris.”  1

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