My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen - Vol. 3

My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen - Vol. 3

My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen - Vol. 3

My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen - Vol. 3

Excerpt

I left Paris in the autumn of 1847, without having formed any ties there; I remained completely outside the literary and political circles. There were many reasons for that. No direct occasion of contact with them occurred, and I did not care to seek it. To visit them simply in order to stare at celebrities, I thought unseemly. Moreover, I particularly disliked the tone of condescending superiority which Frenchmen assume with Russians: they approve of us, encourage us, commend our pronunciation and our wealth; we put up with it all, and behave as though we were asking them a favour, or even apologising for ourselves, delighted when, from politeness, they affect to take us for Frenchmen. The French overwhelm us with a flood of words, we cannot keep pace with them; we think of an answer, but they do not care to hear it; we are ashamed to show that we notice their blunders and their ignorance--they take advantage of all that with hopeless self-complacency.

To get on to a different footing with them, one would have to impress them with one's consequence; to do so, one must possess all sorts of privileges, which I had not at that time, and of which I took advantage at once when they were at my disposal.

Moreover, it must be remembered that there are no people in the world with whom it is easier to strike up a nodding acquaintance than the French--and no people with whom it is more difficult to get on to really intimate terms. A Frenchman likes to live in company, so as to display himself, to have an audience, and in that respect he is as much a contrast to the Englishman as in every-

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