French and Spaniards
A LITTLE work, published after that famous intermarriage which overcame the enmity of the two Courts of France and Spain, though it could not that of the two nations; presents us with a humorous contrast of their manners; dispositions, habits, &c.
“A Frenchman,” says our author; “entering his friend’s house, will immediately ask for some refreshment: a Spaniard would rather perish with hunger or thirst. A Frenchman salutes a lady by kissing her: a Spaniard, on presenting a lady his hand, will cover it with his cloak, and retreat back several paces to bow to her at a hundred steps distant.”
“I have often been tempted,” says the author, who was a Spaniard, “to ask the midwives if it was possible that a French child could be brought into the world in the same manner as a Spanish infant—so dissimilar they prove from their birth!
“The French have a lively apprehension, hating idleness, and reducing their knowledge into practical use ; but they do not penetrate deeply into any matter. The Spaniard, on the contrary, is fond of abstract and abstruse speculation, and dwells continually on an object. The French are afraid of believing too much; the other of believing too little. The former will dispatch the weightiest business in the midst of noise and tumult, amidst the levity of assemblies, or gaieties of the table; whilst the grave Spaniard cannot bear the buzzing of a fly to disturb his fixed attention. In love, the one are light and talkative; the other, constant and secret. The Spaniard will disguise his poverty under a thousand pretences, and invent as many fictions to persuade you his appearance is owing to the necessity of concealing his person; whilst the Frenchman will press his wants upon you with the most persevering importunity. In every minutia, this difference is traced; both at the toilette and table: in mixing wine, the Spaniard puts the water first in the glass; whilst the Frenchman puts the wine first. A troop of Frenchmen will walk abreast in the street with abundance of tattle; whilst the Spaniards will walk with measured gravity, in a defile, like a procession. A Frenchman, discovering a person at a distance, beckons with an uplifted hand, drawn towards his face: the Spaniard bends his hand downwards, and moves it towards his feet.”
This contrast of humours and manners he seems inclined to attribute to the difference of climate: in the one country, settled and constant; in the other, ever varying, as the genius of its inhabitants.