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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

41. Bringing Europeans Together

Texte intégral

1Louis-Antoine Caraccioli, in the conclusion of his work Paris, The Model of Foreign Nations, or French Europe identifies a fruitful coming together of European peoples in the eighteenth century. He attributes this to more frequent commerce between nations. Thus, the ideas of the Enlightenment thinkers, such as tolerance, circulated more widely. He observes with a certain satisfaction the supremacy of French taste which seems to be establishing itself throughout Europe.

2Oh! I breathe again. For Europe is now the most agreeable residence in the universe. I no longer see there the thickets, the marshes, the cliffs which injured the view, which despaired the traveller. The richest countryside, the most joyous lawns, the most beautiful view, the most beautiful roads. That is what I perceive, and it is France which has contributed more than any other country to this happy metamorphosis.

3And what have we done to achieve such success? Both great and small things, as I have observed. The remedies most meagre in appearance are often the greatest help.

4There is nothing more advantageous than to have crossed, by means of public ways and posts, the immense breach which separated Europeans from one another. It seems that there is no longer distance between us. Paris touches Petersburg, Rome Constantinople, and we are but one and the same family living in different regions. I call up Poland, Sweden, Denmark, I beg them to give me their hand and already we greet one another, we embrace one another, we are as brothers. It is the same spirit that enlivens us, the same soul which animates us.

5I no longer encounter this fanaticism which took on the language of religion to stir up nation against nation and to drag out disputes and dissent; I no longer hear those war cries which stirred up vengeance and hatred; if we still kill one another, it is at least without animosity.

6Our manner of studying is almost uniform. Spanish schools resemble German schools. There we form the same pupils, there we learn, too, how to distinguish between the false and the true, how not to dismiss as mere opinion what is not strictly of faith. Superstition hides herself and Religion shows herself: Her only fear is to be overlooked.

7If I examine society, I find it the same for all Europeans, albeit with some nuances. Sweetness makes up the basis, graciousness the polish. We play the same games, we make the same remarks, we have the same ideas, the same feelings. Women are educated in Naples as in Paris, in London as in Madrid, and they are the delight of a society.

8The great wit who plays with words is beginning to be heard no longer. There is only the Italian who keeps his concetti and who guards them because they concern his language, about which he is justly passionate.

9We seek in all parts any work which carries the imprint of delicateness and genius, and we desire universally that it be written in French; it is the only language we love to speak, and would become the only language, if most Europeans were consulted.

10There are no longer any fashions but French fashions. English has great trouble indeed in maintaining its own, which are conserved only through vanity.

11We dress in Vienna as in Paris, we have our hair styles in Dresden as in Lyons. The majority of Europeans once spent all morning making themselves ridiculous for the rest of the day. It was a mixture of gothic and modern, a hodgepodge of disparate colours which thwarted age and physiognomy. Now it is taste which presides over all toilettes, and the taste is that of Paris. […]

12French civility has found no nation reluctant when it is introduced among different peoples. There is no person who does not like lightness and sincerity.

13And so Europe is now a painting, all parts of which are admirably linked; the eye perceives in it a unity which is flattering, an order which is satisfying, from which I conclude that we cannot resist the charms of sweetness and suggestion, and that, the further the years progress, the more French graciousness will dominate, this graciousness which brings pleasantness to the most serious things, just as it brings interest to the most insignificant things.

14Louis-Antoine Caraccioli,
Paris, the Model of Foreign Nations, or French Europe (1777).

Galerie des Modes, ‘Young Lady of Quality in a Formal Dress, Wearing an Elegant Victory Bonnet’ (1778), drawn by Claude-Louis Desrais, engraved by Voysant.i

Read the free text in the original language (1777 edition):​ark:/12148/​bpt6k1156961
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Table des illustrations

Légende Galerie des Modes, ‘Young Lady of Quality in a Formal Dress, Wearing an Elegant Victory Bonnet’ (1778), drawn by Claude-Louis Desrais, engraved by Voysant.i
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