Project Gutenberg’s Paris As It Was and As It Is, by Francis W. Blagdon
An English journalist visits Paris in 1801 and pauses to reflect on the beauty of friendship with French women.
“When a man has come to his senses respecting the sex, or, according to the vulgar adage, sown his wild oats, he naturally seeks a sincere friend to whom he can unbosom himself with confidence. Experience warns him that few men are to be trusted; and unless he has had the good fortune to meet with a virtuous wife, blessed with an engaging temper and a good understanding, he must even, like Junius, be the depository of his own secret. In Paris, however, he may find one of those scarce females, who, being accustomed early in life to reflection, possess the firm mind of a man, combined with the quick sensibility of a woman.
When the illusion of the first passions is dissipated, their reason becomes unclouded. Renouncing every narrow thought, they raise themselves to the knowledge of the most weighty affairs, and, by an active observation of mankind, are accustomed to discriminate every shade of character. Hence their penetration is great; and they are capable of giving good advice on important occasions. In short, a French woman at thirty makes an excellent friend, and, attaching herself to the man she esteems, thinks no sacrifice too great for the advancement of his interest, or the security of his happiness or reputation.
The friendship between man and woman is a thousand times more sweet than that between one man and another. A woman’s friendship is active, vigilant, and at the same time tender. French women cherish more sincerely their old friends than their young lovers. They may perchance deceive the lover, but never the friend; the latter they consider as a sacred being. Whence, no doubt, Rousseau (who has not spared the Parisian ladies) has been led to say: “I would never have sought in Paris a wife, still less a mistress; but I would willingly have made there a female friend; and this treasure would, perhaps, have consoled me for not finding the other two.”
Paris, Christmas Day 1801