If the capital of the French nation, situated on the river Seine, were simply the most beautiful, the wittiest, wickedest, and most artistic of towns, if as has been so often asserted (and not exclusively by the citizens thereof) the most commonplace and the most brilliant of human manifestations alike take on new qualities, texture, and interest the moment they become Parisien, then, indeed, would this city be entitled to be considered only with that mild offence which is the proper intellectual attitude before all so-claimed earthly superlatives. But Paris is by no means to be so disposed of. The very peccability of her wit is demonstrated by the extravagant claims which it permits itself. No God-given institution proclaims itself as such, at least, noisily. It is the shadings to this brilliant picture, the exceeding width and depth and blackness of the sun-spots on this luminary of civilization, which relieve us from any easy toleration and compel us to the liveliest attention. One of her many qualities is that of representing and, too often, of acting for the whole country, indeed, la centralisation is one of the four great evils (the others being the abuse of alcool, la pornographic, and the stationary birth-rate) which are recognized by its own citizens as menacing the nation.
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June 30, 2010
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