chapter  4
19 Pages

THE MEANING OF LUXURY

It will be our axiom in this not-really-historical chapter that the whole of culture was pulled up and replanted in a different order between about 1830 and 1880, never more wholesale than in planting the new fields of leisure pastimes and the taking of vacations. There are three classical locations for the vacation: first the City, with all it entails of multitudinous strangeness, richness of size and squalor; second, the Country, with its powerful presences of Nature herself, the simple, even primitive living that goes with her, a certain asceticism enjoined by solitude and meditation; third, the Seaside, a mixture of the two, where fashionable urbanity on its promenade dissolves suddenly along the pier into awed contemplation of the sea, where the rules of polite dining-out and taking of tea are so daringly overturned by food eaten with the fingers and in the open air, and where chance encounters at the thé dansant may turn into love affairs before the waltz is over.