Many visitors to Paris during
the 1830's and 40's often posed the same questions. Foreigners
admired the Parisian characteristics and way of life, which
eventually came to define the 'typical' Parisian.
At this time Paris was not only the most prosperous city
in Europe, but also the world. The 'remarkable people' that
inhabited this cosmopolitan city were all very diverse and
came from a variety of different nations, classes, and creeds.
However, the Parisian image
held by foreigners was very confined. It was not a panoramic
view of all society, but rather a narrow sliver of the elite.
When visitors spoke of the Parisians, they usually implied
people of the upper classes, meaning either aristocrats
or upper class bourgeoisie.
The foreign visitors who wrote memoires or travel guides
were wealthy, therefore the people they associated with
during their stay in Paris were of the same social stature.
These social circles frequented salons, soirées,
and the famous Parisian gardens.
Hence, their descriptions of Paris and the Parisians showed
little emphasis on the lower classes that inhabited the
city. Ironically, these lower classes were the overwhelming
majority of the population, and one could argue that they
were the 'typical' Parisians. However, when seen on the
streets they were most often overlooked and disregarded
as merely destitute,
or wretched prostitutes.
Thus, be aware that in this section when I describe the
'typical' Parisian, it is a narrow view of the upper
class Parisian population.