was no place for a real man.
masculine bourgeois gentleman was not lead in the
discussion of art and other similar topics by a Salonnière
over tea with other occupation-less dilettantes. The masculine
bourgeois took spirits whilst participating in the manly act of
gambling his family's fortunes away. Such was the life of the Gentleman's
Cercle, also known as the Casino.
Le Jeu De Dames.
1836. (Farwell 46)
Here are some gentlemen
playing a game of checkers: "Le Jeu de Dames" (So
named after the pawns). They are bourgeois - note the top
hats, large cravats, and the tailoring of the jackets. The
game is social - five gentlemen look on the two players. Note
the drink on the table in the rear. This piece could be viewed
satirically: the old bourgeoisie (all involved in the game
of checkers are white haired) passing their idle lives playing
The cercle was a predominantly
provincial phenomenon. Paris had numerous elite cafés for
solely bourgeois clientele, whereas the provinces had no arena solely
for the bourgeois citizen. Provincial bourgeoisie had no place to
gather other than their own homes, which could be miles apart. Thus
the birth of the cercle, derivative of the café and the salon.
Paris Guide describes the cercle: "CERCLES.--These
are societies conducted on similar princicles to the clubs of London,
the members subscribing for the support of a magnificent apartament,
in which they assemble for the purpose of conversation and of reading
the papers; card and billiard playing to a great extent is carried
on in them. ... To be admitted, the candidate must be proposed by
a member, and ballotted for, as in London..." (Galignani's
The purpose of the cercle
was to "procure amusements similar to those one finds in public
cafés, without the disadvantages that result from pernicious
habits that one can contrast there as a result of exposure to individuals
met by chance whose morals, in consequence, are unknown" (Harrison
90). In other words, to provide a safe haven for the bourgeois male
from the lower classes, as well as his wife.
For indeed, the cercle
included only gentlemen, and no ladies. Men had tired of "the
limits of the salon
- limits of both size and salonnière-imposed politesse"
(Harrison 95, italics hers) After the
cercles had gained notoreity, they sponsored balls for the bourgeois
community, but only two per annum, so as not to disturb cercle members
with "an invasion of feminine frivolity" (Harrison
90) The exclusion of ladies made it possible for the men to do as
they wished: smoke, drink and gamble.
Drink, games, and smoke
were all essential elements to any cercle. Drinks flowed as freely
as in cafés. Games played in the cercle included draughts,
billiards, dominoes, and other card games, as one cercle spent over
1000 francs in a year replacing worn out card decks. Though games
of chance were illegal, they were nevertheless played. Smoking was
also an indulgence for bourgeois cercle men: without ladies, men
could smoke as much as they liked. All of these activities were
highly regulated by the cercle. Smoking was prohibited in the reading
room, and small fees were charged per game played.
The cercle had strict
rules. (For more on the etiquette of the cercle, go to Lee's page
on Club etiquette)For example, to become
a member of a cercle, a man had to be sponsored by a current member.
Voting took place by the place ment of colored balls in a dish.
White balls were a vote to include the candidate in the cercle,
and black balls were a vote to exclude the candidate. This is the
origin of the term "black-balling." Once he joined, the
gentleman was required to pay an annual membership fee, as well
as the above mentioned fee per game. Even if no gambling was being
done, these fees added up. But costly is the appearance of leisure,
the goal of all bourgeoisie.