Saturday, October 11, 2008
A Southern Gentleman Speaks on Modesty
An excerpt from a letter written by Jefferson Davis to his wife Varina.
Paris, 7th Feb. 1869
. . .My opinion of Paris as a place for education has not changed for the better, but rather for the worse. The tone cannot be delicate where living objects and inanimate representations so glaringly offend against decency; and it is to be doubted whether the many advantages found here for intellectual cultivation counterbalance the demoralizing influences which co-exist. I know we cannot expect to command every thing which is desirable, and am prepared to make the best of a hard case; but in my estimation a butterfly that has lost the down of its wing is not in a worse plight than a girl who has been disrobed of her modesty. The shops have been unusually brilliant in their windows of late, as Lent approaches, and crowds of men and women are gathered in places where prints and toys are exhibited, and occasional observation has taught me that whereon the number of gazers is great one may expect the presence of prints of nude women and toys expressive of amorous passions. The population which remunerates for such work and the exhibition of such types of general sentiment cannot be favorable to the cultivation or preservation of modesty. This would no doubt be regarded here as fantastic or rustic, perhaps barbarous; but I am thankful my wife was reared beyond the contact of these "refinements," and many others of which I forbear to make mention to you. . .