Sundays with Stendhal 6: Stendhal on Thanksgiving

by Kenneth Anderson

Well, not really Stendhal on Thanksgiving.  Stendhal never visited the United States, but that did not inhibit him from expressing a great many opinions about the place (mostly negative observations in the ‘nation of shopkeepers’ vein), particularly in the entire chapter devoted to love in the United States in that curious book-length essay, On Love.   Stendhal was highly skeptical that so uncultured a culture as that of the United States was capable of Great Love – love of the kind in The Red and the Black or The Charterhouse of Parma.  Perhaps he was right.  The following quote below has always reminded me of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas – Jingle Bells – and so in that spirit:

In the Winter … American young people of both sexes drive about night and day over the snow in sleighs, gaily travelling distances of fifteen or twenty miles without anyone to chaperone them; and nothing untoward ever occurs.

Do we really think that ‘nothing untoward’ ever happened?  I suspect, rather, Much Untowardness, Gaiety, and Fun.  This was the culture, after all, that produced … “bundling.”  Still, a charming thought for Thanksgiving Weekend from a quintessential European snob.

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