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The complexion of wealth

March 13, 2010

“A few of the men, perhaps fifteen, ranging from twenty-five to forty years of age, scattered among the dancers or standing talking at doorways, were distinguished from the rest by a family look, whatever the differences in their ages, dress or features.

“Their suits, better made, seemed to be of a richer material, and their hair, drawn back in curls at the temples, given luster by finer pomades. They had the complexion of wealth, that white complexion which enhances the translucency of porcelains, the sheen of satin, the finish of beautiful furniture, and which keeps up its health by means of a discreet diet of exquisite foods. Their necks turned in comfort above low cravats; their long side-whiskers fell to their turned-back collars; they wiped their lips with handkerchiefs embroiders with large monograms, from which drifted a pleasant fragrance. Those who were beginning to age had a youthful air, while there was an element of maturity upon the faces of the younger ones. In their indifferent glances was the serenity of passions daily gratified; and through their agreeable manners penetrated the particular brutality communicated by domination in faily unexacting matters where force is employed and in which vanity takes pleasure: the handling of blooded horses and the society of abandoned women.”

-Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, chapter 8

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