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When I met him in London the following year, the account which he gave me of his French tour, was, “ Sir, I have seen all the visibilities of Paris, and around it: but to have formed an acquaintance with the people there would have required more time than I could stay. I was just beginning to creep into acquaintance by means of Colonel Drumgould, a very high man, Sir, head of L'Ecole Militaire, a most complete character, for he had first been a professor of rhetoric, and then became a soldier. And, Sir, I was very kindly treated by the English Benedictines, and have a cell appropriated to me in their convent.”
He observed, “ The great in France live very magnificently, but the rest very miserably. There is no happy middle state as in England. The shops of Paris are mean; the meat in the markets is such as would be sent to a gaol in England; and Mr. Thrale justly observed, that the cookery of the French was forced upon them by necessity; for they could not eat their meat, unless they added some taste to it. The French are an indelicate people; they will spit upon any place. At Madame [Du Bocage's,] a literary lady of rank, the footman took the sugar in his fingers, and threw it into my coffee. I was going to put it aside; but hearing it was made on purpose for me, I e'en tasted Tom's fingers. The same lady would needs make tea à l'Angloise. The spout of the teapot did not pour freely; she bade the footman blow into it. (1) France is worse than Scotland in every thing but climate. Nature has done more for the French; but they have done less for themselves than the Scotch have done. (2)
many and dangerous innovations, which might at length become fatal to religion itself, and shake even the foundation of Chris tianity. The gentleman seemed to wonder and delight in his conversation : the talk was all in Latin, which both spoke fluently, and Dr. Johnson pronounced a long eulogium upon Milton with so much ardour, eloquence, and ingenuity, that the abbé rose from his seat and embraced him. My husband, seeing them apparently so charmed with the company of each other, politely invited the abbé to England, intending to oblige his friend; who, instead of thanking, reprimanded him severely before the man, for such a sudden burst of tenderness towards a person he could know nothing at all of; and thus put a sudden finish to all his own and Mr. Thrale's entertainment from the company of the Abbé Roffette. His dislike of the French was well known to both nations, I believe; but he applauded the number of their books and the graces of their style. They have few sentiments,' said he, but they express them neatly; they have little meat too, but they dress it well.'”. Piozzi.
(1) Miss Reynolds's “ Recollections” preserve this story as told her by Baretti, who was of the party : –“Going one day to drink tea with Madame du Bocage, she happened to produce an old china teapot, which Mrs. Strickland, who made the tea, could not make pour : Soufflex, soufflez, madame, dedans,' cried Madame du Bocage, il se rectifie immédiatement ; essayez, ję vous en prie.' The servant then thinking that Mrs. Strickland did not understand what his lady said, took up the teapot to rectify it, and Mrs. Strickland had quite a struggle to prevent his blowing into the spout. Madame du Bocage all this while had not the least idea of its being any impropriety, and wondered at Mrs. Strickland's stupidity. She came over to the latter, caught up the teapot, and blew into the spout with all her might; then finding it puur, she held it up in triumph, and repeatedly explained, •Voil, vortu, jai regagné l'honneur de ma thếière.' She had no sugar-tongs, and said something that showed she expected Mrs. Strickland to use her fingers to sweeten the cups. • Madame, je n'oserois.'- 'Oh mon Dieu ! quel grand quan-quan les Anglois font de peu de chose.”” — C.
(2) In a letter written a few days after his return from France, he says, “ The French have a clear air and a fruitful soil; but their mode of common life is gross and incommodious, and disgusting. I am come home convinced that no improve ment of general use is to be found among them.”
" - M.
It happened that Foote was at Paris at the same. time with Dr. Johnson, and his description of my friend while there was abundantly ludicrous. He told me, that the French were quite astonished at his figure and manner, and at his dress, which he obstinately continued exactly as in London (1);his brown clothes, black stockings, and plain shirt. He mentioned, that an Irish gentleman said to Johnson, Sir, you have not seen the best French players." Johnson. “ Players, Sir! I look on them. as no better than creatures set upon tables and joint stools, to make faces and produce laughter, like dancing dogs.” “ But, Sir, you will allow that some players are better than others ?” Johnson. “ Yes, Sir, as some dogs dance better than others.” (?)
(1) Foote seems to have embellished a little in saying that Johnson did not alter his dress at Paris; as in his journal is a memorandum about white stockings, wig, and hat. In another place we are told that “ during his travels in France he was turnished with a French-made wig of handsome construction."
BLAKEWAY. - By a note in Johnson's diary (Hawkins's “ Life," p. 517.), it appears, that he had laid out thirty pounds in clothes for his French journey.- M.
(2) Johnson. “ The French, sir, are a very silly people. They have no common life. Nothing but the two ends, beggary and nobility. Sir, they are made up in every thing of two extremes. They have no common sense, they have no common manners, no common learning - gross ignorance, or les belles lettres." A LADY (Mrs. Thrale]. «Indeed, even in their dress
their frippery finery, and their beggarly coarse linen. They had, I thought, no politeness; their civilities never indicated more good will than the talk of a parrot, indiscriminately using the same set of superlative phrases, à la merveille !' to every one alike. They really seemed to have no expressions for sincerity and truth.” Johnson. “ They are much behindhand, stupid, ignorant creatures. At Fontainebleau I saw a horse-race- every thing was wrong; the heaviest weight was put upon the weakest horse, and all the jockeys wore the same colour coat. A GENTLEMAN. “Had you any acquaintance in Paris?” Johnson. “ No, I did not stay long enough to make
While Johnson was in France, he was generally very resolute in speaking Latin. It was a maxim with him that a man should not let himself down by speaking a language which he speaks imperfectly. Indeed, we must have often observed how inferior, how much like a child a man appears, who speaks a broken tongue. When Sir Joshua Reynolds, at one of the dinners of the royal academy, presented him to a Frenchman of great distinction, he would not deign to speak French, but talked Latin, though his excellency did not understand it, owing, perhaps, to Johnson's English pronunciation: yet upon another occasion he was observed to speak French to a Frenchman of high rank, who spoke English ; and being asked the reason, with some expression of surprise, he answered, “ because I think my French is as good as his English." Though Johnson understood French perfectly, he could not speak it readily, as I any. I spoke only Latin, and I could not have much convers. ation. There is no good in letting the French have a superiority over you every word you speak.-On telling Mr. Baretti of the proof that Johnson gave of the stupidity of the French in the management of their horse-races, – that all the jockeys wore the same colour coat, &c., he said that was like Johnson's remarks
-Hecould not see.'—But it was observed that he could inquire: -"yes,' and it was by the answers he received that he was misled, for he asked, what did the first jockey wear? answer, green;
what the second ? green; what the third ? green, which was true; but, then, the greens were all different greens, and very easily distinguished. - Johnson was perpetually making mistakes; so, on going to Fontainebleau, when we were about three fourths of the way, he exclaimed with amazement, that now we were between Paris and the King of France's court, and yet we had not met one carriage coming from thence, or even one going thither! On which all the company in the coach burst out a laughing, and immediately cried out, “Look, look, there is a coach gone by, there is a chariot, there is a postchaise!' I dare say we saw a hundred carriages, at least, that were going to or coming from Fontainebleau.” Miss Reynolds's Recollections. - C.
MADAME DE BOUFFLERS.
have observed at his first interview with General Paoli, in 1769; yet he wrote it, I imagine, pretty well, as appears from some of his letters in Mrs. Piozzi's collection, of which I shall transcribe one: LETTER 226. A MADAME LA COMTESSE
“ May 16. 1771. “ Oui, madame, le moment est arrivé, et il faut que je parte. Mais pourquoi faut-il partir ?
Est-ce que je m'ennuye? Je m'ennuyerai ailleurs.
Est-ce que je cherche ou quelque plaisir, ou quelque soulagement? Je ne cherche rien, je n'espère rien. Aller voir ce que j'ai vû, être un peu rejoui, un peu degouté, me ressouvenir
que la vie se passe, et qu'elle se en vain, me plaindre de moi, m'endurcir aux dehors; voici le tout de ce qu'on compte pour les delices de l'annee. Que Dieu vous donne, madame, tous les agrémens de la vie, avec un esprit qui peut en jouir sans s'y livrer trop.”
Here let me not forget a curious anecdote, as related to me by Mr. Beauclerk, which I shall endeavour to exhibit as well as I can in that gentleman's lively manner; and in justice to him it is proper to add, that Dr. Johnson told me I might rely both on the correctness of his memory, and the fidelity of his narrative. “When Madame de Boufflers (1) was first in England," said Beauclerk, “ she was desirous to see Johnson. I accordingly went with her to his chambers in the Temple, where she was entertained with his conversation for some time. When our visit was over, she and I left him, and were got into
(1) La Comtesse de Boufflers was the mistress of the Prince of Conti, and aspired to be his wife. she was a bel-esprit, and in that character thought it necessary to be an Anglomane, and to visit England; which she did in 1763.-C.