Your ladyship and Lord Holland shall laugh at me as Much as you please for by dread of being thought charming; yet I shall not deny my panic, for surely nothing is so formidable as to have one's limbs on crutches and one's understanding in leading-strings. The Prince of Conti laughed at me t'other day on the same account. I was complaining to the old blind charming Madame du Deffand, that she preferred Mr. Crawford to me: "What," said the Prince, "does not she love you?" "No, Sir," I replied, "she likes me no better than if she had seen me."
Mr. Hume carries this letter and Rousseau to England.(917) I wish the former may not repent having engaged with the latter, who contradicts and quarrels with all mankind, in order to obtain their admiration. I think both his means and his end below such a genius. If I had talents like his, I should despise any suffrage below my own standard, and should blush to owe any part of my fame to singularities and affectations. But great parts seem like high towers erected on high mountains, the more expose(] to every wind, and readier to tumble. Charles Townshend is blown round the compass; Rousseau insists that the north and South blow at the same time; and Voltaire demolishes the Bible to erect fatalism in its stead:—so compatible are the greatest abilities and greatest absurdities!
Madame d'Aiguillon gave me the enclosed letter for your ladyship. I wish I had any thing else to send you; but there are no new books, and the theatres are shut up for the Dauphin's death; who, I believe, is the greatest loss they have had since Harry 1V.
(917) The Parliament of Paris having issued an arr'et against Rousseau, on account of his opinions, Mr. Hume was applied to by a friend in Paris to discover for him a retreat in England, whither he accompanied him. The plan finally concluded on was, that he should be comfortably boarded in the mansion of Mr. Davenport, at Wooton, in the county of Derby; and Mr. Hume, by his interest with the Government, obtained for him a pension of one hundred pounds a-year. On his arrival in London, he appeared in public in his Armenian dress, and excited much general notice.-E
Letter 287 To John Chute, Esq. Paris, Jan. 1766. (page 453)
It is in vain, I know, my dear Sir, to scold you, though I have Such a mind to it—nay, I must. Yes, You that will not lie a night at Strawberry in autumn for fear of the gout, to stay in the country till this time, and till you caught it! I know you will tell me, it did not come till you were two days in town. Do, and I shall have no more pity for you this if I was your wife, and had wanted to come to town two months ago.
I am perfectly well, though to be sure Lapland is the torrid zone in comparison of Paris. We have had such a frost for this fortnight, that I went nine miles to dine in the country to-day, in a villa exactly like a green-house, except that there was no fire but in one room. We were four in a coach, and all our chinks stopped with furs, and yet all the glasses were frozen. We dined in a paved hall painted in fresco, with a fountain at one end; for in this country they live in a perpetual opera, and persist in being young when they are old, and hot when they are frozen. At the end of the hall sat shivering three glorious maccaws, a vast cockatoo, and two poor parroquets, who squalled like the children in the wood after their nursery-fire! I am come home, and blowing my billets between every paragraph, but can scarce move my fingers. However, I must be dressed presently, and go to the Comtesse de la Marche,(918) who has appointed nine at night for my audience. It seems a little odd to us to be presented to a princess of the blood at that hour— but I told you, there is not a tittle In which our manners resemble one another; I was presented to her father-in-law the Prince of Conti last Friday. In the middle of the lev'ee entered a young woman, too plain I thought to be any thing but his near relation. I was confirmed in my opinion, by seeing her, after he had talked to her, go round the circle and do the honours of it. I asked a gentleman near me if that was the Comtesse de la Marche? He burst into a violent laughter, and then told me it was Mademoiselle Auguste, a dancer!—Now, who was in the wrong?
I give you these as samples of many scenes that have amused me, and which will be charming food at Strawberry. At the same time that I see all their ridicules, there is a douceur in the society of the women of fashion that captivates me. I like the way of life, though not lively; though the men are posts, and apt to be arrogant, and though there are twenty ingredients wanting to make the style perfect. I have totally washed my hands of their savans and Philosophers, and do not even envy you Rousseau, who has all the charlatanerie of Count St. Germain(919 to make himself singular and talked of. I suppose Mrs. Montagu, my Lord Lyttelton, and a certain lady friend of mine, will be in raptures with him, especially as conducted by Mr. Hume. But, however I admire his parts, neither he nor any genius I have known has had common sense enough to balance the impertinence of their pretensions. They hate priests, but love dearly to have an altar at their feet; for which reason it is much pleasanter to read them than to know them. Adieu! my dear Sir!
This has been writ this week, and waiting for a conveyance, and as yet has got none. Favre tells me you are recovered, but you don't tell me so yourself. I enclose a trifle that I wrote lately,(920) which got about and has made enormous noise in a city where they run and cackle after an event, like a parcel of hens after an accidental husk of a grape. It has made me the fashion, and made Madame de Boufflers and the Prince of Conti very angry with me; the former intending to be rapt to the Temple of Fame by clinging to Rousseau's Armenian robe. I am peevish that with his parts he should be such a mountebank: but what made me more peevish was, that after receiving Wilkes with the greatest civilities, he paid court to Mr. Hume by complaining of Wilkes's visit and intrusion.(921) Upon the whole, I would not but have come hither; for, since I am doomed to live in England, it is some comfort to have seen that the French are ten times more contemptible than we are. I am a little ungrateful; but I cannot help seeing with my eyes, though I find other people make nothing of seeing without theirs. I have endless histories to amuse you with when we meet, which shall be at the end of March. It is much more tiresome to be fashionable than unpopular; I am used to the latter, and know how to behave under it: but I cannot stand for member of parliament of Paris. Adieu!
(918) La Comtesse de la Marche, princess of Modena, married to the only son of the Prince de Conti. Le Comte de la Marche was the only one of the princes of the blood who uniformly sided with the court in the disputes with the Parliament of Paris.-E.
(919) The Comte de St. Germain had acquired a considerable military reputation in France by his conduct at Corbach in 1760; when he commanded the reserve, and saved the army by supporting the rear-guard and allowing the whole body to retire upon Cassel. Considering himself ill-used by the Marshal de Broglio, his commander-in-chief, he obtained leave to retire from the French service, and entered that of Denmark, from which he retired into private life in 1774. From this retirement he was summoned by Louis XVI. upon the death of the Comte de Muy, minister-at-war.-E.
(920) The letter from the King of Prussia to Rousseau.-E.
(921) "One evening, at the Mitre, Johnson said sarcastically to me, 'It seems, Sir, you have kept very good company abroad— Rousseau and Wilkes!' I answered with a smile, 'My dear Sir, you don't call Rousseau bad company: do you r(@ally think him a f bad man?' Johnson. 'Sir, if you are talking jestingly of this, I don't talk with you. If you mean to be serious, I think him one of the worst of men; a rascal, who ought to be hunted out of society, as he has been. Three or four nations have expelled him, and it is a shame that he is protected in this country. Rousseau, Sir, is a very bad man. I would sooner sign a sentence for his transportation than that of any felon who has gone from the Old Bailey these many years. Yes, I should like to have him work in the plantations.' " Boswell, vol. ii. p. 314, ed. 1835.-E.
Letter 288 To George Montagu, Esq. Paris, Jan. 5, 1766. (page 455)
Lady beaulieu acts like herself, and so do you in being persuaded that nobody will feel any satisfaction that comes to you with more transport than I do; you deserve her friendship, because you are more sensible to the grace of the action than to the thing itself; of which, besides approving the sentiment, I am glad, for if my Lady Cardigan(922) is as happy in drawing a straw, as in picking straws, you will certainly miss your green coat. Yet methinks you would make an excellent Robin Hood reform'e, with little John your brother. How you would carol Mr. Percy's old ballads under the greenwood tree! I had rather have you in my merry Sherwood than at Greatworth, and should delight in your picture drawn as a bold forester, in a green frock, with your rosy hue, gray locks, and comely belly. In short, the favour itself, and the manner are so agreeable, that I shall be at least as much disappointed as you can be, if it fails. One is not ashamed to wear a feather from the hand of a friend. We both scorn to ask or accept boons; but it is pleasing to have life painted with images by the pencil of friendship. Visions you know have always been my pasture; and so far from growing old enough to quarrel with their emptiness, I almost think there is no wisdom comparable to that of exchanging what is called the realities of life for dreams. Old castles, old pictures, old histories, and the babble of old people, make one live back into centuries, that cannot disappoint one. One holds fast and surely what is past. The dead have exhausted their power of deceiving; one can trust Catherine of Medicis now. In short, you have opened a new landscape to my fancy; and my Lady Beaulieu will oblige me as much as you, if she puts the long bow into your hands. I don't know but the idea may produce some other Castle of Otranto.
The victorious arms of the present ministry in Parliament will make me protract my stay here, lest it should be thought I awaited the decision of the event; next to successful enemies, I dread triumphant friends. To be sure, Lord Temple and George Grenville are very proper to be tied to a conqueror's car, and to drag then, slow lengths along;" but it is too ridiculous to see Goody Newcastle exulting like old Marius in a seventh consulship. Don't tell it, but as far as I can calculate my own intention, I shall not set out before the twenty-fifth of March. That will meet your abode in London; and I shall get a day or two out of you for some chat at Strawberry on all I have seen and done here. For this reason I will anticipate nothing now, but bid you good-morrow, after telling you a little story. The canton of Berne ordered all the impressions of Helvetius's Esprit and Voltaire's Pucelle to be seized. The officer of justice employed by them came into the council and said, "Magnifiques seigneurs, apr'es toutes les recherches possibles, on n'a p'u trouver dans toute la ville que tr'es peu de l'Esprit, et pas une Pucelle." Adieu! Robin and John.
I had not sent away my letter, being so disappointed of a messenger, and now receive yours of December the thirtieth. My house is most heartily at your service, and I shall write to Favre to have it ready for You. You will see by the former part of this letter, that I do not think of being in England before the end of March. All I dislike in this contract is the fear, that if I drive you out of my house, I shall drive you out of town; and as you will find, I have not a bed to offer you but my own, and Favre's, in which your servant will lie, for I have stripped Arlington-street to furnish Strawberry. In the mean time you will be comfortable in my bed, and need have no trouble about Favre, as he lodges at his wife's while I am absent. Let them know in time to have the beds aired.
I don't understand one syllable of your paragraph about Miss Talbot, Admiral Cornish, and Mr. Hampden's son. I thought she was married, and I forget to whom.
(922) Lady Mary Montagu, third daughter and coheiress of John second Duke of Montagu, and last of that creation; married, 7th July 1730, George Montagu, fourth Earl of Cardigan.-E.
Letter 289 To The Right Hon. Lady Hervey. Paris, Saturday night, Jan. 11, 1766. (page 457)
I have just now, Madam, received the scissors, by General Vernon, from Mr. Conway's office. Unluckily, I had not received your ladyship's notification of them sooner, for want of a conveyance, and I wrote to my servant to inquire of yours how they had been sent; which I fear may have added a little trouble to all you had been so good as to take, and for which I give you ten thousand thanks: but your ladyship is so exact and friendly, that it almost discourages rather than encourages me. I cannot bring myself to think that ten thousand obligations are new letters of credit. I have -seen Mrs. F *****, and her husband may be as happy as he will: I cannot help pitying him. She told me it is coulder here than in England; and in truth I believe so: I blow the fire between every paragraph, and am quite cut off from all sights. The agreeableness of the evenings makes me some amends. I am just going to sup at Madame d'Aiguillon's with Madame d'Egmont, and I hope Madame de Brionne, whom I have not yet seen; but she is not very well, and it is doubtful. My last new passion, and I think the strongest, is the Duchesse de Choiseul. Her face is pretty, not very pretty; her person a little model. Cheerful, modest, full of attentions, with the happiest propriety of expression, and greatest quickness of reason and judgment, you would take her for the queen of an allegory: one dreads its finishing, as much as a lover, if she would admit one, would wish it should finish. In short, Madam, though you are the last person that will believe it, France is so agreeable, and England so much the reverse, that I don't know when I shall return. The civilities, the kindnesses, the honours I receive, are so many and so great, that I am continually forced to put myself in mind how little I am entitled to them, and how many of them I owe to your ladyship. I shall talk you to death at my return. Shall you bear to hear me tell you a thousand times over, that Madame Geoffrin is the most rational woman in the world, and Madame d'Aiguillon the most animated and most obliging? I think you will. Your ladyship can endure the panegyric of your friends. If you should grow impatient to hear them commended, you have nothing to do but to come over. The best air in the world is that where one is pleased: Sunning waters are nothing to it. The frost is so hard, it is impossible to have the gout; and though the fountain of youth is not here, the fountain of age is, which comes to just the same thing. One is never old here, or never thought so. One makes verses as if one was but seventccn-for example:-
ON MADAME DE FORCALQUIER SPEAKING ENGLISH.
Soft sounds that steal from fair Forcalquier's lips, Like bee that murmuring the jasmin sips! Are these my native accents? None so sweet, So gracious, yet my ravish'd ears did meet. O power of beauty! thy enchanting look Can melodize each note in Nature's book. The roughest wrath of Russians, when they swear, Pronounced by thee, flows soft as Indian air; And dulcet breath, attemper'd by thine eyes, Gives British prose o'er Tuscan verse the prize.
You must not look, Madam, for much meaning in these lines; they were intended only to run smoothly, and to be easily comprehended by the fair scholar who is learning our language. Still less must you show them: they are not calculated for the meridian of London, where you know I dread being represented as a shepherd. Pray let them think that I am wrapped up in Canada bills, and have all the pamphlets sent over about the colonies and the stamp-act.
I am very sorry for the accounts your ladyship gives me of Lord Holland. He talks, I am told, of going to Naples: one would do a great deal for health, but I question if I could buy it at that expense. If Paris would answer his purpose, I should not wonder if he came hither; but to live with Italians must be woful, and would ipso facto make me ill. It is true I am a bad judge: I never tasted illness but the gout, which, tormenting as it is, I prefer to all other distempers: one knows the fit will end, will leave one quite well, and dispenses with the nonsense of physicians, and absurdity is more painful than pain: at least the pain of the gout never takes away my spirits, which the other does.
I have never heard from Mr. Chute this century, but am glad the gout is rather his excuse than the cause, and that it lies only in his pen. I am in too good humour to quarrel with any body, and consequently cannot be in haste to see England, where at least one is sure of being quarrelled with. If they vex me, I will come back hither directly; and I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that your ladyship will not blame me.
Letter 290 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Paris, Jan. 12, 1766. (page 458)
I have received your letter by General Vernon, and another. to which I have writ an answer, but was disappointed of a conveyance I expected. You shall have it with additions, by the first messenger that goes; but I cannot send it by the post, as I have spoken very freely of some persons you name, in which we agree thoroughly. These few lines are only to tell you that I am not idle in writing to you.
I almost repent having come hither: for I like the way of life and many of the people so well, that I doubt I shall feel more regret at leaving Paris than I expected. It would sound vain to tell you the honours and distinctions I receive, and how much I am in fashion; yet when they come from the handsomest women in France, and the most respectable in point of character, can one help being a little proud? If I was twenty years younger, I should wish they were not quite so respectable. Madame de Brionne, whom I have never seen, and who was to have met me at supper last night at the charming Madame d'Egmont's, sent me an invitation by the latter for Wednesday next. I was engaged, and hesitated. I was told, "Comment! savez-vous que c'est qu'elle ne feroit pas pour toute la France?" However, lest you should dread my returning a perfect old swain, I study my wrinkles, compare myself and my limbs to every plate of larks I see, and treat my understanding with at least as little mercy. Yet, do you know, my present fame is owing to a very trifling composition, but which has made incredible noise. I was one evening at Madame Geoffrin's joking on Rousseau's affectations and contradictions, and said some things that diverted them. When I came home, I Put them into a letter, and showed it next day to Helvetius and the Duc de Nivernois-, who were so pleased with it, that, after telling me some faults in the language, which you may be sure there were, they encouraged me to let it be seen. As you know I willingly laugh at mountebanks, political or literary, let their talents be ever so great, I was not averse. The copies have spread like wildfire; et me voici 'a la mode! I expect the end of my reign at the end of the week with great composure. Here is the letter:—
LE ROI DE PRUSSE, A MONSIEUR ROUSSEAU.(923)
Mon ch'ere Jean Jacques, Vous avez renonc'e 'a G'en'eve votre patrie; vous vous 'etes fait chasser de la Suisse, pays tant vant'e dans vos 'ecrits; la France vous a d'ecret'e. Venez done chez moi; j'admire vos talens; je m'amuse de vos r'everies, qui (soit dit en passant) vous occupent trop, et trop long tems. Il faut 'a la fin 'etre sage et heureux. Vous avez fait assez parler de vous par des singularit'es peu convenables 'a un v'eritable grand homme. D'emontrez 'a vos ennemis que vous pouvez avoir quelquefois le sens commun: cela les fachera, sans vous faire- tort. Mes 'etats vous offrent Une retraite paisible; je vous veux du bien, et je vous en ferai, si vous le trouvez bon. Mais si vous vous obstiniez 'a rejetter mon secours, attendez-vous que je ne le dirai 'a personne. Si vous persistez @ vous creuser l'esprit pour trouver de nouveaux malheurs, choisissez les tels que vous voudrez. Je suis roi, je puis vous en procurer au gr'e de vos souhaits: et ce qui s'urement ne vous arrivera pas vis 'a vis de vos ennemis, je cesserai de vous pers'ecuter quand vous cesserez de mettre votre gloire 'a l''etre. Votre bon ami, Frederic.
The Princesse de Ligne,(924) whose mother was an Englishwoman made a good observation to me last night. She said, "Je suis roi, je puis vous procurer de malheurs," was plainly the stroke of an English pen. I said, then I had certainly not well imitated the character in which I wrote. You will say I am an old man to attack both Voltaire and Rousseau. It is true; but I shoot at their heel, at their vulnerable part.
I beg your pardon for taking up your time with these trifles. The day after to-morrow we go in cavalcade with the Duchess of Richmond to her audience;(925) I have got my cravat and shammy shoes. Adieu!
(923) How much Rousseau, who was naturally disposed to believe in plots and conspiracies against him, was annoyed by this jeu d'esprit, the reader will readily learn from the following letter, which he addressed to the editor of the London Chronicle shortly after his arrival in England:—
Wootton, 3d March 1766.
You have failed, Sir, in the respect which every private person owes to a crowned head, in attributing publicly to the King of Prussia a letter full of extravagance and malignity, of which, for these very reasons, you ought to have known be could not be the author. You have even dared to transcribe his signature, as if you had seen it written with his own hand. I inform you, Sir, this letter was fabricated at Paris; and what rends my heart is, that the impostor has accomplices in England. You owe to the King of Prussia, to truth, and to me, to print the letter which I write to you, and which I sign, as an atonement for a fault with which you would doubtless reproach yourself severely, if you knew to what a dark transaction you have rendered yourself accessory. I salute you Sir, very sincerely. Rousseau.
(924) The Princess de Ligne was a daughter of the Marquis de Megi'eres, by Miss Oglethorpe, sister of general Oglethorpe.-E.
(925) At Versailles, as ambassadress.
Letter 291 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Paris, Jan. 18, 1766. (page 460)
Dear sir, I had extreme satisfaction in receiving your letter, having been in great pain about you, and not knowing where to direct a letter. Favre(926) told me, you had had an accident, did not say what it was, but that you was not come to town.(927) He received all the letters and parcels safe; for which I give you many thanks, and a thousand more for your kindness in thinking of them, when you was suffering so much. It was a dreadful conclusion of your travels; but I trust will leave no consequences behind it. The weather is by no means favourable for a recovery, if it is as severe in England as at Paris. We have had two or three days of fog, rather than thaw; but the frost is set in again as sharp as ever. I persisted in going about to churches and convents, till I thought I should have lost my nose and fingers. I have submitted at last to the season, and lie a-bed all the morning; but I hope in February and March to recover the time I have lost. I shall not return to England before the end of March, being determined not to hazard any thing. I continue perfectly well, and few things could tempt me to risk five months more of gout.
I will certainly bring you some pastils, and have them better packed, if it is possible. You know how happy I should be if you would send me any other commission. As you say nothing of the Eton living, I fear that prospect has failed you; which gives me great regret, as it would give me very sensible pleasure to have you fixed somewhere (and not far from me) for your ease and satisfaction.
I am glad the cathedral of Amiens answered your expectation; so has the Sainte Chapelle mine; you did not tell me what charming enamels I should find in the ante-chapel. I have seen another vast piece, and very fine, of the Constable Montmorenci, at the Mar'echale Duchesse de Luxembourg's. Rousseau is gone to England with Mr. Hume. You will very probably see a letter to Rousseau, in the name of the King of Prussia, writ to laugh at his affectations. It has made excessive noise here, and I believe quite ruined the author with many philosophers. When I tell you I was the author, it is telling you how cheap I hold their anger. If it does not reach you, you shall see it at Strawberry, where I flatter myself I shall see you this summer, and quite well. Adieu!
(926) A servant of Mr. Walpole's left in London.
(927) In disembarking at Dover, Mr. Cole met with an accident, that had confined him there three weeks to his bed.
Letter 292 To Mr. Gray. Paris, Jan. 25, 1766. (461)
I am much indebted to you for your kind letter and advice; and though it is late to thank you for it, it is at least a stronger proof that I do not forget it. However, I am a little obstinate, as you know, on the chapter of health, and have persisted through this Siberian winter in not adding a grain to my clothes, and in going open-breasted without an under waistcoat. In short, though I like extremely to live, it must be in my own way, as long as I can: it is not youth I court, but liberty; and I think making oneself tender is issuing a general warrant against one's own person. I suppose I shall submit to confinement when I cannot help it; but I am indifferent enough to life not to care if it ends soon after my prison begins. I have not delayed so long to answer your letter, from not thinking of you, or from want of matter, but from want of time. I am constantly occupied, engaged, amused, till I cannot bring a hundredth part of what I have to say into the compass of a letter. You will lose nothing by this: you know my volubility, when I am full of new subjects; and I have at least many hours of conversation for you at my return. One does not learn a whole nation in four or five months; but, for the time, few, I believe, have seen, studied, or got so much acquainted with the French as I have.
By what I said of their religious or rather irreligious opinions, you must not conclude their people of quality atheists—at least, not the men. Happily for them, poor souls! they are not capable of going so far into thinking. They assent to a great deal, because it is the fashion, and because they don't know how to contradict. they are ashamed to defend the Roman Catholic religion, because it is quite exploded; but I am convinced they believe it in their hearts. They hate the Parliaments and the philosophers, and are rejoiced that they may still idolize royalty. At present, too, they are a little triumphant: the court has shown a little spirit, and the Parliament much less: but as the Duc de Choiseul, who is very fluttering, unsettled, and inclined to the philosophers, has made a compromise with the Parliament of Bretagne, the Parliaments might venture out again, if, as I fancy will be the case, they are not glad to drop a cause, of which they began to be a little weary of the inconvenience.
The generality of the men, and more than the generality, are dull and empty. They have taken up gravity, thinking it was philosophy and English, and so have acquired nothing in the room of their natural levity and cheerfulness. However, as their high opinion of their own country remains, for which they can no longer assign any reason, they are contemptuous and reserved, instead of being ridiculously, consequently pardonably, impertinent. I have wondered, knowing my own countrymen, that we had attained such a superiority. I wonder no longer, and have a little more respect for English heads than I had.
The women do not seem of the same country: if they are less gay than they were, they are more informed, enough to make them very conversable. I know six or seven with very superior understandings. some of them with wit, or with softness, or very good sense.
Madame Geoffrin, of whom you have heard much, is an extraordinary woman, with more common sense than I almost ever met with. Great quickness in discovering characters, penetration in going to the bottom of them, and a pencil that never fails in a likeness— seldom a favourable One. She exacts and preserves, spite of her birth and their nonsensical prejudices about nobility, great court and attention. This she acquires by a thousand little arts and offices of friendship: and by a freedom and severity, which seem to be her sole end of drawing a concourse to her; for she insists on scolding those she inveigles to her. She has little taste and less knowledge, but protects artisans and authors, and courts a few people to have the credit of serving her dependents. She was bred under the famous Madame Tencin, who advised her never to refuse any man; for, said her mistress, though nine in ten should not care a farthing for you, the tenth may live to be a useful friend. She did not adopt or reject the whole plan, but fully retained the purport of the maxim. In short, she is an epitome' of empire, subsisting by rewards and punishments. Her great enemy, Madame du Deffand, was for a short time mistress of the Regent, is now very old and stoneblind, but retains all her vivacity, wit, memory, judgment, passions, and agreeableness. She goes to operas, plays, suppers, and Versailles; gives suppers twice a-week; has every thing new read to her; makes new songs and epigrams, admirably, and remembers every one that has been made these fourscore years. She corresponds with Voltaire, dictates charming letters to him, contradicts him, is no bigot to him or any body, and laughs both at the clergy and the philosophers. In a Dispute, into which she easily falls, she is very warm, and yet scarce ever in the wrong: her judgment on every subject, is as just as possible; on every point of conduct as wrong as possible: for she is all love and hatred, passionate for her friends to enthusiasm, still anxious to be loved, I don't mean by lovers, and a vehement enemy, but openly. As she can have no amusement but conversation, the least solitude and ennui are insupportable to her, and put her into the power of several worthless people, who eat her suppers when they can eat nobody's of higher rank; wink to one another and laugh at her; hate her because she has forty times more parts—and venture to hate her because she is not rich.(928) She has an old friend whom I must mention, a Monsieur Pondeveyle,(929) author of the Fat puni, and the Complaisant, and of those pretty novels, the Comte de Cominge, the Siege of Calais, and Les Malheurs de l'Amour.(930) Would not you expect this old man to be very agreeable? He can be so, but seldom is yet he has another very different and very amusing talent, the art of parody, and is unique in his kind. He composes tales to the tunes of long dances -. for instance, he has adapted the Regent's Daphnis and Chloe to one, and made it ten times more indecent; but is so old, and sings it so well, that it is permitted in all companies. He has succeeded still better in les caract'eres de la danse, to which he has adapted words that express all the characters of love. With all this he has not the least idea of cheerfulness in conversation; seldom speaks but on grave subjects, and not often on them; is a humourist, very supercilious, and wrapt up in admiration of his own country, as the only judge of his merit. His air and look are cold and forbidding; but ask him to sing, or praise his works, his eyes and smiles open, and brighten up. In short, I can show him to you: the self-applauding poet in Hogarth's Rake's Progress, the second print, is so like his very features and very wig, that you would know him by it, if you came hither—for he certainly will not go to you.
Madame de Mirepoix's understanding is excellent of the useful kind, and can be so when she pleases of the agreeable kind. She has read, but seldom shows it, and has perfect taste. Her manner is cold, but very civil; and she conceals even the blood of Lorrain, without ever forgetting it. Nobody in France knows the world better, and nobody is personally so well with the King. She is false, artful, and insinuating beyond measure when it is her interest,(931) but indolent and a coward. She never had any passion but gaming, and always loses. For ever paying court, the sole produce of a life of art is to get money from the King to carry on a course of paying debts or contracting new ones, which she discharges as fast as she is able. She advertised devotion, to get made dame du palais to the Queen; and the very next day this Princess of Lorrain was seen riding backwards with Madame Pompadour in the latter's coach. When the King was stabbed, and heartily frightened, the mistress took a panic too, and consulted D'Argenson,(932) whether she had not best make off in time. He hated her, and said, By all means. Madame de Mirepoix advised her to stay. The King recovered his spirits, D'Argenson was banished, and La Mar'echale inherited part of the mistress's credit. I must interrupt my history of illustrious women with an anecdote of Monsieur de Maurepas, with whom I am much acquainted, and who has one of the few heads which approach to good ones, and who luckily for us was disgraced, and the marine dropped, because it was his favourite object and province. He employed Pondeveyle to make a song on the Pompadour:(933) it was clever and bitter, and did not spare Majesty. This was Maurepas absurd enough to sing at supper at Versailles.(934) Banishment ensued; and lest he should ever be restored, the mistress persuaded the King that he had poisoned her predecessor Madame de Chateauroux. Maurepas is very agreeable, and exceedingly cheerful; yet I have seen a transient silent cloud when politics are talked of.
Madame de Boufflers, who was in England(935) is a savants mistress of the Prince of Conti, and very desirous of being his wife. She is two women, the upper and the lower. I need not tell you that the lower is gallant, and still has pretensions. The upper is very sensible, too, and has a measured eloquence that is just and pleasing—but all is spoiled by an unrelaxed attention to applause. You would think she was always sitting for her picture to her biographer. Madame de Rochfort(936) is different from all the rest. Her understanding is just and delicate; with a finesse of wit that is the result of reflection. Her manner is soft and feminine, and though a savants, without any declared pretensions. She is the decent friend of Monsieur de Nivernois; for you must not believe a syllable of what you read in their novels. It requires the greatest curiosity, or the greatest habitude, to discover the smallest connexion between the sexes here. No familiarity, but under the veil of friendship, is permitted, and love's dictionary is as much prohibited, as at first sight one should think his ritual was. All you hear, and that pronounced with nonchalance, is, that Monsieur un tel has had Madame un telle. The Duc de Nivernois has parts, and writes at the top of the mediocre, but, as Madame Geoffrin says, is manqu'e par tout; guerrier manqu'e, ambassadeur manqu'e, homme d'affaires manqu'e and auteur manqu'e—no, he is not homme de naissance manqu'e. He would think freely, but has some ambition of being governor to the Dauphin, and is more afraid of his wife and daughter, who are ecclesiastic fagots. The former outchatters the Duke of Newcastle; and the latter Madame de Gisors, exhausts Mr. Pitt's eloquence in defense of the Archbishop of Paris. Monsieur de Nivernois lives in a small circle of dependent admirers, and Madame de Rochfort is high-priestess for a small salary of credit.
The Duchess of Choiseul,(937) the only young one of these heroines, is not very pretty, but has fine eyes, and is a little model in wax-work, which not being allowed to speak for some time as incapable, has a hesitation and modesty, the latter of which the court has not cured, and the former of which is atoned for by the most interesting sound of voice, and forgotten in the most elegant turn and propriety of expression. Oh! it is the gentlest, amiable, civil little creature that ever came out of a fairy egg! So just in its phrases and thoughts, so attentive and good-natured! Every body loves it but its husband, who prefers his own sister the Duchess de Grammont,(938) an Amazonian, fierce, haughty dame, who loves and hates arbitrarily, and is detested. Madame de Choiseul, passionately fond of her husband, was the martyr of this union, but at last submitted with a good grace; has gained a little credit with him, and is still believed to idolize him. But I doubt it—she takes too much pains to profess it.
I cannot finish my list without adding a much more common character—but more complete in its kind than any of the foregoing, the Mar'echale de Luxembourg.(939) She has been very handsome, very abandoned, and very mischievous. Her beauty is gone, her lovers are gone, and she thinks the devil is coming. This dejection has softened her into being rather agreeable, for she has wit and good-breeding; but you would swear, by the restlessness of her person and the horrors she cannot conceal, that she had signed the compact, and expected to be called upon in a week for the performance.
I could add many pictures, but none so remarkable. In those I send you, there is not a feature bestowed gratis or exaggerated. For the beauties, of which there are a few considerable, as Mesdames de Brionne, de Monaco, et d'Egmont, they have not yet lost their characters, nor got any.
You must not attribute my intimacy with Paris to curiosity alone. An accident unlocked the doors for me. That passe-partout, called the fashion, has made them fly open-and what do you think was that fashion? I myself. Yes, like Queen Elinor in the ballad, I sunk at Charing-cross, and have risen in the Fauxbourg St. Germain. A plaisanterie on Rousseau, whose arrival here in his way to you brought me acquainted with many anecdotes conformable to the idea I had conceived of him, got about, was liked much more than it deserved, spread like wildfire, and made me the subject of conversation. Rousseau's devotees were offended. Madame de Boufflers, with a tone of sentiment, and the accents of lamenting humanity, abused me heartily, and then complained to myself with the utmost softness. I acted contrition, but had like to have spoiled all, by growing dreadfully tired of a second lecture from the Prince of Conti, who took up the ball, and made himself the hero of a history wherein he had nothing to do. I listened, did not understand half he said (nor he neither), forgot the rest, said Yes when I should have said No, yawned when I should have smiled, and was very penitent when I should have rejoiced at my pardon. Madame de Boufflers was more distressed, for he owned twenty times more than I had said: she frowned and made him signs: but she had wound up his clack, and there was no stopping it. -The moment she grew angry, the lord of the house grew charmed, and it has been my fault if I am not at the head of a numerous sect:—but, when I left a triumphant party in England, I did not come hither to be at the head of a fashion. However, I have been sent for about like an African prince or a learned canary-bird, and was, in particular, carried by force to the Princess of Talmond,(940) the Queen's cousin, who lives in a charitable apartment in the Luxembourg, and was sitting on a small bed hung with saints and Sobieskis, in a corner of one of those vast chambers, by two blinking tapers. I stumbled over a cat, a footstool, and a chamber-pot in my journey to her presence. She could not find a syllable to say to me, and the visit ended with her begging a lap-dog. Thank the Lord! though this is the first month, it is the last week, of my reign; and I shall resign my crown with great satisfaction to a bouillie of chestnuts, which is just invented and whose annals will be illustrated by so many indigestions, that Paris will not want any thing else for three weeks. I will enclose the fatal letter after I have finished this enormous one; to which I will only add, that nothing has interrupted my S'evign'e researches but the frost. The Abb'e de Malherbes has given me full power to ransack I did not tell you, that by great accident, when I thought on nothing less, I stumbled on an original picture of the Comte de Grammont, Adieu! You are generally in London in March: I shall be there by the end of it.(941)
(928) To the above portrait of Madame du Deffand it may be useful to subjoin the able development of her character which appeared in the Quarterly Review for May 1811, in its critique on her Letters to Walpole:—"This lady seems to have united the lightness of the French character with the solidity of the English. She was easy and volatile, yet judicious and acute; sometimes profound and sometimes superficial. She had a wit playful, abundant, and well-toned; an admirable conception of the ridiculous, and great skill in exposing it; a turn for satire, which she indulged, not always in the best-natured manner, yet with irresistible effect; powers of expression varied, appropriate, flowing from the source, and curious without research; a refined taste for letters, and a judgment both of men and books in a high degree: enlightened and accurate. As her parts had been happily thrown together by nature, they were no less happy in the circumstances which attended their progress and development. They were refined, not by a course of solitary study, but by desultory reading, and chiefly by living intercourse with the brightest geniuses of her age. Thus trained, they acquired a pliability of movement, which gave to all their exertions a bewitching air of freedom and negligence. and made even their last efforts seem only the exuberances or flowering-off of a mind capable of higher excellencies, but unambitious to attain them. There was nothing to alarm or overpower. On whatever topic she touched, trivial or severe, it was alike en badinant; but in the midst of this sportiveness, her genius poured itself forth in a thousand delightful fancies, and scattered new graces and ornaments on every object within its sphere. In its wanderings from the trifles of the day to grave questions of morals or philosophy, it carelessly struck out, and as carelessly abandoned, the most profound truths; and while it sought only to amuse, suddenly astonished and electrified by rapid traits of illumination, which opened the depths of difficult subjects, and roused the researches of more systematic reasoners. To these qualifications were added an independence in forming opinions, and a boldness in avowing them, which wore at least the semblance of honesty; a perfect knowledge of the world, and that facility of manners, which in the commerce of society supplies the place of benevolence."-E.
(929) m. de Pontdeveyle, the younger brother of the Marquis d'Argental, the friend of Voltaire and of the King of Prussia. Their mother, Madame do Ferioles, was sister to the celebrated madame de Tencin and to the Cardinal of the same name. He died in 1774.-E.
(930) Madame du Deffand, in a letter to Walpole of the 17th of March 1776, states the Malheurs de l'Amour to be the production of Madame de Tencin. She describes it as un roman bien 'ecrit, mais qui n'inspire que de la tristesse."-E.
(931) La Mar'ecchale de Mirepoix was the first woman of consequence who countenanced and appeared in public at Versailles with Madame du Barri; while, on the other hand, her brother, the Prince de Beauvau and his wife, gave great offence by refusing to see her or be of any of her parties. Her person is thus described by Madame du Deffand:—"Sa figure est charmante, son teint est 'eblouissant; ses traits, sans 'etre parfaits, sont Si bien assortis, que personne n'a l'air plus jeune et n'est plus jolie."-E.
(932) Le Comte d'Argenson was minister-at-war, and, after Damien's attempt upon the life of the King of France in 1757, was disgraced, and exiled to his country-house at Ormes in Poitou. He was brother to the Marquis d'Argenson, who had been minister of foreign affairs, and died in 1756. He it was who is said to have addressed M. Bignon, his nephew, afterwards an academician, on conferring upon him the appointment of librarian to the King, "Mon neveu, voil'a une belle occasion pour apprendre 'a lire."-E.
(933) The following is the commencement of the song above alluded to by Walpole:—
"Une petite bourgeoise, Elev'ee 'a la grivoise, Mesurant tout k sa toise, Fait de la cour un tandis. Le Roi, malgr'e son scrupule, Pour elle froidement br'ule. Cette flamme ridicule Si Excite dans tout Paris, ris, ris, ris."
(934) Le Comte de Maurepas, who was married to a sister of the Duc de la Valli'ere, had been minister of marine, and disgraced, as Walpole says, at the instigation of the reigning mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Upon the death of Louis Quinze, he was immediately summoned to assist in the formation of the ministry of his successor.-E.
(935 See vol. iii. p. 218, letter 157.-E.
(936) Madame de Rochefort, n'ee Brancas.-E.
(937) La Duchesse de Choiseul, n'ee du Chatel. The husband appears to have been more attached to her than Walpole supposed; at least if we may judge from his will, in which he desires to be buried in the same grave, and expresses his gratification at the idea of reposing by the side of one whom he had, during his lifetime, cherished and respected so highly.-E.
(938) La Duchesse de Grammont, sister of the Duke of Choiseul, does not appear to have deserved the character which Walpole has here given of her. She was thus described, in 1761, by Mr. Hans Stanley, in a letter to Mr. Pitt:—"The Duchess is the only person who has any weight with her brother, the Duc de Choiseul. She never dissembles her contempt or dislike of any man, in whatever degree of elevation. It is said she might have supplied the place of Madame de Pompadour, if she had pleased. She treats the ceremonies and pageants of courts as things beneath her: she possesses a most uncommon share of understanding, and has very high notions of honour and reputation." The crowning act of her life militates strongly against Walpole's views. When brought before the Revolutionary tribunal, in April 1794, after having been seized by order of Robespierre, she astonished her judges by the grace and dignity of her demeanour; and pleaded, not for her own life, but eloquently for that of her friend, the Duchesse du Chatelet: "Que ma mmort soit d'ecid'ee," she said; "cela ne m''etonne pas; mais," pointing to her friend, "pour cet ange, en quoi vous a-t-elle offens'e; elle qui n'a jamais fait tort 'a personne; et dont la vie enti'ere n'offre qu'un tableau de vertu et de bienfaisance." Both suffered upon the same scaffold. It was this lady who was selected to be made an example of, from among many others who slighted Madame du Barri; and for this she was exiled to the distance of fifteen leagues from Paris, or from wheresoever the court was assembled.-E.
(939) La Mar'echale Duchesse de Luxembourg, sister to the Duc de Villeroi, Her first husband was the Duc de Boufflers, by whom she had a son, the Duc de Boufflers, who died at Genoa of the small-pox. She afterwards married the Mar'echal Duc de Luxembourg, at whose country-seat, Montmorency, Jean Jacques Rousseau was long an inmate.-E.
(940) The Princess of Talmond was born in Poland, and said to be allied to the Queen, Maria Leczinska, with whom she came to France, and there married a prince of the house of Bouillon.-E.
(941) Gray, in reference to this letter, writes thus to Dr. Wharton, on the 5th of March:—"Mr. Walpole writes me now and then a long and lively letter from Paris, to which place he went the last summer, with the gout upon him; sometimes in his limbs; often in his stomach and head. He has got somehow well, (not by means of the climate, one would think,) goes to all public places, sees all the best company, and is very much in fashion. He says he sunk like Queen Eleanor, at Charing-cross, and has risen again at Paris. He returns again in April; but his health is certainly in a deplorable state." Works, vol. iv. p. 79.-E.
Letter 293 To The Right Hon. Lady Hervey. Paris, Feb. 3, 1766. )page 468)
I had the honour of writing to your ladyship on the 4th and 12th of last month, which I only mention, because the latter went by the post, which I have found is not always a safe conveyance.
I am sorry to inform you, Madam, that you will not see Madame Geoffrin this year, as she goes to Poland in May. The King has invited her, promised her an apartment exactly in her own way, and that she shall see nobody but whom) she chooses to see. This will not surprise you, Madam; but what I shall add, will: though I must beg your ladyship not to mention it even to her, as it is an absolute secret here, as she does not know that I know it, and as it was trusted to me by a friend of yours. In short, there are thoughts of sending her with a public character, or at least with a commission from hence—a very extraordinary honour, and I think never bestowed but on the Mar'echale de Gu'ebriant. As the Dussons have been talked of, and as Madame Geoffrin has enemies, its being known might make her uneasy that it was known. I should have told it to no mortal but your ladyship; but I could not resist giving you such a pleasure. In your answer, Madam, I need not warn YOU not to specify what I have told you.
My favour here continues ; and favour never displeases. To me, too, it is a novelty, and I naturally love curiosities. However, I must be looking towards home, and have perhaps only been treasuring up regret. At worst I have filled my mind with a new set of ideas; some resource to a man who was heartily tired of his old ones. When I tell your ladyship that I play at whisk, and bear even French music, you will not wonder at any change in me. Yet I am far from pretending to like every body, or every thing I see. There are some chapters on which I still fear we shall not agree; but I will do your ladyship the justice to own, that you have never said a syllable too much in behalf of the friends to whom you was so good as to recommend me. Madame d'Egmont, whom I have mentioned but little, is one of the best women in the world, and, though not at all striking at first, _fair)s upon one much. Colonel Gordon, with this letter, brings you, Madam, some more seeds from her. I have a box of pomatums for you from Madame de Boufflers, which shall go by the next conveyance that offers. As he waits for my parcel, I can only repeat how much I am your ladyship's most obliged and faithful humble servant.
Letter 294 To George Montagu, Esq. Paris, Feb. 4, 1766. (page 469)
I write on small paper, that the nothing I have to say may look like a letter, Paris, that supplies tine with diversions, affords me no news. England sends me none, on which I care to talk by the post. All seems in confusion; but I have done with politics!
The marriage of your cousin puts me in mind of the two owls, whom the Vizier in some Eastern tale told the Sultan were treating on a match between their children, on whom they were to settle I don't know how many ruined villages. Trouble not your head about it. Our ancestors were rogues, and so will our posterity be.
Madame Roland has sent to me, by Lady Jerningham,(942) to beg my works. She shall certainly have them when I return to England; but how comes she to forget that you and I are friends? or does she think that all Englishmen quarrel on party? If she does, methinks she is a good deal in the right, and it is one of the reasons why I have bid adieu to politics, that I may not be expected to love those I hate, and hate those I love. I supped last night with the Duchess de Choiseul, and saw a magnificent robe she is to wear to-day for a great wedding between a Biron(943) and a Boufflers. It is of blue satin, embroidered all over in mosaic, diamond-wise, with gold: in every diamond is a silver star edged with gold, and surrounded with spangles in the same way; it is trimmed with double sables, crossed with frogs and tassels of gold; her head, neck, breast, and arms, covered with diamonds. She will be quite the fairy queen, for it is the prettiest little reasonable amiable Titania you ever saw; but Oberon does not love it. He prefers a great mortal Hermione his sister. I long to hear that you are lodged in Arlington-street, and invested with your green livery; and I love Lord Beaulieu for his cudom. Adieu!
(942) Mary, eldest daughter, and eventually heiress, of Francis Plowden, Esq. by Mary eldest daughter of the Hon. John Stafford Howard, younger son of the unfortunate Lord Stafford, wife of sir George Jerningham.-E.
(943) The Duc de Lauzun, who upon the death of his uncle, the Mar'echal de Biron, became Duc de Biron, married the heiress and only child of the Duc de Boufflers, who died at Genoa. The marriage proved an unhappy one, and the Duchess twice took refuge in England at the breaking out of the French revolution; but having, in 1793, unadvisedly returned to Paris, she perished on the scaffold in one of the bloody proscriptions of Robespierre. At the beginning of that revolution, the Duke espoused the popular cause, and even commanded an army under the orders of the legislative assembly; but in the storms that succeeded, being altogether unequal to stem the torrent of popular fury or direct its course, he fell by the guillotine early in 1794.-E.
Letter 295 To George Montagu, Esq. Paris, Sunday, Feb. 23. (page 470)
I cannot know that you are in my house, and not say, you are welcome. Indeed you are, and I am heartily glad you are pleased there. I have neither matter nor time for more, as I have heard of an opportunity of sending this away immediately with some other letters. News do not happen here as in London; the Parliaments meet, draw up a remonstrance, ask a day for presenting it, have the day named a week after, and so forth. At their rate of going on, if Methusalem was first president, he would not see the end of a single question. As your histories are somewhat more precipitate, I wait for their coming to some settlement, and then will return; but, if the old ministers are to be replaced, Bastille for Bastille, I think I had rather stay where I am. I am not half so much afraid of any power, as the French are of Mr. Pitt. Adieu!
Letter 296 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Paris, Feb. 28, 1766. (page 470)
Dear sir, As you cannot, I believe, get a copy of the letter to Rousseau, and are impatient for it, I send it you: though the brevity of it will not answer your expectation. It is no answer to any of his works, and is only a laugh at his affectations. I hear he does not succeed in England, where his singularities are no curiosity. Yet he must stay there, or give up all his pretensions. To quit a country where he may live at ease, and unpersecuted, will be owning that tranquillity is not what he seeks. If he again seeks persecution, who will pity him? I should think even bigots would let him alone out of contempt.
I have executed your commission in a way that I hope will please you. As you tell me you have a blue cup and saucer, and a red one, and would have them completed to six, without being all alike, I have bought one other blue, one other red, and two sprigged, in the same manner, with colours; so you will have just three pair, which seems preferable to six odd ones; and which, indeed, at nineteen livres a-piece, I think I could not have found.
I shall keep very near the time I proposed returning; though I am a little tempted to wait for the appearance of' leaves. As I may never come hither again, I am disposed to see a little of their villas and gardens, though it will vex me to lose spring and lilac-tide at Strawberry. The weather has been so bad, and continues so cold, that I have not yet seen all I intended in Paris. To-day, I have been to the Plaine de Sablon, by the Bois de Boulogne, to see a horserace rid in person by the Count Lauragais and Lord Forbes.(944) All Paris was in motion by nine o'clock this morning, and the coaches and crowds were innumerable at so novel a sight. Would you believe it, that there was an Englishman to whom it was quite as new? That Englishman was I: though I live within two miles of Hounslow, have been fifty times in my life at Newmarket, and have passed through it at the time of the races, I never before saw a complete one. I once went from Cambridge on purpose; saw the beginning, was tired, and went away. If there was to be a review in Lapland, perhaps I might see a review, too; which yet I have never seen. Lauragais was distanced at the second circuit. What added to the singularity was, that at the same instant his brother was gone to church to be married. But, as Lauragais is at variance with his father and wife, he chose this expedient to show he was not at the wedding. Adieu!
(944) James, sixteenth Baron, who married, in 1760, Catherine, only daughter of Sir Robert Innes, Bart. of orton. He was Deputy-governor of Fort William, and died there in 1804.-E.
Letter 297 To George Montagu, Esq. Paris, March 3, 1766. (page 471)
I write, because I ought, and because I have promised you I would, and because I have an opportunity by Monsieur de Lillebonne, and in spite of a better reason for being silent, which is, that I have nothing to say. People marry, die, and are promoted here about whom neither you nor I care a straw. No, truly, and I am heartily tired of them, as you may believe when I am preparing to return. There is a man in the next room actually nailing my boxes; yet it will be the beginning of April before I am at home. I have not had so much as a cold in all this Siberian winter, and I will not venture the tempting the gout by lying in a bad inn, till the weather is warmer. I wish, too, to see a few leaves out at Versailles, etc. If I stayed till August I could not see many; for there is not a tree for twenty miles, that is not hacked and hewed, till it looks like the stumps that beggars thrust into coaches to excite charity and miscarriages.
I am going this evening in search of Madame Roland; I doubt we shall both miss each other's lilies and roses: she may have got some pionies in their room, but mine are replaced with crocuses.
I love Lord Harcourt for his civility, to you; and I would fain see you situated under the greenwood-tree, even by a compromise. You may imagine I am pleased with the defeat, hisses, and mortification of George Grenville, and The more by the disappointment it has occasioned here. If you have a mind to vex them thoroughly, you must make Mr. Pitt minister.(945) They have not forgot him, whatever we have done.
The King has suddenly been here this morning to hold a lit de justice: I don't yet know the particulars, except that it was occasioned by some bold remonstrances of the Parliament on the subject of That of Bretagne. Louis told me when I waked, that the Duke de Chevreuil, the governor of Paris, was just gone by in great state. I long to chat with Mr. Chute and you in the blue room at Strawberry: though I have little to write, I have a great deal to say. How do you like his new house? has he no gout? Are your cousins Cortez and Pizarro heartily mortified that they are not to roast and plunder the Americans? Is Goody Carlisle Disappointed at not being appointed grand inquisitor? Adieu! I will not seal this till I have seen or missed Madame Roland. Yours ever.
P. S. I have been prevented going to madame Roland, and defer giving an account of her by this letter.
(945) Mr. Gerard Hamilton, in a letter to Mr. Calcraft, of the 7th, says:—"Grenville and the Duke of Bedford's people continue to oppose, in every stage, the passage of the bill for the repeal of the Stamp-act. The reports of the day are, that Mr. Pitt will go into the House of lords, and form an arrangement, which he will countenance."-E.
Letter 298 To The Right Hon. Lady Hervey. Paris, March 10, 1766. (page 472)
There are two points, Madam, on which I must write to your ladyship, though I have been confined these three or four Days with an inflammation in my eyes. My watchings and revellings had, I doubt, heated my blood, and prepared it to receive a stroke of cold, which in truth was amply administered. We were two-and-twenty at Mar'echale du Luxembourg's, and supped in a temple rather than in a hall. It is vaulted at top with gods and goddesses, and paved with marble; but the god of fire was not of the number. HOWever, as this is neither of my points, I shall say no more of it.
I send your ladyship Lady Albemarle's box, which Madame Geoffrin brought to me herself yesterday. I think it very neat and charming, and it exceeds the commission but by a guinea and a half. It is lined with wood between the two golds, as the price and necessary size would not admit metal enough without, to leave it of any solidity.
The other point I am indeed ashamed to mention so late. I am more guilty than even about the scissors. Lord Hertford sent me word a fortnight ago, that an ensigncy was vacant, to which he should recommend Mr. Fitzgerald. I forgot both to thank him and to acquaint your ladyship, who probably know it without my communication. I have certainly lost my memory! This is so idle and young, that I begin to fear I have acquired something of the Fashionable man, which I so much dreaded. It is to England then that I must return to recover friendship and attention? I literally wrote to Lord Hertford, and forgot to thank him. Sure I did not use to be so abominable! I cannot account for it; I am as black as ink, and must turn Methodist, to fancy that repentance can wash me white again. No, I will not; for then I may sin again, and trust to the same nostrum.
I had the honour of sending your ladyship the funeral sermon on the Dauphin, and a tract to laugh at sermons: "Your bane and antidote are both before you." The first is by the Archbishop of Toulouse,(946) who is thought the first man of the clergy. It has some sense, no pathetic, no eloquence, and, I think, clearly no belief in his own doctrine. The latter is by the Abb'e Coyer,(947) written livelily, upon a single idea; and, though I agree upon the inutility of the remedy he rejects, I have no better opinion of that he would substitute. Preaching has not failed from the beginning of the world till to-day, not because inadequate to the disease, but because the disease is incurable. If one preached to lions and tigers, would it cure them of thirsting for blood, and sucking it when they have an opportunity No; but when they are whelped in the Tower, and both caressed and beaten, do they turn out a jot more tame when they are grown up? So far from it, all the kindness in the world, all the attention, cannot make even a monkey (that is no beast of prey) remember a pair of scissors or an ensigncy.
Adieu, Madam! and pray don't forgive me, till I have forgiven myself. I dare not close my letter with any professions; for could you believe them in one that had so much reason to think himself Your most obedient humble servant?
(946) Brionne de Lomenie, Archbishop of Toulouse, and afterwards Cardinal de Lomenie or as he was nicknamed by the populace of Paris, "Cardinal de l'Ignominie," was great-nephew to Madame du Deffand. The spirit of political intrigue raised him to the administration of affairs during the last struggles of the old r'egime, and exposed him to the contempt he deserved for aspiring to such a situation at such a moment. He was arrested at the commencement of the Revolution, and escaped the guillotine by dying in one of the prisons at Paris in 1794.-E.
(947) This pamphlet of the Abb'e Coyer, which was entitled "On Preaching," produced a great sensation in Paris at the time of its publication. Its object is to prove, that those who have occupied themselves in preaching to others, ever since the world began, whether poets, priests, or philosophers, have been but a parcel of prattlers, listened to if eloquent, laughed at if dull; but who have never corrected any body: the true preacher being the government, which joins to the moral maxims which it inculcates the force of example and the power of execution. Baron de Grimm characterizes the Abb'e as being "l'homme du monde le plus lourd, l'ennui personnifi'e," and relates the following anecdote of him during his visit to Voltaire at the Chateau de Ferney:-" "The first day, the philosopher bore his company with tolerable politeness; but the next morning he interrupted him in a long prosing narrative of his travels, by this question: 'Savez-vous bien, M. l'Abb'e, la difference qu'il y a entre Don Quichotte et vous? c'est que Don Quichotte prenait toutes les auberges pour des chateaux; et vous, vous prenez tous les ch'ateaux pour des auberges.'" The Abb'e died in 1782.-E.
Letter 299 To George Montagu, Esq. Paris, March 12, 1766. (page 474)
I can write but two lines, for I have been confined these four or five days with a violent inflammation in my eyes, and which has prevented my returning to Madame Roland. I did not find her at home, but left your letter. My right eye is well again, and I have been to take air.
How can you ask leave to carry any body to Strawberry? May not you do what you please with me and mine? Does not Arlington-street comprehend Strawberry? why don't you go and lie there if you like it'? It will be, I think, the middle of April, before I return; I have lost a week by this confinement, and would fain satisfy my curiosity entirely, now I am here. I have seen enough, and too much, of the people. I am glad you are upon civil terms with Habiculeo. The less I esteem folks, the less I would quarrel with them.
I don't wonder that Colman and Garrick write ill In concert,(948) when they write ill separately; however, I am heartily glad the Clive shines. Adieu! Commend me to Charles-street. Kiss Fanny, and Mufti, and Ponto for me, when you go to Strawberry: dear souls, I long to kiss them myself.
(948) The popular comedy of The Clandestine Marriage, the joint production of Garrick and Colman, had just been brought out at Drury-lane theatre.-E.
Letter 300 To George Montagu, Esq. Paris, March 21, 1766. (page 474)
You make me very happy, in telling me you have been so comfortable in my house. If you would set up a bed there, you need never go out of it. I want to invite you, not to expel you. April the tenth my pilgrimage will end, and the fifteenth, or sixteenth, you may expect to see me, not much fattened with the flesh-pots of Egypt, but almost as glad to come amongst you again as I was to leave you.
Your Madame Roland is not half so fond of me as she tells me; I have been twice at her door, left your letter and my own direction, but have not received so much as a message to tell me she is sorry she was not at home. Perhaps this is her first vision of Paris, and it is natural for a Frenchwoman to have her head turned with it; though what she takes for rivers of emerald, and hotels of ruby and topaz, are to my eyes, that have been purged with euphrasy and rue, a filthy stream, in which every thing is washed without being cleaned, and dirty houses, ugly streets, worse shops, and churches loaded with bad pictures.(949) Such is the material part of this paradise; for the corporeal,,if Madame Roland admires it, I have nothing to say; however, I shall not be sorry to make one at Lady Frances Elliot's. Thank you for admiring my deaf old woman; if I could bring my old blind one with me, I should resign this paradise as willingly as if it was built of opal, and designed by a fisherman, who thought that what makes a fine necklace would make a finer habitation.
We did not want your sun; it has shone here for a fortnight with all its lustre but yesterday a north wind, blown by the Czarina herself I believe, arrived, and declared a month of March of full age. This morning it snowed; and now, clouds of dust are whisking about the streets and quays, edged with an east wind, that gets under one's very shirt. I should not be quite sorry if a little of it tapped my lilacs on their green noses, and bade them wait for their master.
The Princess of Talmond sent me this morning a picture of two pup-dogs, and a black and white greyhound, wretchedly painted. I could not conceive what I was to do with this daub, but in her note she warned me not to hope to keep it. It was only to imprint on my memory the size, and features, and spots of Diana, her departed greyhound, in order that I might get her exactly such another. Don't you think my memory will return well stored, if it is littered with defunct lapdogs. She is so devout, that I did not dare send her word, that I am not possessed of a twig of Jacob's broom, with which he streaked cattle as he pleased
T'other day, in the street, I saw a child in a leading-string, whose nurse gave it a farthing for a beggar; the babe delivered its mite with a grace, and a twirl of the hand. I don't think your cousin's first grandson will be so well bred. Adieu! Yours ever.
(949) Walpole's picture of Paris, in 1766, is not much more favourable than that of Peter Heylin, who visited that city in the preceding century:—"This I am confident of," says Peter, "that the nastiest lane in London is frankincense and juniper to the sweetest street in this city. The ancient by-word was (and there is good reason for it) 'il destaient comme la fange de Paris:' had I the power of making proverbs, I would only change destaient' into 'il put,' and make the by-word ten times more orthodox. That which most amazed me is, that in such a perpetuated constancy of stinks, there should yet be variety—a variety so special and distinct, that my chemical nose (I dare lay my life on it), after two or three perambulations, would hunt out blindfold each several street by the smell, as perfectly as another by the eye."-E.
Letter 301 To George Montagu, Esq. Paris, April 3, 1766. (page 475)
One must be just to all the world; Madame Roland, I find, has been in the country, and at Versailles, and was so obliging as to call on me this morning, but I was so disobliging as not to be awake. I was dreaming dreams; in short, I had dined at Livry; yes, yes, at Livry, with a Langlade and De la Rochefoucaulds. The abbey is now possessed by an Abb'e de Malherbe, with whom I am acquainted, and who had given me a general invitation. I put it off to the last moment, that the bois and all'ees might set off the scene a little, and contribute to the vision; but it did not want it. Livry is situated in the For'et de Bondi, very agreeably on a flat, but with hills near it, and in prospect. There is a great air of simplicity and rural about it, more regular than our taste, but with an old-fashioned tranquillity, and nothing of coligichet. Not a tree exists that remembers the charming woman, because in this country an old tree is a traitor, and forfeits its head to the crown; but the plantations are not young, and might very well be as they were in her time. The Abb'e's house is decent and snug; a few paces from it is the sacred pavilion built for Madame de S'evign'e by her uncle, and much as it was in her day; a small saloon below for dinner, then an arcade, but the niches now closed, and painted in fresco with medallions of her, the Grignan, the Fayette, and the Rochefoucauld. Above, a handsome large room, with a chimney-piece in the best taste of Louis the Fourteenth's time; a holy family in good relief over it, and the cipher of her uncle Coulanges; a neat little bedchamber within, and two or three clean little chambers over them. On one side of the garden, leading to the great road, is a little bridge of wood, on which the dear woman used to wait for the courier that brought her daughter's letters. Judge with what veneration and satisfaction I set my foot upon it! If you will come to France with Me next year, we will go and sacrifice on that sacred spot together.
On the road to Livry I passed a new house on the pilasters of the gate to which were two sphinxes in stone, with their heads coquetly reclined, straw hats, and French cloaks slightly pinned, and not hiding their bosoms. I don't know whether I or Memphis would have been more diverted. I shall set out this day se'nnight, the tenth, and be in London about the fifteenth or sixteenth, if the wind is fair. Adieu! Yours ever.
P. S. I need not say, I suppose, that this letter is to Mr. Chute, too.
Letter 302 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Paris, April 6, 1766. (page 476)
In a certain city of Europe(950) it is the custom to wear slouched hats, long cloaks, and high capes. Scandal and the government called this dress going in mask, and pretended that it contributed to assassination. An ordonnance was published, commanding free-born hats to be cocked, cloaks to be shortened, and capes laid aside. All the world obeyed for the first day: but the next, every thing returned into its old channel. In the evening a tumult arose, and cries of,, "God bless the King! God bless the kingdom! but confusion to Squillaci, the prime minister."(951) The word was no sooner given, but his house was beset, the windows broken, and the gates attempted. The guards came and fired on the weavers(952) of cloaks. The weavers returned the fire, and many fell on each side. As the hour of supper approached and the mob grew hungry, they recollected a tax upon bread, and demanded the repeal. the King yielded to both requests, and hats and loaves were set at liberty. The people were not contented, and still insisted on the permission of murdering the first minister; though his Majesty assured his faithful commons that the minister was never consulted on acts of government, and was only his private friend, who sometimes called upon him in an evening to drink a glass of wine and talk botany. The people were incredulous, and continued in mutiny when the last letters came away. If you should happen to suppose, as I did, that this history arrived in London, do not be alarmed; for it was at Madrid; and a nation who has borne the Inquisition cannot support a cocked hat. So necessary it is for governors to know when lead or a feather will turn the balance of human understandings, or will not!
I should not have entrenched on Lord George's(953) province of sending you news of revolutions, but he is at Aubign'e; and I thought it right to advertise you in time, in case you should have a mind to send a bale of slouched hats to the support of the mutineers. As I have worn a flapped hat all my life, when I have worn any at all, I think myself qualified, and would offer my service to command them; but, being persuaded that you are a faithful observer of treaties, though a friend to repeals, I shall come and receive your commands in person. In the mean time I cannot help figuring what a pompous protest my Lord Lyttelton might draw up in the character of an old grandee against the revocation of the act for cocked hats.
Lady Ailesbury forgot to send me word of your recovery, as she promised; but I was so lucky as to hear it from other hands. Pray take care of yourself, and do not imagine that you are as weak as I am, and can escape the scythe, as I do, by being low: your life is of more consequence. If you don't believe me, step into the street and ask the first man you meet.
This is Sunday, and Thursday is fixed for my departure, unless the Clairon should return to the stage on Tuesday se'nnight, as it is said; and I do not know whether I should not be tempted to borrow two or three days more, having never seen her; yet my lilacs pull hard, and I have not a farthing left in the world. Be sure you do not leave a cranny open for George Grenville to wriggle it), till I have got all my things out of the customhouse. Adieu! Yours ever.
(950) This account alludes to the insurrection at Madrid, on the attempt of the court to introduce the French dress in Spain.
(951) Squillace, an Italian, whom the King was obliged to banish.
(952) Alluding to the mobs of silk-weavers which had taken place in London.
(953) Lord George Lenox, only brother to the Duke of Richmond.
Letter 303 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Paris, April 8, 1766. (page 478)
I sent you a few lines by the post yesterday with the first of the insurrection at Madrid. I have since seen Stahremberg,(954) the imperial minister, who has had a courier from thence; and if Lord Rochford(955) has not sent one, you will not be sorry to know more particulars. The mob disarmed the Invalids; stopped all coaches, to prevent Squillaci's flight; and meeting the Duke de Medina Celi, forced him and the Duke d'Arcos to carry their demands to the King. His most frightened Majesty granted them directly; on which his highness the people despatched a monk with their demands in writing, couched in four articles; the diminution of the gabel on bread and oil; the revocation of the ordonnance on hats and cloaks; the banishment of Squillaci; and the abolition of some other tax, I don't know what. The King signed all; yet was still forced to appear at a balcony, and promise to observe what he had granted. Squillaci was sent with an escort to Carthagena, to embark for Naples, and the first commissioner of the treasury appointed to succeed him; which does not look much like observation of the conditions. Some say Ensenada is recalled, and that Grimaldi is in no good odour with the people. If the latter and Squillaci are dismissed, we get rid of two enemies.
The tumult ceased on the grant of the demands; but the King retiring that night to Aranjuez, the insurrection was renewed the next morning on pretence that this flight was a breach of the capitulation The people seized the gates of the capital, and permitted nobody to go out. In this state were things when the courier came away. the ordonnance against going in disguise looks as if some suspicions had been conceived; and yet their confidence was so great as not to have two thousand guards in the town. The pitiful behaviour of the court makes one think that the Italians were frightened, and that the Spanish part of the ministry were not sorry it took that turn. As I suppose there is no great city in Spain which has not at least a bigger bundle of grievances than the capital, one shall not wonder if the pusillanimous behaviour of the King encourages them to redress themselves too.
There is what is called a change of the ministry here; but it is only a crossing over and figuring in. The Duc de Praslin has wished to retire for some time; and for this last fortnight there has been talk of his being replaced by the Duc d'Aiguillon. the Duc de Nivernois, etc.; but it is plain, though not believed till now, that the Duc de Choiseul is all-powerful. To purchase the stay of his cousin Praslin, on whom he can depend, and to leave no cranny open, he has ceded the marine and colonies to the Due de Praslin, and taken the foreign and military department himself. His cousin is, besides, named chef du conseil des finances; a very honourable, very dignified, and very idle place, and never filled since the Duc de Bethune had it. Praslin's hopeful cub, the Viscount, whom you saw in England last year, goes to Naples; and the Marquis de Durfort to Vienna—a cold, dry, proud man, with the figure and manner of Lord Cornbury.
Great matters are expected to-day from the Parliament, which re-assembles. A mousquetaire, his piece loaded with a lettre de cachet, went about a fortnight ago to the notary who keeps the parliamentary registers, and demanded them. They were refused— but given up, on the lettre de cachet being produced. The Parliament intends to try the notary for breach of trust, which I suppose will make his fortune; though he has not the merit of perjury, like Carteret Webb.
There have been insurrections at Bordeaux and Tailless, on the militia, and twenty-seven persons were killed at the latter: but both are appeased. These things are so much in vogue, that I wonder the French do not dress 'a la r'evolte. The Queen is in a very dangerous way. This will be my last letter; but I am not sure I shall set out before the middle of next week. Yours ever.
(954) Prince Stahremberg: he had married a daughter of the Duc d'Arembert, by his Duchess, nee la Marche.
(955) William Henry Zuleistein de Nassau, Earl of Rochford, who was at this time the English ambassador extraordinary at the court of Spain.
Letter 304 To The Rev. Mr. COLE. Arlington Street, May 10, 1766. (page 479)
At last I am come back, dear Sir, and in good health. I have brought you four cups and saucers, one red and white, one blue and white, and two coloured; and a little box of pastils. Tell me whether and how I shall convey them to you; or whether you will, as I hope, come to Strawberry this summer, and fetch them yourself; but if you are in the least hurry, I will send them.
I flatter myself you have quite recovered your accident, and have no remains of lameness. The spring is very wet and cold, but Strawberry alone contains more verdure than all France.
I scrambled very well through the custom-house at Dover, and have got all my china safe from that here in town. You will see the fruits when you come to Strawberry Hill. Adieu!
Letter 305 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Arlington Street, May 13, 1766. (page 479)
Dear sir, I am forced to do a very awkward thing, and send you back one of your letters, and, what is still worse, opened. The case was this: I received your two at dinner, opened one and laid the other in my lap; but forgetting that I had taken one out of the first, I took up the wrong 'Hand broke it open,. without perceiving my mistake, till I saw the words, Dear Sister. I give you my honour I read no farther, but had torn it too much to send it away. Pray excuse me; and another time I beg you will put an envelope, for you write just where the seal comes; and besides, place the seals so together that though I did not quite open the fourth letter, yet it stuck so to the outer seal, that I could not help tearing it a little. Adieu!
Letter 306 To George Montagu, Esq. Strawberry Hill, May 25, 1766. (page 480)
When the weather will please to be in a little better temper, I will call upon you to perform your promise; but I cannot in conscience invite you to a fireside. The Guerchys and French dined here last Monday, and it rained so that we could no more walk in the garden than Noah could. I came again, to-day, but shall return to town to-morrow, as I hate to have no sun in May, but what I can make with a peck of coals.
I know no news, but that the Duke of Richmond is secretary of state,(956) and that your cousin North has refused the vice-treasurer of Ireland. It cost him bitter pangs, not to preserve his virtue, but his vicious connexions. He goggled his eyes, and groped in his money-pocket; more than half consented; nay, so much more, that when he got home he wrote an excuse to Lord Rockingham, which made it plain that he thought he had accepted. As nobody was dipped deeper in the warrants and prosecution of Wilkes, there is no condoling with the ministers on missing so foul a bargain. They are only to be pitied, that they can purchase nothing but damaged goods.
So, my Lord Grandison(957) is dead! Does the General inherit much? Have you heard the great loss the church of England has had? It is not avowed; but hear the evidence and judge. On Sunday last, George Selwyn was strolling home to dinner at half an hour after four. He saw my Lady Townshend's coach stop at Caraccioli's(958) chapel. He watched, saw her go in; her footman laughed; he followed. She Went up to the altar, a woman brought her a cushion; she knelt, crossed herself, and prayed. He stole up, and knelt by her. Conceive her face, if you can, when she turned and found his close to her. In his demure voice, he said, "Pray, Madam, how long has your ladyship left the pale of our church!" She looked furies, and made no answer. Next day he went to her, and she turned it off upon curiosity; but is any thing more natural? No, she certainly means to go armed with every viaticum, the church of England in one hand, Methodism in the other, and the Host in her mouth.
Have you ranged your forest, and seen your lodge yourself? I could almost wish it may not answer, and that you may cast an eye towards our neighbourhood. My Lady Shelburne(959) has taken a house here, and it has produced a bon-mot from Mrs. Clive. You know my Lady Suffolk is deaf, and I have talked much of a charming old passion I have at Paris, who is blind; "Well," said the Clive, "if the new Countess is but lame, I shall have no chance of ever seeing you." Good night!
(956) When the Duke of Grafton quitted the seals, they were offered first to Lord Egmont, then to Lord Hardwicke, who both declined them; "but, after their going a-begging for some time," says Lord Chesterfield, " the Duke of Richmond begged them, and has them, faute de mieux."-E.
(957) John Villiers, fifth Viscount Grandison. He had bee n elevated to the earldom in 1721; which title became extinct, and the viscounty devolved upon William third Earl of Jersey.-E.
(958) The Marquis de Carraccioli, ambassador from the court of Naples.-E
(959) Mary Countess of Shelburne, widow of the Hon. John Fitzmaurice, first Earl of Shelburne. She was likewise his first cousin, being the daughter of the Hon. William Fitzmaurice, of Gailane, in the county of Kerry.-E.
Letter 307 To George Montagu, Esq. Strawberry Hill, June 20, 1766. (page 481)
I don't know when I shall see you, but therefore must not I write to you? Yet I have as little to say as may be. I could cry through a whole page over the bad weather. I have but a lock of hay, you know; and I cannot get it dry, unless I bring it to the fire. I would give half-a-crown for a pennyworth of sun. It is abominable to be ruined in coals in the middle of June.
What pleasure have you to come! there is a new thing published, that will make you split your cheeks with laughing. It is called the New Bath Guide.(960) It stole into the world, and for a fortnight no soul looked into it, concluding its name was the true name. No such thing. It is a set of letters in verse, in all kind of verses, describing the life at Bath, and incidentally every thing else; but so much wit, so much humour, fun, and poetry, so much originality, never met together before. Then the man has a better ear than Dryden or Handel. Apropos to Dryden, he has burlesqued his St. Cecilia, that you will never read it again without laughing. There is a description of a milliner's box in all the terms of landscape, painted lawns and chequered shades, a Moravian ode, and a Methodist ditty, that are incomparable, and the best names that ever were composed. I can say it by heart, though a quarto, and if I had time would write it you down; for it is not yet reprinted, and not one to be had.