Page images
PDF
EPUB

conveyed me to Dover, the packet to Boulogne; and such was my diligence, that I reached Paris on the 28th of January 1763, only thirty-six days after the disbanding of the militia. Two or three years were loosely defined for the term of my absence; and I was left at liberty to spend that time in such places and in such a manner as was most agreeable to my taste and judgment.

In this first visit I passed three months and a half, (January 28—May 9,) and a much longer space might have been agreeably filled without any intercourse with the natives. At home we are content to move in the daily round of pleasure and business; and a scene which is always present is supposed to be within our knowledge, or at least within our power. But in a foreign country, curiosity is our business and our pleasure; and the traveller, conscious of his ignorance, and covetous of his time, is diligent in the search and the view of every object that can deserve his attention. I devoted many hours of the morning to the circuit of Paris and the neighbourhood, to the

But another defect made a stronger impression upon me. When a poet ventures upon the dreadful situation of a father who condemns his son to death, there is no mediumthe father must either be a monster or a hero. His obligations of justice, of the public good, must be as binding, as apparent, as perhaps those of the first Brutus. The cruel necessity consecrates his actions, and leaves no room for repentance. The thought is shocking, if not carried into action. In the execution of Brutus's sons I am sensible of that fatal necessity. Without such an example, the unsettled liberty of Rome would have perished the instant after its birth. But Alonzo might have pardoned his son for a rash attempt, the cause of which was a private injury, and whose consequences could never have disturbed an established government. He might have pardoned such a crime in any other subject; and as the laws could exact only an equal rigour for a son, a vain appetite for glory, and a mad affectation of heroism, could alone have influenced him to exert an unequal and superior severity.

visit of churches and palaces conspicuous by their architecture, to the royal manufactures, collections of books and pictures, and all the various treasures of art, of learning, and of luxury. An Englishman may hear without reluctance, that in these curious and costly articles Paris is superior to London; since the opulence of the French capital arises from the defects of its government and religion. In the absence of Louis XIV and his successors, the Louvre has been left unfinished: but the millions which have been lavished on the sands of Versailles, and the morass of Marli, could not be supplied by the legal allowance of a British king. The splendour of the French nobles is confined to their town residences; that of the English is more usefully distributed in their country seats; and we should be astonished at our own riches, if the labours of architecture, the spoils of Italy and Greece, which are now scattered from Inverary to Wilton, were accumulated in a few streets between Marybone and Westminster. All superfluous ornament is rejected by the cold frugality of the Protestants; but the Catholic superstition, which is always the enemy of reason, is often the parent of the arts. The wealthy communities of priests and monks expend their revenues in stately edifices; and the parish church of St Sulpice, one of the noblest structures in Paris, was built and adorned by the private industry of a late curé. In this outset, and still more in the sequel of my tour, my eye was amused; but the pleasing vision cannot be fixed by the pen; the particular images are darkly seen through the medium of five and twenty years, and the narrative of my life must not degenerate into a book of travels.*

* JOURNAL, 21 Février 1763.]-Aujourdhui j'ai commencé ma tournée, pour voir les endroits dignes d'atten. tion dans la ville. D'Augny m'a accompagné. Nous sommes allés d'abord à la bibliothèque de l'Abbaye de St Germain des Prez, où tout le monde étoit occupé à l'arrangement d'un cabinet de curiosités, et à l'Hôpital des

But the principal end of my journey was to enjoy the society of a polished and amiable people, in whose Invalides, où le dôme étoit fermé à cause des réparations qu'on y faisoit. Il faut donc différer la visite et la description de ces deux endroits. De là nous sommes allés voir l'Ecole Militaire. Comme ce bâtiment s'élève à côté des Invalides, bien des gens y verroient un moyen assez facile d'apprécier les ames différentes de leurs fondateurs. Dans l'un tout est grand et fastueux, dans l'autre tout est petit et mesquin. De petits cours de logis blancs et assez propres, qui, au lieu de 500 gentilshommes, dont on a parlé, en contiennent 258, composent tout l'établissement; car le manège et les écuries ne sont rien. Il est vrai qu'on dit que ces bâtimens ne sont qu'un échafaudage, qu'on doit ôter, pour élever le véritable ouvrage sur les débris. Il faut bien en effet qu'on n'ait pas bâti pour l'éternité, puisque dans vingt ans la plûpart des poutres se sont pourries. Nous jettâmes ensuite un coup-d'œil sur l'église de St Sulpice, dont la façade (le pretexte et le fruit de tant de lotteries) n'est point encore achevée.

[TRANSLATION.]

JOURNAL, 21st February 1763.]-To-day I commenced my tour to see the places worthy of attention in the town, accompanied by d'Augny. We went first to the library of the abbey of St Germain des Prez, where every one was occupied in the arrangement of the curiosities; and to the hospital of the Invalids, where the dome was shut up on account of the repairs carrying on there: I must therefore defer my visit and description of these two places. Thence we proceeded to the Ecole Militaire; and as this building is erected by the side of the Invalids, it affords an easy means of appreciating the different souls of their founders. In the one all is great and imposing; in the other all is petty and mean. Some small suites of clean and sufficiently commodious apartments, which, in place of 500 gentlemen, the number spoken of, contain but 258, compose the whole of the establishment; for the riding-house and stables are nothing. It is pretended, to be sure, that these buildings form but a scaffolding, which will be removed in order to erect the real edifice in their place.

favour I was strongly prejudiced, and to converse with some authors whose conversation, as I fondly imagined, must be far more pleasing and instructive than their writings. The moment was happily chosen. At the close of a successful war the British name was respected on the continent :

Clarum et venerabile nomen
Gentibus.

Our opinions, our fashions, even our games, were adopted in France; a ray of national glory illuminated each individual, and every Englishman was supposed to be born a patriot and a philosopher. For myself, I carried a personal recommendation; my name and my Essay were already known; the compliment of having written in the French language entitled me to some returns of civility and gratitude. I was considered as a man of letters, who wrote for amusement. Before my departure I had obtained from the duke de Nivernois, lady Hervey, the Mallets, Mr Walpole, &c., many letters of recommendation to their private or literary friends. Of these epistles the reception and success were determined by the character and situation of the persons by whom and to whom they were addressed: the seed was sometimes cast on a barren rock, and it sometimes multiplied an hundred-fold in the production of new shoots, spreading branches, and exquisite fruit. But upon the whole, I had reason to praise the national urbanity, which from the court has diffused its gentle influence to the shop, the cottage, and the schools. Of the men of genius of the age, Montesquieu and Fontenelle were no more; Voltaire resided on his own estate near Geneva; Rousseau in It is obvious, indeed, that they have not been built for eternity, since in twenty years the greater part of the beams are decayed. We next cast a glance at the church of St Sulpice, of which the façade (the pretext and the fruit of so many lotteries) is not yet finished.

the preceding year had been driven from his hermitage of Montmorency; and I blush at my having neglected to seek in this journey the acquaintance of Buffon. Among the men of letters whom I saw, d'Alembert and Diderot held the foremost rank in merit, or at least in fame. I shall content myself with enumerating the well known names of the count de Caylus, of the abbé de la Bleterie, Barthelemy, Reynal, Arnaud, of messieurs de la Condamine, du Clos, de Ste Palaye, de Bougainville, Caperonnier, de Guignes, Suard, &c., without attempting to discriminate the shades of their characters, or the degrees of our connection. Alone, in a morning visit, I commonly found the artist and authors of Paris less vain, and more reasonable, than in the circles of their equals, with whom they mingle in the houses of the rich. Four days in a week I had a place, without invitation, at the hospitable tables of mesdames Geoffrin and du Bocage, of the celebrated Helvetius, and of the baron d'Olbach. In these symposia the pleasures of the table were improved by lively and liberal conversation; the company was select, though various and voluntary.*

*JOURNAL, Février 23, 1763.]-Je fis une visite à l'abbé de la Bleterie, qui veut me mener chez la duchesse d'Aiguillon; je me fis écrire chez M. de Bougainville que j'ai grande envie de connoître, et me rendis ensuite chez le baron d'Olbach, ami de M. Helvétius. C'étoit ma première visite, et le premier pas dans une fort bonne maison. Le baron a de l'esprit et des connoissances, et surtout il donne souvent et fort bien à dîner.

Février 24.] L'abbé Barthelemy est fort aimable et n'a de l'antiquaire qu'une très grande érudition. Je finis la soirée par un souper très agréable chez madame Bontems avec M. le marquis de Mirabeau. Cet homme est singulier; il a assez d'imagination pour dix autres, et pas assez de sens rassis pour lui seul. Je lui ai fait beaucoup de questions sur les titres de la noblesse Françoise: mais tout ce que j'en ai pu comprendre, c'est que personne n'a là dessus des idées bien nettes.

« PreviousContinue »