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SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
Excursion into France. Paris.
-Santerre, the Brewer.- King's Library. - Sorbonne. St. Cloud. Sêve. Bellevue. Meudon. Grand-Chartreux. Luxembourg. Friar Wilkes. St. Denis. Compeigne. Cambray. State of Society in France. Madame de Boufflers. — Voltaire. — Dr. Burney's Collectanea.- Letters to Mrs. Montagu, &c.
Benedictine Mrs. Fermor.
Ir is to be regretted, that Johnson did not write an account of his travels in France; for as he is reported to have once said, that "he could write the life of a broomstick (1)," so, notwithstanding so many former travellers have exhausted almost every subject for remark in that great kingdom, his
(1) It is probable that the author's memory here deceived him, and that he was thinking of Stella's remark, that Swift could write finely upon a broomstick.-J. BOSWELL, jun.
very accurate observation, and peculiar vigour of thought and illustration, would have produced a wonderful work. During his visit to it, which lasted but about two months, he wrote notes or minutes of what he saw. He promised to show me them, but I neglected to put him in mind of it; and the greatest part of them has been lost, or perhaps destroyed in a precipitate burning of his papers a few days before his death, which must ever be lamented: one small paper book, however, entitled "France II.," has been preserved, and is in my possession. It is a diurnal register of his life and observations, from the 10th of October to the 4th of November, inclusive, being twenty-six days, and shows an extraordinary attention to various minute particulars. Being the only memorial of this tour that remains, my readers, I am confident, will peruse it with pleasure, though his notes are very short, and evidently written only to assist his own recollection.
"Tuesday, Oct. 10. - We saw the école militaire, in which 150 young boys are educated for the army. They have arms of different sizes, according to the age -flints of wood. The building is very large, but nothing fine except the council-room The French have large squares in the windows. They make good iron palisades ()—Their meals are gross. (*)
(1) Alluding, probably, to the fine grilles so frequent in France. He had, probably, just seen that of the Hôtel des Invalides, which is one of the finest.-C.
(2) The contrary has been the general opinion; and Johnson was certainly a bad judge in that point, if he believed that his own taste was delicate. C.
"We visited the Observatory, a large building of a great height. The upper stones of the parapet very large, but not cramped with iron-The flat on the top is very extensive; but on the insulated part there is no parapet Though it was broad enough, I did not care to go upon it. Maps were printing in one of the rooms. We walked to a small convent of the fathers of the Oratory. In the reading-desk of the refectory lay the Lives of the Saints.
66 Wednesday, Oct. 11.-We went to see Hôtel de Chatlois, a house not very large, but very elegant. One of the rooms was gilt to a degree that I never saw before. The upper part for servants and their masters was pretty.
"Thence we went to Mr. Monvil's, a house divided into small apartments, furnished with effeminate and minute elegance — Porphyry.
"Thence we went to St. Roque's church, which is very large. The lower part of the pillars incrusted with marble. Three chapels behind the high altar; the last a mass of low arches. Altars, I believe, all round.
"We passed through Place de Vendôme, a fine square, about as big as Hanover-square. Inhabited by the high families. Louis XIV. on horseback in the middle.
"Monville is the son of a farmer-general. In the house of Chatlois is a room furnished with japan, fitted up in Europe.
"We dined with Bocage (1), the Marquis Blanchetti, and his lady-The sweetmeats taken by the Marchioness Blanchetti, after observing that they were dear Mr. Le Roy, Count Manucci, the abbé, the prior (2), and Father Wilson, who stayed with me till I took him home in the coach Bathiani is gone.
"The French have no laws for the maintenance of
(1) Madame Du Bocage. See post, p. 22. — C.
(2) [The then Prior of the English Benedictines at Paris was named Cowley. - MARKLAND.]