« ZurückWeiter »
place in the world; and you will doubtless have more regard to my reputation than to tell any body I say so. For people disposed to go in search of pleasure, perhaps there is no place where they are like to meet with so much. But there is no medium; either you must engage heartilyin the diversions of the place, or find yourself sunk in the vapours ten thousand fathoms deep. It is from a depth not less than this that I write the present letter; a depth to which a man could never reach in any place but where every body is gay about him, and where he has not only the load of his own melancholy to hear, but of other people's mirth. It is certain, however, Paris now appears under great disadvantages; the court is at a distance, and the people of quality mostly gone into the country; besides that, the fine season is over, and the beautiful gardens, walks, and woods, which make the chief beauty of it, lie in a sort of ruins, which makes autumn look in some respects more dismal even than winter. The favourite diversion of the French is walking, and taking the air, and the country about Paris is admirably laid out for that purpose. Here are the gardens of the Thuilleries and Luxemburgh, the Course, the woods of Boulogne and Vincennes, the Avenue of St. Cloud and Meudon, which form a variety in this way vastly beyond any thing we have in England. This difference, I think, is observable between the two nations, that the French seek their chief pleasures without doors, and the English within. I know not whether this difference be owing to any diversity in the air of the two places; or to this, that the French are more in the air than we, which makes them alert and hardy, and gives them an appetite. It is certain, they are more familiar, and make more free with the air than we do. You see the public walking-places full from morning to vight in the severest weather. They will sit for hours on the benches where an Englishman would be frozen to death. And, what is more, in the dampest weather, and even night, great numbers of them will be found sitting or lying on the bare ground. At first, one would be tempted to think, that, if there were not something less noxious in the air here than in that of England, half the inhabitants must be rotten. But I doubt whether there be much in this. The French are made familiar with the air betimes, so grow hardy and strong. They seem to feel no cold, when I am ready to starve: and though the winter here be colder than at London, I doubt whether there be half the fire burnt. You will perceive by this what way my thoughts have been employed at Paris. If you send a valetudinarian to travel, wiiat
else can you expect from him, but observations on the weather and the wind? If you would have an account of their dress, their buildings, furniture, equipages, bajis, intrigues, &c. yon must send soinehody else. There are indeed a thousand things of the kind, which even an indiferent spectator cannot help observing ; but they hardly seem to me worth postage, though they may do well enough for chat round a winter's fire. I have been now near a month at Paris, which is much too long, considering what a journey I have still behind. To-morrow I set out for Lyons, in my way to Languedoc. I applied to a physician here for some advice about my journey; and was unfortunate enough to take some of his medicines, which have weakened and done me harm, so that I have been forced to lie by a week, to retrieve myself. I intend to travel on horseback, having found the conveyance by chaise or coach does not agree with me. If my strength holds out, I hope I may reach Montpellier in about twenty days. The distance is near 500 English miles. The expedition is hazardous enough ; but my heart is pretty good, and that is all I have for it, excepting an easy horse and a careful servant. I want much to know how you do, and the rest of my friends : but in this vagrant state I know not when I shall be so happy. Possibly I may trouble some of you with a letter from Lyons, or even sooner, if any thing of consequence happens. I write by this post to Mr. Longman for another remittance of money, which I shall want inuch. Pray present my sincere respects to ... and ... I have not room to be more particular. For yourself, if you will forgive me the trouble of this letter, it will make me more than ever, Madam, your obedient bumble servant,
For Mrs. Chambers.
Montpellier, Dec. 18, 1738, O.S. MADAM, I FIND you expect fine things from Montpellier, and that a letter wriiten at my usual rate will hardly pass. So fine a climate, you think, ought not to be lost on me. Though I was permitted to be dull in England, yet a man, who claims the same privilege here, ought either to be sent home, or to the gallies. You have some reason in all this ; and yet for once, I must beg leave to write like myself: my will is still English ; I have yet received no extraordinary
supplies from the climate: when I do, you shall be sure to have the first sample. I have been here but a month, one half of which I have been confined by a cold, and the rest by the ill weather. Winter, I find, is winter every where, notwithstanding all that had been told me to the contrary. The people of England make themselves more uneasy than they need be as to the seasons and the weather ; they seem not a whit worse off than the people of France, so far as I can judge from the three months I have been in this kingdom. Both the colds and the heats, and the droughts and the rains, are certainly here greater and more frequent than with you. It is only in respect of the fogs that the French pretend to any advantage over you; and I doubt whether even this pretension be well founded. I have travelled three days on this side Lyons, through one perpetual fog, which did not clear up, as yours usually do,after a few hours, but grew thicker and thicker every day, till night: nor was this any thing accidental; since some gentlemen, who passed the same way a month before me, found the very same. Since my arrival here, where I expected nothing but clear skies and sun-shine, things have been still worse. One would swear that all the witches in Lapland had been at work, and that half of the ill weather bestowed over the face of the globe bad been discharged here. For my part, the rains have been so continual, that, had not I had great faith in Moses and the rainbow, I should have feared another deluge. Indeed, between one run of terrible weather and another, they have now and then a fine summer's day; but these are only transient smiles, for which they are sure to pay dear: they serve for little but to make the rest more co:npletely disinal. In the general, you may be assured, that the inhabitants of Montpellier see much less of the sun than those of London. Their streets are so excessively narrow, and their houses so high, that the sun can never enter them. It is only in the very extremities of the town that they can ever enjoy so agreeable a spectacle. Where I am quartered, which is towards the middle, the sun is about as much seen as in an English coal-pit. I have no less than twelve windows in my chamber; yet I have scarcely light enough from them all to scribble this at noon-day without a candle. To know whether or no the sun shines, I am forced to go out of the cells; and have been sometimes surprized, the moment I passed the gates, to find myself step at once into a glorious summer's sun, out of a place dark and chilly as the shadow of death. You see, Madam, I am but where I was at Paris. I wrote to you there on the weather, and I am still thrumming on the same string. If you will allow me to pursue the subject, it will be easy to furnish you a letter once a month. By that time I have been here a twelvemonth, my letters will make a kind of a calendar, and may be printed under the title of The History of the Weather of Languedoc. You tell me, indeed, you expect to find me quite changed; and, from my accustomed gravity, turned as gay and as alert as a Gascon. But metamorphoses, Madam, of this kind, do not use to be made in the winter. It is not till the spring that reptiles undergo their renovation; and that the butterfly begins to frisk about, which had lain dormant till then in the more sober state of a maggot. You must give me time till the beginning of May to get rid of all my English goods, of which number, I doubt, my cough will be the last. If you expect any thing of news from this quarter, you will be greatly disappointed: one knows nothing here of what passes but a few leagues from the place : at least, you will have it at London long ere it reaches here. The news even of France comes to us chiefly by the way
of Amsterdam. Two to one, you have already heard of what happened last Sunday se'nnight at Geneac, a village four leagues from hence, where, while the people were at vespers, the steeple fell down, broke through the roof of the church, and buried a great part of the congregation under its ruins; they had dug out 120 a week ago, of which number fifteen were still alive.
For the transactions of Montpellier, they are summed up in a few words; at least all that come to the notice of a foreigner: here are fifteen or twenty English, Dutch, and Germans, who form a kind of separate commonwealth that has little intercourse with the natives. Cards seem to make the great business of the place. They are no longer a diversion, but are become an employment, as formal and serious as devotion itself. Pharo and Lansquenet are the only politics studied here; and Quadrille and Picquet serve for all the other arts and sciences. There have been two grand ceremonies since my arrival, which have engrossed all the attention of the place, viz. the opening of the assembly of the States of Languedoc, by the Duke de Richelieu ; and the procession of the same States to accompany the Sacrament. If I had any talent at description, I should here have a fine field to entertain you. But finé sights are lost on me. All great assemblies appear to me much the same. They are only so many compositions of robes, furs, silks, and brocades, interlaced with point, powder, and paint.
The very same materials, under a little different arrangement, would form a court of aldermen, a country assize, a coronation, or a company of Hussars. Montpellier, Madam, is one of the richest and most populous cities in France, and at the same time the dearest to live in. Few of the necessaries of life but are dearer here than at Paris. Wine is the oviy thing that is cheap, being here sold for three halfperce or two-pence a bottle. But, to compensate for this, milk costs twice as much; which is no mighty advantageous consideration for valetudinarians, who use much milk and but little wine. In general, the eating would be very good, were it not for the want of butter, which makes a terrible drawback. Not only fowl of all sorts, but fish, and almost every tning else, is here served quite dry. If you demand sauce, all they can do is to give you oil; for, as to butter, the country produces none. The vive, olive, mulberry, and walnut-tree, have engrossed all the ground. and left no room for pasture and grazing : so that one is here stored with a great many of the superfluities of life, while the necessaries of it are wanting. I do not know how long I shall stay here, because I cannot foresee when I shall find weather to get away in: perhaps my next may be from Avignon or Aix. But let not this hinder your writing. I never stood in such need of your letters as at this time. Your last came just time enough to save me from perishing miserably; for to die of the vapours in Languedoc, would be of all deaths the most extraordinary. You will remember me to all my friends, with that respect and affection that is due to such. It is only by being long absent, in a foreign country that a man learns their value. Your little daugiter's escape gave ine great joy. I never knew how much the loss of her would have aitected me till I heard she had been in danger. She now appears dearer to me then even her sister; but it is only because I have had occasion to know the extent of my aifection for the one, and not for the other. For yourself, Madam, neither absence nor danger can much increase that inviolable attachment with which I am your most humble and obedient servant,
For Mrs. Chambers.
Paris, Aug. 30, 1739.