« PreviousContinue »
Harriet Wentworth. He shewed me much affection, as a country. man, and especially as he knew my brother. He told me that specimens of English cotton fabricks had been intermixed with French, and submitted to the inspection of certain officers in Rouen, whose business it is to estimate their value, and fix their price; and that these officers not suspecting them to be English, rated them at twenty per cent. above the French. When this took wind, it gave a dreadful alarm to the Normans. N.B.—The churches of Amiens and Rouen, especially the former, should detain the traveller.
On Wednesday the first of August, about one o'clock, I found myself at Brighthelmston, so that in little more than forty eight hours, I passed from Paris to Brighton. That night, (viz., Wednesday) I went to the ball with Sir Boyle Roach, where there was but a small party, but those mostly of the princes of Britain and France, viz., the Prince of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland, the Princess of Lambal, who (it is said) was married, (and but for a few months) to the son of the Duke of Penthievre, whose daughter is now married to the Duke of Orleans. In her suite were three French ladies of quality. Besides these recited, were the Duke of Bedford, Duke of Queensbury, and other Nobles, particularly Lords Maynard and Clermont. Lest it should be forgotten, I set it down, that when I came into the room, Mrs. Fitzherbert sat in the highest seat at the top of the room with the Duke of Cumberland. The Prince was standing in the circle of ladies
the Duchess of Rutland was by far the fairest of the fair. Mrs. Fitzherbert did not dance the first set, but the second she danced with Isaac Corry, and after dancing down, she sat down with her partner, and in a few minutes the Prince and the Duke of Cumberland came and sat beside her. The Prince expressed affection in his looks, and the Duke esteem. She discovers strong sensibility and considerable dignity in her countenance and deportment. The general appear. ance of the English was to my eye, fresh from Paris, what it never before had been, strangely awkward and clownish at this ball. The French deserve most rightly that character of pre-eminent politeness which they have universally obtained. I never saw an awkward person in France, even in the lowest department. They are on the whole a strange but agreeable mixture of pomp and beggary; the latter is visible in every avenue of Versailles, even in the Palace. I listened in the street to a woman who sang
ballads, with the assistance of her husband's tambour, with more pleasure than I ever did at Ranelagh, Vauxhall, or the Rotunda. The French language and musick seem adapted to engage the heart in small inatters.
But to return to Brighton, it was irritating to my feelings to see C. Fox walking on the Steyne on Thursday night, with a vulgar looking ; with Lord Clermont and the first of nobility, (viz., the Duke of Bedford) sneaking along with this profligate head of opposition. No wonder that the Duke of Bedford should glory in a like practice, and that Lord Maynard should not only glory in his gilded horn, but that he should serve as pimp to this Duke of fifty thousand a year. This is scarce worthy notice, but upon the whole I must observe, that according to the impressions made upon me in this short excursion, the two countries bear an exact image of the government in each. In England the laws are made by the people, and therefore they are there for the people, and their interests. In France the people are only considered as if made for the use of the Court of Versailles, and City of Paris, and therefore the people of France do not reflect that image of happiness which the English nation does in every quarter, and yet it is said that the English are less happy than the French; now, though I don't believe this, yet it possibly may be the case, for the English are so pampered by a redundance of meat and money, that they may be said at all times to be under a plethora of both, and therefore may not enjoy that happiness which is within their reach. The laws too being made by and for them (as I have observed) gives them frequent advantages on trials by jury, over their superiors in rank, which renders them rough and savage
in their manners, and like children wilful, peevish, and discontented, repining at their own inferiority of condition, and of course unhappy in their stations, not considering that an equality of ranks is incompatible with any form of society ever yet established, which verifies the French maxim, “ Tout chose a la bon et le mal.”
I have thought that if the persons and things of both countries be supposed to be divided into ten classes, there will be found in France one class of these to be so superior to any thing of the kind in England, and to have no parallel there, another class may be found in both countries perfectly on par; but that the remaining eight classes in the lower walks of life will be found every way superior in England. That is to say among the mass of the people which I count as eight, the whole advantage as to the means of
the comforts and conveniences of life lie on the side of the English -and to explain myself as to that highest rank in France, for which I say England can produce no parallel, I instance in the pomp of a court the elegance of mind and manners prevalent among the highest orders in France, the general refinement among the more numerous orders of clergy and lawyers, the unrivalled accomplishments of the female sex, which more than compensates for that beauty of person which distinguishes English ladies, but which is rarely embellished by that expressive eye and those acquired accomplishments which characterize the French ladies and place them not only above competition in the present age, but challenge antiquity to produce any thing equal to them. N.B.I speak of classes of persons and things, not of individuals, England may and I doubt not does produce individuals equal to any in any other country, but elegance (I don't mean cleanliness on which the English pride themselves) of ranks is not as yet to be found in England. The gentry are cold, lifeless and reserved, the mauvaise honte is still prevalent among them. They may perhaps in general see what is decorous in behaviour, but they have not acquired the habits of it, of this they are conscious, and therefore they are generally stiff if not awkward in their carriage, and always afraid of being incorrect they seldom arrive at excellence in the exhibition of those good qualities which they frequently possess. The French most richly deserve that character of superlative politeness which they have obtained, the disposition of their government has contributed to it, they are compelled to restrain those ebullitions of passion which sometimes disfigure the behaviour of a free people, and this general awe with which they are impressed, smooths the purturbations of the mind and disposes the people to suavity of demeanour and to those resources from the anguish of thought upon public affairs, which are only to be found in the mutual endearments of private society.
My sixth visit to England was in the end of the year, 1789, with Dr. Hales and his sisters, spent my Christmas in Bath, went up to London the night before the Queen's birthday, when I had my pocket picked of twelve and a half guineas, my Sardonix ring, and the medal of the King of Morocco, which Colonel Valancy called the Talisman.
My seventh visit to England was in consequence of a wish expressed by the Bishop of Dromore that I should meet him there, and bring with me the Life of Dr. Goldsmith, which I had com
piled from documents furnished by him that it might be published with his works by Nichols for the benefit of his brothers, (particularly Maurice, who had been in the habit of getting subscriptions before I undertook the task) and sisters. On the 20th February, 1792, I sailed with Mrs. Kern, and remarkable it is that on the 27th, the same day on which the Parliament House in Dublin was burned, we arrived at the Bear in Bath. On the 19th March we set out for London, where we staid only to the 25th, and on Saturday morning the 31st arrived in Dublin, where, on the next day, I heard Mr. Kirwan preach in his turn as chaplain before the Lord Lieutenant in the Castle Chapel. The subject of his discourse was, the influence of the manners of high stations upon the low.
The Preacher pointed almost personally to the Chief Governor, and even mimicked his awkward attitudes, and ridiculed bis mode of spending his time. After his first rest he recapitulated what he had said on the baleful examples of high stations in the country, and then turning to the gallery where his Excellency sat, he said, “ I ask you what examples do you set to this country,” and after a long pause he repeated, “I ask you what examples do you in high stations set to the people of this country ?”