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L I F E
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
Excursion into France. Paris. Benedictine Monks. — Choisi. — Palais-Royal. – Mrs. Fermor.
- Palais-Bourbon. — Fontainebleau. - Versailles.Trianon.— Santerre, the Brewer.— King's Library.
Sorbonne. St. Cloud. Sêve. Bellevue. Meudon. Grand-Chartreux. Luxembourg. Friar Wilkes. St. Denis. Chantilly. Com. peigne. Cambray. State of Society in France.
Madame de Boufflers. — Voltaire. — Dr. Burney's Collectanea. — Letters to Mrs. Montagu, fc.
It is to be regretted, that Johnson did not write an account of his travels in France; for as he is re. ported 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. VOL. VI.
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 (1) – 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 owo 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.
“ 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 (?), 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.]
Monk not necessarily a priest — Benedictines rise at four; are at church an hour and half; at church again half an hour before, half an hour after, dinner; and again from half an hour after seven to eight
- They may sleep eight hours - Bodily labour wanted in monasteries — The poor taken into hospitals, and miserably kept — Monks in the convent fifteen : ac
Thursday, Oct. 12. — We went to the Gobelins Tapestry makes a good picture – imitates flesh exactly
one piece with a gold ground - the birds pot exactly coloured Thence we went to the king's cabinet ; very neat, not, perhaps, perfect — gold ore candles of the candle-tree — seeds — woods — Thence to Gagnier's (1) house, where I saw rooms nine, furnished with a profusion of wealth and elegance which I never had seen before vases — pietures — the dragon china — The lustre is said to be of crystal, and to have cost 3,5001.
- The whole furniture said to have cost 125,0001. Damask hangings covered with pictures — Porphyry This house struck me - Then we waited on the ladies to Monville's — Captain Irwin with us (2) —Spain
County towns all beggars — At Dijon he could not find
the way to Orleans Cross roads of France very bad "_Five soldiers - Woman Soldiers escaped - The colonel would not lose five men for the death of one
- The magistrate cannot seize a soldier but by * the colonel's permission-Good inn at Nismes— Moors
of Barbary fond of Englishmen — Gibraltar eminently • healthy ; it has beef from Barbary There is a large garden — Soldiers sometimes fall from the rock.' “ Friday, Oct. 13. — I stayed at home all day, only
(1) Perhaps Gagny, Intendant des Finances, who had a fine house in the Rue de Varennes..-C.
(2) The rest of this paragraph appears to be a minute of what was told by Captain Irwin. — B. - And is therefore marked as quotation. — C.
FRENCH TOUR - DIARY.
went to find the prior, who was not at home — I read something in Canus (') — Nec admiror, nec multum laudo.
Saturday, Oct. 14. — We went to the house of M. [D’] Argenson, which was almost wainscotted with looking-glasses, and covered with gold — The ladies' closet wainscotted with large squares of glass over painted paper They always place mirrors to reflect their
“ Then we went to Julien's (2), the treasurer of the clergy - 30,0001. a year — The house has no very large room, but is set with mirrors, and covered with gold Books of wood here, and in another library.
“ At D********'s (3) I looked into the books in the lady's closet, and in contempt showed them to Mr. T[hrale] - Prince Titi (4); Bibl. des Fées,' and other
(1) Melchior Canus, a celebrated Spanish Dominican, who died at Toledo, in 1560. He wrote a treatise “ De Locis Thea logicis," in twelve books. — B. - He was celebrated for the beauty of his Latinity: “Melchior Canus parlait Latin comme Ciceron.” — Vigneul-Marvilliana, vol. i. p. 161. — C.
(2) M. de St. Julien, Receveur-général du Clergé. — C. (3) D'Argenson's. — C.
(4) The History of Prince Titi was said to be the autobiography of Frederick Prince of Wales, but was probably written by Ralph, his secretary. See Park's Roy. and Nob. Auth., vol. i. p. 171.; and Biog. Dict., art. Ralph, where it is added, that Ralph's executor gave up the unpublished MS. af Prince Titi to Lord Bute.-C.-[It is possible that the original MS. was so given up, but the book had been undoubtedly printed, both in French and English - in Paris in 1735, and in London 1736. The work was probably exhibited purposely on the lady's table, in the expectation that her English visitors wou. think it a literary curiosity; which, indeed, it has proved to be; for Dr. Johnson seems not to have known what it was, and some modern critics have even denied the very existence of the volume; which, however, I have had in my possession. It was advertised in the Gent. Mag. for Feb. 1736, as “ History of Prince Titi, a Royal Allegory, translated from the original, just published in Paris: By the Hon. Mrs. Stanly: sold by E. Curl; price 3s." - C. 1835.]