Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

he could not see'; and, if he had taken the trouble to revise and digest them, he undoubtedly could have expanded them into a very entertaining narrative.

[Mrs. Piozzi has preserved a few anecdotes of this tour. • Mr. Thrale loved prospects, and was mortified that his friend could not enjoy the sight of those different dispositions of wood and water, hill and valley, that travelling through England and France affords a man. But when he wished to point them out to his companion, “Never heed such nonsense, would be the reply: 'a blade of grass is always a blade of grass, whether in one country or another. Let us, if we do talk, talk about something: men and women are my subjects of inquiry ; let us see how these differ from those we have left behind.'

“When we were at Rouen together, he took a great fancy to the Abbé Roffette, with whom he conversed about the destruction of the order of jesuits, and condemned it loudly, as a blow to the general power of the church, and likely to be followed with many and dangerous innovations, which might at length become fatal to religion itself, and shake even the foundation of christianity. The gentleman seemed to wonder and delight in his conversation; the talk was all in Latin, which both spoke fluently, and Dr. Johnson pronounced a long eulogium upon Milton with so much ardour, eloquence, and ingenuity, that the abbé rose from his seat and embraced him. My husband seeing them apparently so charmed with the company of each other, politely invited the abbé to

· [Miss Reynolds, who knew him longer, and saw him more constantly than Mr. Boswell, says, “ Dr. Johnson's sight was so very defective, that he could scarcely distinguish the face of his most intimate acquaintance at half a yard, and in general it was observable, that his critical remarks on dress, &c. were the result of very close inspection of the object, partly from curiosity, and partly from a degree of exciting admiration of his perspicuity, of which he was not a little ambitious.”- Recollections. And if we may believe Baretti's account to her, on their return, his defect of sight led him into many inaccuracies. Ed.]

p. 77.

England, intending to oblige his friend; who, instead Piozzi, of thanking, reprimanded him severely before the man, for such a sudden burst of tenderness towards a person he could know nothing at all of; and thus put a sudden finish to all his own and Mr. Thrale's entertainment, from the company of the Abbé Roffette.

“ When at Versailles the people showed us the theatre. As we stood on the stage looking at some machinery for playhouse purposes - "Now we are here, what shall we act, Dr. Johnson ?-The Englishman at Paris ?' 'No, no,' replied he; "we will try to act Harry the Fifth.' His dislike of the French was well known to both nations, I believe; but he applauded the number of their books and the graces of their style. • They have few sentiments,' said he,

but they express them neatly; they have little 'meat too, but they dress it well.””]

When I met him in London the following year, the account which he gave me of his French tour, was, “Sir, I have seen all the visibilities of Paris, and around it: but to have formed an acquaintance with the people there would have required more time than I could stay. I was just beginning to creep into acquaintance by means of Colonel Drumgould, a very high man, sir, head of L'Ecole Militaire, a most complete character, for he had first been a professor of rhetorick, and then became a soldier. And, sir, I was very kindly treated by the English Benedictines, and have a cell appropriated to me in their convent.”

He observed, “ The great in France live very magnificently, but the rest very miserably. There is no happy middle state as in England'. The shops of

[blocks in formation]

Paris are mean; the meat in the markets is such as would be sent to a gaol in England ; and Mr. Thrale justly observed, that the cookery of the French was forced upon them by necessity; for they could not eat their meat, unless they added some taste to it. The French are an indelicate people; they will spit upon any place. At Madame [Du Bocage's,] a literary lady of rank, the footman took the sugar in his fingers, and threw it into my coffee. I was going to put it aside; but hearing it was made on purpose for me, I e'en tasted Tom's fingers. The same lady would needs make tea à l'Angloise. The spout of the teapot did not pour freely; she bade the footman blow into it. France is worse than Scotland in every thing but climate. Nature has done more for the French ; but they have done less for themselves than the Scotch have done?.”

It happened that Foote was at Paris at the same time with Dr. Johnson, and his description of my friend while there was abundantly ludicrous. He told me, that the French were quite astonished at his

*[Nay, she actually performed the operation herself. Mrs. Piozzi says, “I recollect one fine lady in France, who entertained us very splendidly, put her mouth to the teapot, and blew in the spout when it would not pour freely. My maid Peggy would not have touched the tea after such an operation.”—Letters, v. ii. p. 247. Miss Reynolds's Recollections” preserve this story as told her by Baretti, who was of the party: “Going one day to drink tea with Madame du Bocage, she happened to produce an old china teapot, which Mrs. Strickland, who made the tea, could not make pour: “ Soufflez, soufflez, madame, dedans,' cried Madame du Bocage, 'il se rectifie immediatement ; essayez, je vous en prie.' The servant then thinking that Mrs. Strickland did not understand what his lady said, took up the teapot to rectify it, and Mrs. Strickland had quite a struggle to prevent his blowing into the spout. Madame du Bocage all this while had not the least idea of its being any impropriety, and wondered at Mrs. Strickland's stupidity. She came over to the latter, caught up the teapot, and blew into the spout with all her might; then finding it pour, she held it up in triumph, and repeatedly exclaimed, Voilà, voilà, j'ai regagné l'honneur de ma theiér. She had no sugar-tongs, and said something that showed she expected Mrs. Strick. land to use her fingers to sweeten the cups. • Madame, je n'oserois. Oh mon Dieu! quel grund quan-quan les Anglois font de peu de chose."-ED.]

2 In a letter to a friend, written a few days after his return from France, he says, “ The French have a clear air and a fruitful soil ; but their mode of common life is gross and incommodious, and disgusting. I am come home convinced that no improvement of general use is to be found among them.”—MALONE.

Recoll.

figure and manner, and at his dress, which he obstinately continued exactly as in London';-his brown clothes, black stockings, and plain shirt. He mentioned, that an Irish gentleman said to Johnson, “Sir, you have not seen the best French players." JOHNSON. “ Players, sir ! I look on them as no better than creatures set upon tables and joint stools, to make faces and produce laughter, like dancing dogs.” “But, sir, you will allow that some players are better than others ?” JOHNSON. “ Yes, sir, as some dogs dance better than others.

[In the same spirit, but of more vehemence and Reyn. greater injustice, were his statements to Sir Joshua and Miss Reynolds, who has noted them in her Recollections.

Johnson. “ The French, sir, are a very silly people. They have no common life. Nothing but the two ends, beggary and nobility. Sir, they are made up in every thing of two extremes. They have no common sense, they have no common manners, no common learning-gross ignorance, or les belles lettres.A LADY [Mrs. Thrale]. “Indeed, even in their dress—their frippery finery, and their beggarly coarse linen. They had, I thought, no politeness; their civilities never indicated more good-will than the talk of a parrot, indiscriminately using the same set of superlative phrases, “ à la merveille !to every one alike. They really seemed to have no expressions

i Mr. Foote seems to have embellished a little in saying that Johnson did not alter his dress at Paris; as in his journal is a memorandum about white stock. ings, wig, and hat. In another place we are told that “during his travels in France he was furnished with a French-made wig of handsome construction.” That Johnson was not inattentive to his appearance is certain, from a circumstance related by Mr. Steevens, and inserted by Mr. Boswell, between June 15 and June 22, 1784.-J. BLAKEWAY. Mr. Blakeway's observation is further confirmed by a note in Johnson's diary (quoted by Sir John Hawkins, “Life of Johnson,” p. 517), by which it appears that he had laid out thirty pounds in clothes for his French journey.--MALONE. VOL. III.

U

Reyn.
Recoll.

for sincerity and truth.” JOHNSON. “ They are much behind-hand, stupid, ignorant creatures. At Fontainebleau I saw a horse-race-every thing was wrong; the heaviest weight was put upon the weakest horse, and all the jockeys wore the same colour coat'.” A GENTLEMAN. “Had you any acquaintance in Paris?” JOHNSON. “No, I did not stay long enough to make any. I spoke only Latin, and I could not have much conversation. There is no good in letting the French have a superiority over you every word you speak. Baretti was sometimes displeased with us for not liking the French.” Miss Rey. NOLDS. “ Perhaps he had a kind of partiality for that country, because it was in the way to Italy, and perhaps their manners resembled the Italians." Johnson. “ No. He was the showman, and we did not like his show; that was all.”]

[“On telling Mr. Baretti of the proof that Johnson gave of the stupidity of the French in the management of their horse-races ; that all the jockeys wore the same colour coat, &c., he said that was like Johnson's remarks-He could not see.'—But it was observed that he could inquire :-"yes, and it was by the an. swers he received that he was misled, for he asked what did the first jockey wear? answer, green ; what the second? green ; what the third ? green, which was true ; but, then, the greens were all different greens, and very easily distinguished.Johnson was perpetually making mistakes ; so, on going to Fontainebleau, when we were about three-fourths of the way, he exclaimed with amazement, that now we were between Paris and the King of France's court, and yet we had not met one carriage coming from thence, or even one going thither ! On which all the company in the coach burst out a laughing, and immediately cried out, “Look, look, there is a coach gone by, there is a chariot, there is a postchaise !' I dare say we saw a hundred carriages, at least, that were going to or coming from Fontainebleau.”Baretti in Miss Reynolds's Recollections. It should be added, however, that Miss Reynolds thought that Baretti returned from this tour with some dislike of Johnson, and Johnson not without some coolness towards Baretti, on account, as Baretti said, of Madame du Bocage having paid more attention to him than to Johnson ; but this latter assertion could not be true, for Johnson, in his letter to Mr. Levett (unte, p. 265), speaks highly and cordially of Baretti many duys after the supposed offence. Miss Reynolds adds that the final rupture between Johnson and Baretti was occasioned by “a most audacious falsehood that the latter told Johnson, that he had beaten Omiah at chess, at Sir Joshua's; for the reverse was the fact.” This produced contradiction, dispute, and a violent quarrel, which never was completely made up.-Ed.]

? [This accounts (not quite satisfactorily, perhaps, in a moral view) for the violent prejudices and consequent misrepresentations which his conversation on his return exhibited.-ED.)

« ElőzőTovább »