Sir Francis Ronalds' Travel Journal: France
Calais Sep 2nd 1818 Wednesday
"I was not sick on the Passage altho' every body else except the Clapper was"
I have begun my troubles already. A boasting rattling drunken Guernsey man annoys every body he comes near and unfortunately I have been within the sound of his stentorian lungs ever since I left Canterbury. I can't eat, drink, or sleep, in peace for him. I never saw such a fellow, he spends his money very freely, talks french, german, & italian as freely and knows every body but himself, his vanity is past endurance. I went out to a caffée [sic] to avoid him but he marched into the same place soon after me & when I marched home to my hotel and went to bed he soon followed me and is lodged in the room above where his tongue is still going, and such a voice too good heavens! Far worse than W. F's grumble, grumble, grumble! He has made me get up to write or read for I can't sleep for him and he has put me in such a bad humour that I shall destroy my letter rather than send you a dish of spleen if nothing of a more pleasing kind turns up before it is finished. But I will get rid of him tomorrow. I came over with a quiet gentlemanly Italian too with whom I am taking my measures to scrape, but he is rather reserved and so am I. We like each other passablement, don't know anything about his destination nor he of mine yet, I talk but little. My Rheumatism much better. Stomach in a weak state rather. I will take one Pill and go to bed again. Good night. I was not sick on the Passage altho' every body else except the Clapper was.
Paris Sep 4 Fryday [sic]
"The Venus of the Café des Mille Colonnes spits into her hankerchief and takes so much snuff"
I have had a tolerably pleasant journey and am tolerably well lodged at the Hotel de Boston Rue Vivienne, no adventures on the road, no pleasant or unpleasant companions. The Conducteur seemed the most rational being of the party but I affronted him accidently at first by calling his dog Moustache (so named because he wears an enormous pair of mustachios curled up in true Austrian fashion) Monsieur le Sous Conducteur. However he came round and gave me his common stock of information, I think conducteurs & postilions are the sources from whence book making travellers retail a great part of their information sometimes. I went into a warm Bath immediately on my arrival and it has refreshed me and done me great service I think. Good night. The quiet Italian has escaped me and I have escaped the Clapper. The Venus of the Café des Mille Colonnes spits into her mouchoir and takes so much snuff that I could not bring my conscience to pay any adorations, so walked off magnanimously resolving to get rid of my absurd english prejudices as quickly as possible.
Sep 5 Saturday
I went to deliver the letter to Miss Aspland this morng, a young English lady at a french boarding school here. Poor thing, she seems a little moped, shut up like a nun, plump but pouting. You & I are not particularly well qualified to judge of the comparative advantages of english & french female education, I suppose cheapness is after all the only capital advantage. Who should I meet at the table d'Hote where I dined to day but Thelwall the elocution man, he knew me but I remained silent. He talked a great deal about mental impulsions, he did not seem to understand the use of the word nor what he was talking about, or else I did not. I am just returned from the french opera. Could scarcely make out a word of it, they use a most immoderate degree of vehemence surely. I felt somewhat confirmed in the justice of Rosseau's observations viz that the French never were & never will be musicians.
"The Ballet. Verry pretty dancing, verry fine, marveilleuse. The petticoat is a usefull part of the costume, if it were not for the petticoat he's might be taken for she's and vice versa"
The Ballet. Verry [sic] pretty dancing, verry fine, marveilleuse. The petticoat is a usefull [sic] part of the costume, if it were not for the petticoat he's might be taken for she's and vice versa. I have just thought of a method of making my fortune at once. I'll take out a patent for ethereal petticoats, they shall be made of spun Glass such as Lord Henniker sent me a specimen of some time ago from Bristol; now don't let out the secret, how very, very light and pretty they will be; tout à fait à ravir. There were some very pretty Women, one something like Mary Marshall but older and more spread.
Sep 6th Sunday
I have been this morning to call on Mr Dunnage, his suite of apartments is really magnificent - they are in the same house or hotel as that of Chateaubriand. I dine with him tomorrow. Mr & Mrs Mutter and Mr & Mrs Page are going to Naples and Rome, perhaps I shall join their party but I shall learn how they mean to travel before I engage myself perhaps. I may chuse [sic] rather to set off by myself and stand the chance of falling in with an agreeable native, which method would agree better with Dr Anderson's advice which I see reason every day to esteem more and more. Indeed I dined today with a respectable looking frenchman who is very anxious to acquire english conversation and equally willing to impart information to Englishmen. I know nothing about him except that he is well respected at his table d'hote, he is rather old and a true Frenchman in every thing. He proposed to take me to the Theatre francoise after dinner so we sallied forth accordingly but we could not get places in the parterre and he was too economical or too proud to take any other place, or else he only wanted to drag me about to two other theatres in order to have the benefit of my conversation without expense, for there were no places at either of them that seemed to suit him. Perhaps he nicked me but I don't care. I spoke slowly and explained with great diligence every word or phrase which he did not well understand, you would have laughed heartily to see us stop now and then in the street to settle the meaning of our expressions, and he shoved me along at the turnings in so comical a manner that I could not help laughing myself. I had some difficulty in explaining the meaning of Row. We met with a Row in the Palais Royal. He says he can read English very well which I don't doubt as he seems to be a good general grammarian. Enough of him for the present. He seems mightily pleased with himself for being so much able to pump me; a true Frenchman. He don't like Thelwall altho' Thelwall courts him as much as he can.
"the officer taking the tag of the lace of a pair of stays between his thumb and fore finger drew them forth in a most whimsical manner and amused the circumstanding Monsieurs highly asking at the same time if it were chargeable"
I feel better. In the description of my person in my passport they give me a teint coloré, un teint coloré! Surely this can't be the case, just ask Dr Anderson if they give every body a teint coloré. I certainly felt as if I had a teint coloré a little before my examination, for at the visit of an English Dandy's trunk the officer taking the tag of the lace of a pair of stays between his thumb and fore finger drew them forth in a most whimsical manner and amused the circumstanding Monsieurs highly asking at the same time if it were chargeable, but this could be only un teint coloré pour le moment. Tell Charles I'll teach him the true French dandy hork and spit when I come home if it does not go out of fashion first. Now I'll leave these trifles and read a chapter out of your sweet scented Bible and then go to bed. I hope Charles has filled my pastoral Chair this evening with becoming dignity.
Monday Sep 7
Upon the whole I am certainly better but I must take care of the dishes, Cotelette de Mouton & Caffée au lait must be my chief food, Mr Dunnage's Dinner & Wine won't do. The Mutters & Pages start tomorrow, they were very civil and invite me with much earnestness to associate with them at Naples & Rome & I shall be very glad to know them.
P.S. Tuesday Sep 8
The post went earlier than I expected so I missed it. The folks at the table d'hote got on the subject of Unitarians. I said nothing untill [sic] one who advanced his opinions with the most confidence said that Dr Priestley had asserted in his writing that Christ was less than man, lower in the scale of being. Then I merely set him right on the point. I esteem moderation at least as highly as patience, without it how easily we become fools.
Wednesday Sep 9th
"almost every place is warped. One can't do one's own private business in any degree of comfort without paying some holder of a place"
There are some people who like to imitate french Women and they think they do so best when they put on a bold air or a Stare. Now I don't think this boldness ever really attracted a sincere friend or admirers, it may hook a poor devil who may take it for ton (or it may really be ton, it don't much signify here whether it is or not) and may the lord in his abundant mercy have pity upon the forlorn miserables who are thus hooked. A woman must be extreemly [sic] rich in Charms who can afford to trifle with the chief of them or very poor if she attempts to substitute an artificial for a real charm. I think the ugly french Women are of the latter kind and the pretty ones (really or effectively) more modest because they discover by experience the value of modesty. The english pretty women are naturally modest (sometimes too much) but both seem to understand the market price of their Commodities tolerably well. I am at present inclined to think that a pretty french Woman is not as vain as an English but I have not quite made up my mind on this head. After all I must pay some homage to French female vivacity. I only hate the ugly wits. Now Charlotte don't turn upwards your sn-- little nose and say poor philosopher how he proses. I have nothing new to say about politicks. None of you except Peter can imagine how almost every place is warped. One can't do one's own private business in any degree of comfort without paying some holder of a place, and if the occupier of a place commits an act ever so dirty he escapes without animadversion, and no modesty is displayed in the scramble for a good place.
Thursday Sep 10
I made very little acquaintance for I resolved not to follow the common custom of my countrymen viz that of converting the Rue de la Paix into a Bond St but have been allmost [sic] compelled to break my resolution today. A poor rich fellow of the name of Montgomrey seems to be so completely nicked by the shop keepers and other sorts of keepers in consequence of his ignorance of french and his extravagant habits, that out of mere charity I undertook to give him a little wholesome admonition which he received with gratitude and proper humility. But in order to prevent his boring me I have placed him under the guardianship of a Valet who I think will save him much more than he will cost him; however he must take his chances; poor fellow he has already bought Musical snuff boxes and all sorts of Bijouterie in abundance for presents and paltry prints and books not worth the duty on them and all at double the price he might have had them for. Now Peter, now Emily, now Charlotte, nuts for you, the blind leading the blind hey!
Tuesday Sep 15th
Not gone yet. I am waiting for a Veterino. The Mutters and the Pages went off so comfortably with a Veterino that I am not Content to go in any other way and it is the cheapest too they say. I don't stay here by choice, I don't like Paris but it would take too much room to tell you why. I don't like the Opera, nor [?], nor the Fêtes at St Cloud & Versailles, I like nothing but the Louvre, Champagne & some of the ladies. The Devil take their taste for they have none at all at all as the Irishman would say. They gave me a taste though the other day which stuck in my throat for it was a taste of a sore throat, but it is quite gone again; they gave me wet linen. I am going this evening to Tivoli where there is to be a grand fête, a fête magnifique, superbe, étonnante, ravissante, charmante - ennuyante. I am to see God, and the holy spirit, and the angels, and the devils, marveilleuse! tout de bon goût. I must take care not to cry Au! Au! untill they tread on my toes.
Wednesday Sep 16
"To say that you get more by a frenchman's vanity than his good-will may be too severe but is not this the case with almost all sorts of casual acquaintance"
I despair of finding a Veterino in whose keeping I should like to trust myself, therefore I shall take my place in a Diligence for Moulins, I can't stand the fatigue of going all the way to Lyons without a day or two of rest. I have not wanted society here either French or English, the Monsr I have before mentioned is very obliging. Coffee house acquaintance is certainly of the most convenient tho' not of the most confidential kind for a traveller. To say that you get more by a frenchman's vanity than his good-will may be too severe but is not this the case with almost all sorts of casual acquaintance.
They have got Hunt upon the stage and they laugh at him preciously and they laugh at the English for not laughing at him too. We don't express contempt half so forcibly by ridicule as the french. We are much too grave on ridiculous subjects. Must one acknowledge that their Ridicule is sometimes more pungent than our Sarcasm? Settle this point some Sunday after dinner. The comparative effects of Ridicule and Sarcasm (I can't find a better word, I mean a sort of light but somewhat severe criticism) for Public opinion (not on the individual) is the case to be determined you know. Compare Pope with Moliere if you think the comparison just.
Thursday Sep 17
I have been to dine with Mr Dunnage again to day en famille. Poor Mrs Dunnage was in great distress at the loss of a favourite Cat which the Owner of their Suite of Rooms shot because they have determined to remove to another Suite for the Winter.
The Beggars in the streets throw dust on your cloths [sic] secretly sometimes if you refuse them money, and when anything of the nature of a Battle occurs the combatants strike each other like cats, or rather claw, and when one is down the other makes no scruple to claw or kick him whilst in this helpless condition. There are other instances of this kind which I think are some of the sources of the national animosity which is said to exist between english and frenchmen of the lower orders, and the higher orders cannot endure the pride we take in our superior views of justice and humanity because they feel their own littleness, they know that they can be malicious where we can be generous. I hope this incident concerning the Cat has not prejudiced me against the Messieurs too much.
Saturday Sep 19
I have been faged about most unmercifully today after my passport. The Jacks in Office here sport and trifle with people's time and patience and yet receive greater hourage than our Jacks, every body here would be a Jack if he could. Good night, I am too tired to think of anything to say.
"Farewell Paris. To speak very plainly your charms are too cheap, too much prostituted for me"
Sunday Sep 20
Farewell Paris. To speak very plainly your charms are too cheap, too much prostituted for me, too much the business of life, and I think this accounts for the grave, long, yellow, vacant faces which are carried round your Palais Royal, to your theatres, the Fêtes, the Gambling tables, to Tivoli &c &c day after day & night after night as if their owners were compelled to pay off one hour of amusement by five of ennui & this I verily believe they do, I don't think that one Parisian in Ten has any other pursuit than the murder of time. Where thought I is the boasted never failing vivacious frenchman. The women are certainly by far the better sex but they required too much french from me & I required too much english from them. Well go on your own way and I will go on mine. I shall never wish to return to your pleasures and as to your instruction that may come across the water to me, but I will not forget the pleasure I have derived from some of your instructors.
Saturday Sep 26
"they all wanted to learn some English expressions, the Abbé was highly delighted when he could understand distinctly and pronounce tolerably the words God damn"
Laugh and grow fat. I begin to have some confidence in this proverb. Certainly I have not laughed so much for many months before as I have during this last Week and a particular part of my dress really feels a little tighter I think. I had not the opportunity of writing so you are spared a great deal of nonsense and I can't now recollect much about what gave rise to all this risibility. I came from Paris by the way of Chalons instead of Moulins (because the distance from Chalons to Lyons is performed by Water and is consequently less fatiguing). My fellow passengers were a fat Italian Abbé, a lace maker of Lyons, a sensible man enough, a Merchant of Provence and two other Messieurs whom I know nothing about (they were all Catholicks [sic], one of them one of that sort of enthusiastical numbskull whom Priests and Parsons of all kinds laugh in their sleeves at). They soon began upon the subject of Politicks [sic] but we almost immediately changed it for others. I found that none of them were staunch friends to ----- and some quite the reverse. I made numerous blunders in speaking, some of which made us all laugh heartily, for instance I called to the Conductor once for my Culottes instead of my Capote, worse than the Escalier was it not? This blunder even excited the risible muscles of the enthusiast which seemed as if subjected to the action of a powerful galvanic battery. I never saw such a queer grin in my life before and I don't think I ever shall again. Then they all wanted to learn some English expressions, the Abbé was highly delighted when he could understand distinctly and pronounce tolerably the words God damn. O but there were a thousand little incidents which kept us all in good humour and full of fun and they appeared to like my Company very well, but I managed to avoid their Kisses at parting and I hope I preserved the proper dignity of an Englishman.
The first part of the Route appeared to me very uninteresting but I enjoyed the scenery of the passage down the Loire! From Chalons it becomes very beautifull [sic] when you approach within about 20 miles of Lyons. It is the land of Bacchus, one's heart swells like the ripening grape. Altogether this has been a very pleasant week, vive la bagatelle. Lyons is a fine town, if you want to know any more about it you had better turn to some book. What I have found most remarkable in it is the gentle amiable deportment of one of the Sisters or Superiors of the Hospice d'Antiquaille, the most genteel ladylike woman I ever saw altho' dressed in a most frightfull [sic] costume and employed in a most horrid occupation, viz the care of the Mad, the Diseased, and the Vicious. The Abbé who introduced me to her says she is of good family and had a good fortune but has devoted herself and her fortune to Charity and Religion. Can any thing make a man serious if such an object will not. I won't begin to moralise about these matters for it would be a bad precedent and occupy too much room. The origin of the Abbé's acquaintance with her is rather curious but, as it is connected with his history which I intend to give you when I know more about him myself, I shall say nothing about it now.
Sunday Sep 27
I have been this morning to the Chapel of the Hospice d'Antiquaille where my new friend the Abbé performed his Mass clad very superbly and my new friend the Superior gave us some excellent Coffee, fruit &c afterwards. She pleased me more than yesterday, so much grace & true politeness is seldom united as in her case with so much animation. She was very obliging and said she liked the English very much which (if considered as a mere compliment) is saying a great deal in these times in France you know, but she lives quite out of the world of political prejudice. I have had numerous opportunities of observing the Rancour against the English which time seems rather to increase than diminish and I attribute this in some measure to the imprudent, not to say ungenerous, vaunting of many english travellers when conversing about the war; whilst they think they are displaying their patriotism and their nation's glory they often appear to me only to expose a silly and pernicious vanity. We have certainly reason to be proud of our army but I should be sorry to see my Countrymen follow french fashion so far as to become Gascons.