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“Friday, Nov. 3. We came to Compeigne, a very large town, with a royal palace built round a pentagonal court.-—The court is raised upon vaults, and has, I suppose, an entry on one side by a gentle rise. —Talk of painting.--The church is not very large, but very elegant and splendid.--I had at first great difficulty to walk, but motion grew continually easier.–At night we came to Noyon, an episcopal city.—The cathedral is very beautiful, the pillars alternately Gothic and Corinthian.-We entered a very noble parochial church.Noyon is walled, and is said to be three miles round.
Saturday, Nov. 4. We rose very early, and came through St. Quintin to Cambray, not long after three.-We went to an English nunnery, to give a letter to Father Welcb, the confessor, who came to visit us in the evening.
“ Sunday, Nov. 5. We saw the Cathedral.-- It is very beautiful, with chapels on each side.—The choir splendid.— The balustrade in one part brass. The Neff very high and grand. The altar, silver as far as it is seen. The vestments very splendid.—At the Benedictines' Church
Here his Journalends abruptly. Whether he wrote any more after this time, I know not; but probably not much, as he arrived in England about the 12th of November. These short notes of his tour, though they may seem minute taken singly, make together a considerable mass of information, and exhibit such an ardour of inquiry and acuteness of examination, as, I believe, are found in but few travellers, especially at an advanced age. They completely refute the idle notion which has been propagated, that 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.
1 My worthy and ingenions friend, Jr. Andrew Lumsden, by his accurate acquaintance with France, enabled me to make out many proper names which Dr. Johnson had written indistinctly, and sometimes spelt erroneously.-BOSWELL.
JOHNSON RETURNS TO LONDON-RECAPITULATES TO BOSWELL THE CHIEF INCIDENTS OF HI@
Tour-His IMPRESSIONS OF SOCIETY IN FRANCE-MADA E DE BOUFFLERS' VISIT TO JOHNSON, AT HIS CHAMBERS IN THE TEMPLE.—Johnson's DEFINITION OF VOLTAIREDR. BURNEY'S MEMORANDA-His LETTERS TO MRS. MONTAGU-LETTERS TO BOSWELL ON THE LAW OF ENTAIL—THE CLARENDON PRESS AND BOOKSELLERS' PROFITS.
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 Drumgold, a very high man, Sir, head of L'Ecole Militaire, a most complete character, for he had first been a professor of rhetoric, 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 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 -'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 d l'Angloise. The spout of the tea-pot did not pour freely; she bade the footman blow into it. France is worse than Scotland in everything but climate. Nature has done more for the French ; but they have done less for themselves than the Scotch have done." I
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 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 jointstools 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."
While Johnson was in France, he was generally very resolute in speaking Latin. It was a maxim with him that a man should not let himself down, by speaking a language which he speaks imperfectly. Indeed, we must have often observed how inferior, how much like a child a man appears, who speaks a broken tongue. When Sir Joshua Reynolds, at one of the dinners of the Royal Academy, presented him to a Frenchman of great distinction, he would not deign to speak French, but talked Latin, though his Excellency did not understand it, owing, perhaps, to Johnson's English pronunciation : yet upon another occasion he was observed to speak French to a Frenchman of high rank who spoke English ; and being asked the reason, with some expression of surprise, he answered, “ because I think my French is as good as his English.” Though Johnson understood French perfectly, he could not speak it readily, as I have observed at his first interview with General Paoli, in 1769; yet he wrote it, I imagine, pretty well, as appears in some of his letters in Mrs. Piozzi's collection, of which I shall transcribe one :
1 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.
2 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 stockings, wig, and hat. In another place we are told that “during his travels in France he was furnished with a Frenchmade 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, in vol iv., 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. 516), by which it appears, that he laid out thirty pounds in clothes for his French journey.-MALONE.
WA MADAME LA COMTESSE DE
July 16, 1775. “OUI, Madame, le moment est arrivé, et il faut que je parle. Mais pourquoi faut il partir? Est ce que je m'ennuye? Je m'ennuyerai ailleurs. Est ce que je cherche ou quelque plaisir, ou quelque soulagement? Je ne cherche rien, je n'espere rien. Aller voir ce que j'ai vû, être un peu rejoué, un peu degouté, me resouvenir que la vie se passe en vain, me plaindre de moi, m'endurcir aux dehors; voici le tout de ce qu'on compte pour les delices de l'année. Que Dieu vous donne, Madame, tous les agrémens de la vie, avec un esprit qui peut en jouir sans s'y livrer trop.”
Here let me not forget a curious anecdote, as related to me by Mr. Beauclerk, which I shall endeavour to exhibit as well as I can in that gentleman's lively manner : and in justice to him it is proper to add, that Dr. Johnson told me I might rely both on the correctness of his
memory, and the fidelity of his narrative. “When Madame de Boufflers was first in England,” said Beauclerk,“ she was desirous to see Johnson. I accordingly went with her to his chambers in the Temple, where she was entertained with his conversation for some time. When our visit was over, she and I left him, and were got into Inner Temple-lane, when all at once I heard a noise like thunder. This was occasioned by Johnson, who, it seems, upon a little recollection, had taken it into his head that he ought to have done the honours of his literary residence to a foreign lady of quality, and, eager to show himself a man of gallantry, was hurrying down the staircase in violent agitation. He overtook us before we reached the Temple-gate, and brushing in between me and Madame de Boufflers, seized her hand, and conducted her to her coach. His dress was a rusty-brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes by way of slippers, a little shrivelled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose. A considerable crowd of people gathered round, and were not a little struck by this singular appearance.”
He spoke Latin with wonderful fluency and elegance. "When Père Boscovich was in England, Johnson dined in company with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds’s and at Dr. Douglas's, now Bishop of Salisbury. Upon both occasions, that celebrated foreigner expressed his astonishment at Johnson's Latin conversation. When at Paris, Johnson thus characterised Voltaire to Freron the Journalist : “ Ver est acerrimi ingenii et paucarum literarum.
TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
“ MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, Dec. 5, 1775. “Mr. Alexander Maclean, the young Laird of Coll, being to set out to-morrow for London, I give him this letter to introduce him to your acquaintance. The kindness which you and I experienced from his brother, whose unfortunate death we sincerely lament, will make us always desirous to show attention to any branch of the family. Indeed, you have so much of the true Highland cordiality, that I am sure you would have thought me to blame if I had neglected to recommend to you this Hebridean prince, in whose island we were hospitably entertained. I ever am with respectful attachment, my dear Sir, Your most obliged,
" And most humble servant,
Mr. Maclean returned with the most agreeable accounts of the polite attention with which he was received by Dr. Johnson.
In the course of this year Dr. Burney informs me that frequently met Dr. Johnson at Mr. Thrale's, at Streatham, where they had many long conversations, often sitting up as long as the fire and candles lasted, and much longer than the patience of the servants subsisted.”
A few of Johnson's sayings, which that gentleman recollects, shall here be inserted :
“I never take a nap after dinner but when I have had a bad night, and then the nap takes me.”