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which is just what that of Canterbury must have been before the Reformation. It is about the same size, a huge Gothic building, beset on the outside with thousands of small statues, and within adorned with beautiful painted windows, and a vast number of chapels dressed out in all their finery of altar-pieces, embroidery, gilding, and marble. Over the high altar are preserved, in a very large wrought shrine of massy gold, the reliques of St. Firmin, their patron saint. We went also to the chapels of the Jesuits and Ursuline nuns, the latter of which is very richly adorned. To-morrow we shall lie at Clermont, and next day reach Paris. The country we have passed through hitherto has been flat, open, but agreeably diversified with villages, fields well cultivated, and little rivers. On every hillock is a wind-mill, a crucifix, or a Virgin Mary dressed in flowers, and a sarcenet robe ; one sees not many people or carriages on the road; now and then indeed you meet a strolling friar, a countryman with his great muff, or a woman riding astride on a little ass, with short petticoats, and a great head-dress of blue wool. * * *
Paris, April 12, 1739. Enfin, donc, me voici d Paris. Mr. Walpole is gone out to supper at Lord Conway's, and here I remain alone, though invited too. Do not think I make a merit of writing to you preferably to a good supper; for these three days we have been here have actually given me an aversion to eating in general. If hunger be the best sauce to meat, the French are certainly the worst cooks in the world; for what tables we have seen have been so delicately served, and so profusely, that, after rising from one of them, one imagines it impossible ever to eat again. And now, if I tell you all I have in my
head, you will believe me mad, mais n'importe courage; allons ! for if I wait till my head grow clear and settle a little, you may stay long enough for a letter. Six days have we been coming hither, which other people do in two; they have not been disagreeable ones; through a fine, open country, admirable roads, and in an easy conveyance; the inns not absolutely intolerable, and images quite unusual presenting themselves on all hands. At Amiens we saw the fine cathedral, and eat paté de perdrix; passed through the park of Chantilly by the Duke of Bourbon's palace, which we only beheld as we passed ; broke down at Lusarche; stopt at St. Denis, saw all the beautiful monuments of the kings of France, and the vast treasures of the abbey, rubies and emeralds as big as small eggs, crucifixes and vows, crowns and reliquaries, of inestimable value ; but of all their curiosities the thing the most to our tastes, and which they indeed do the justice to esteem the glory of their collection, was a vase of an entire onyx, measuring at least five inches over, three deep, and of great thickness. It is at least two thousand years old, the beauty of the stone and sculpture upon it (representing the mysteries of Bacchus) are beyond expression admirable ; we have dreamed of it ever since. The jolly old Benedictine, that shewed us the treasures, had in his youth been ten years a soldier ; he laughed at all the reliques, was very full of stories, and mighty obliging. On Saturday evening we got to Paris, and were driving through the streets, a long while before we knew where we were. The minute we came, voila Milors Holdernesse, Conway, and his brother ; all stayed supper, and till two o'clock in the morning, for here nobody ever sleeps; it is not the way: Next day go to dine at my Lord Holdernesse's; there was the Abbé Prevôt, author of the Cleveland, and several other pieces much esteemed : the rest were English.
At night we went to the Pandore; a spectacle literally, for it is nothing but a beautiful piece of machinery of three scenes. The first represents the chaos, and by degrees the separation of the elements. The second, the temple of Jupiter, and the giving of the box to Pandora. The third, the opening of the box, and all the mischiefs that ensued. An absurd design, but executed in the highest perfection, and that in one of the finest theatres in the world ; it is the grande sale des machines in the Palais des Tuileries. Next day dined at Lord Waldegrave's; then to the opera. Imagine to yourself for the drama four acts* entirely unconnected with each other, each founded on some little history, skilfully taken out of an ancient author, e. g. Ovid's Metamorphoses, &c and with great address converted into a French piece of gallantry. For instance, that which I saw, called the Ballet de la Paix, has its first act built upon the story of Nireus.
of Nireus. Homer having said he was the handsomest man of his time, the poet, imagining such a one could not want a mistress, has given him one. These two come in and sing sentiment in lamentable strains, neither air nor recitative ; only, to one's great joy, they are every now and then interrupted by a dance, or, (to one's great sorrow) by a chorus that borders the stage from one end to the other, and screams,
power of simile to represent. The second act was Baucis and Philemon. Baucis is a beautiful young shepherdess, and Philemon her swain. Jupiter falls in love with her, but nothing will prevail upon her ; so it is all mighty well, and the chorus sing and dance the praises of Constancy. The two other acts were about Iphis and Ianthe, and the Judgment of Paris. Imagine, I say, all this transacted by cracked voices, trilling divisions upon two notes and a half, accom
* The French opera has only three acts, but often a prologue on a different subject, which (as Mr. Walpole informs me, who saw it at the same time) was the case in this very representation.
panied by an orchestra of humstrums, and a whole house more attentive than if Farinelli sung, and you will almost have formed a just notion of the thing. * Our astonishment at their absurdity you can never conceive; we had enough to do to express it by screaming an hour louder than the whole dramatis personæ.
We have also seen twice the Comedie Françoise; first, the Mahomet Second, a tragedy that has had a great run of late ; and the thing itself does not want its beauties, but the actors are beyond measure delightful. Mademoiselle Gaussin (Mr. Voltaire's Zara) has with a charming (though little) person the most pathetic tone of voice, the finest expression in her face, and most proper action imaginable. There is also a Dufrêne, who did the chief character, a handsome man, and a prodigious fine actor. The second we saw was the Philosophe marié, and here they performed as well in comedy: there is a Mademoiselle Quinault, somewhat in Mrs. Clive's way, and a Monsieur Grandval, in the nature of Wilks, who is the genteelest thing in the world. There are several more would be much admired in England, and many (whom we have not seen) much celebrated here. Great part of our time is spent in seeing churches and palaces full of fine pictures, &c. the quarter of which is not yet exhausted. For my part, I could entertain myself this month merely with the common streets and the people in them. ***
Paris, May 22, 1739. After the little particulars aforesaid I should have proceeded to a journal of our transactions for this week
* Our Author's sentiments here seem to correspond entirely with those which J.J. Rousseau afterward published in his famous Lettre sur la Musique Françoise. In a French letter also, which Mr. Gray writ to his friend soon after this, he calls their music “ des miaulemens et des burlemens effroyables, melés avec un tintamarre du diable : voilà la musique Françoise en abregé.”
past, should have carried you post from hence to Versailles, hurried you through the gardens to Trianon, back again to Paris, so away to Chantilly. But the fatigue is perhaps more than you can bear; and, moreover, I think I have reason to stomach your last piece of gravity. Supposing you were in your
soberest mood, I am sorry you should think me capable of ever being so dissipé, so evaporé, as not to be in a condition of relishing any thing you could say to me: if you have a mind to make your peace with me, arouse ye
from your megrims and melancholies, and (for exercise is good for you) throw away your night-cap, call for your jack-boots, and set out with me, last Saturday evening, for Versailles—and at eight o'clock passing through a road speckled with vines, and villas, and hares, and partridges, we arrive at the great a venue, flanked on either hand with a double row of trees about half a mile long, and with the palace itself to terminate the view; facing which, on each side of you, is placed a semicircle of very handsome buildings, which form the stables. These we will not enter into, because you know we are no jockies. Well ! and is this the great front of Versailles ? What a huge heap of littleness! it is composed, as it were, of three courts, all open to the eye at once, and gradually diminishing till you come to the royal apartments, which on this side present but half a dozen windows and a balcony. This last is all that can be called a front, for the rest is only great wings. The hue of all this mass is black, dirty red, and yellow; the first proceeding from stone changed by age; the second, from a mixture of brick; and the last, from a profusion of tarnished gilding. You cannot see a more disagreeable tout-ensemble; and, to finish the matter, it is all stuck over in many places with small busts of a tawny hue between every win