Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

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 personae. 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. * * *

III. M.R. GRAY TO MR. WEST. - 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 hurlemens 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. And now, 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 2 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 winE

dow. We pass through this to go into the garden, and here the case is indeed altered; nothing can be vaster and more magnificent than the back front: before it a very spacious terrace spreads itself, adorned with two large basins; these are bordered and lined (as most of the others) with white marble, with handsome statues of bronze reclined on their edges. From hence you descend a huge flight of steps into a semi-circle formed by woods, that are cut all round into niches, which are filled with beautiful copies of all the famous antique statues in white marble. Just in the midst is the basin of Latona; she and her children are standing on the top of a rock in the middle, on the sides of which are the peasants, some half, some totally changed into frogs, all of which throw out water at her in great plenty. From this place runs on the great alley, which brings you into a complete round, where is the basin of Apollo, the biggest in the gardens. He is rising in his car, out of the water, surrounded by nymphs and tritons, all in bronze, and finely executed ; and these, as they play, raise a perfect storm about him : beyond this is the great canal, a prodigious long piece of water, that terminates the whole : all this you have at one coup d'oeil in entering the garden, which is truly great. I cannot say as much of the general taste of the place; every thing you behold savours too much of art; all is forced, all is constrained about you ; statues and vases sowed every where without distinction ; sugar loaves and minced-pies of yew ; scrawl-work of box, and little squirting jets-d'eau, besides a great sameness in the walks, cannot help striking one at first sight, not to mention the silliest of labyrinths, and all AEsop's fables in water; since these were designed in usum Delphini only. Here then we walk by moonlight, and hear the ladies and the nightingales sing. Next morning, being Whitsunday, make ready to go to the installation of nine

knights du Saint Esprit, Cambis is one:* high mass celebrated with music, great crowd, much incense, King, Queen, Dauphin, Mesdames, and Court: knights arrayed by his Majesty; reverences before the altar, not bows, but curtsies: stiff hams; much tittering among the ladies; trumpets, kettle-drums, and fifes. My dear West, I am vastly delighted with Trianon, all of us with Chantilly; if you would know why, you must have patience, for I can hold my pen no longer, except to tell you that I saw Britannicus last night; all the characters, particularly Agrippina and Nero, done to perfection; to-morrow Phaedra and Hippolitus. We are making you a little bundle of petites pieces; there is nothing in them, but they are acting at present; there are too Crebillon's Letters, and Amusemens sur le langage des Bétes, said to be of one Bougeant, a Jesuit; they are both esteemed, and lately come out. This day sennight we go to Rheims.

IV. M. R. G. R. A. Y TO HIS MOTHER.
Rheims, June 21, N. S. 1739.

WE have now been settled almost three weeks in this city, which is more considerable upon account of its size and antiquity, than from the number of its inhabitants, or any advantages of commerce. There is little in it worth a stranger's curiosity, besides the cathedral church, which is a vast gothic building of a surprising beauty and lightness, all covered over with a profusion of little statues and other ornaments. It is here the kings of France are crowned by the Archbishop of Rheims, who is the first peer, and the primate of the kingdom: the holy vessel made use of on that occasion, which contains the oil, is kept in the church of St. Nicasius hard by, and is believed to have been brought by an angel from heaven at the coronation of Clovis, the first Christian king. The streets in general have but a melancholy

* The Comte de Cambis was lately returned from his embassy in England.

aspect, the houses all old; the public walks run along

the side of the great moat under the ramparts, where one hears a continual croaking of frogs; the country round about is one great plain covered with vines, which at this time of the year afford no very pleasing prospect, as being not above a foot high. What pleasures the place denies to the sight it makes up to the palate; since you have nothing to drink but the best champaigne in the world, and all sort of provisions equally good. As to other pleasures, there is not that freedom of conversation among the people of fashion here, that one sees in other parts of France; for though they are not very numerous in this place, and consequently must live a good deal together, yet they never come to any great familiarity with one another. As my Lord Conway had spent a good part of his time among them, his brother, and we with him, were soon introduced into all their assemblies: as soon as you enter the lady of the house presents each of you a card, and offers you a party at quadrille; you sit down, and play forty deals without intermission, excepting one quarter of an hour, when every body rises to eat of what they call the gouter, which supplies the place of our tea, and is a service of wine, fruits, cream, sweetmeats, crawfish, and cheese. People take what they like, and sit down again to play; after that, they make little parties to go to the walks together, and then all the company retire to their separate habitations. Very seldom any suppers or dinners are given; and this is the manner they live among one another; not so much out of any aversion they have to pleasure, as out of a sort of formality they have contracted by not being much frequented by people who have lived at Paris. It is sure they do not hate gaiety any more than the rest of their country people, and can

« ForrigeFortsett »