« ZurückWeiter »
Nay, he seems to have forgotten, in his relation of his travels, the strict decorum of his cloth, and to make use of expressions which we at least cannot transcribe into our Review.
As visits to France have recently become more common than a tour to the Lakes or to the Welch mountains, we have thought that our readers will be amused with some of the worthy doctor's descriptions, from which they will find that the French are much the same people now as they were two centu
We will, in the first place, extract the author's account of the French men and women, which has a good deal of the point and felicity of the "Characters" which were then in great vogue.
"The present French, then, is nothing but an old Gaule, moulded into a new name: as rash he is, as head-strong, and as hair-brained. A nation whom you shall winne with a feather and loose with a straw; upon the first sight of him, you shall have him as familiar as your sleep, or the necessity of breathing: in one hour's conference you may endear him to you, in the second unbutton him, the third pumps him dry of all his secrets, and he gives them you as faithfully as if you were his ghostly father, and bound to conceale them sub sigillo confessionis; when you have learned this you may lay him aside, for he is no longer serviceable. If you have any humour in holding him in a further acquaintance (a favour which he confesseth, and I beleeve him, he is unworthy of,) himself will make the first separation : he hath said over his lesson now unto you, and now must find out somebody else to whom to repeate it. Fare him well; he is a garment whom I would be loath to wear above two dayes together, for in that time he will be thred bare. Familiare est hominis omnia sibi remittere, saith Velleius of all; it holdeth most properly in this people. He is very kind hearted to himself, and thinketh himself as free from wants as he is full: so much he hath in him the nature of a Chynois, that he thinketh all men blind but himself. In this private self-conceitedness he hateth the Spaniard, loveth not the English, and contemneth the German himself is the onely courtier and compleat gentleman; but it is his own glass which he seeth in. Out of this conceit of his own excellencie, and partly out of a shallowness of brain, he is very lyable to exceptions; the least distaste that can be draweth his sword, and a minute's pause sheatheth it to your hand: afterwards, if you beat him into better manners, he shall take it kindly, and cry Serviteur. In this one thing they are wonderfully like the devil; meekness or submission makes them insolent, a little resistance putteth them to their heeles or makes them your spaniels. In a word (for I have held him too long) he is a walking vanitie in a new fashion.
"I will give you now a taste of his table, which you shall find in a measure furnished, (I speak not of the paisant) but not with so full a manner as with us. Their beef they cut out into such chops, that that which goeth there for a laudable dish, would be thought here a university commons, new served from the hatch. A loyne of mutton serves
amongst them for three rostings, besides the hazard of making pottage with the rump. Fowl, also, they have in good plenty; especially such as the king found in Scotland: to say truth, that which they have is sufficient for nature and a friend, were it not for the mistress or the kitchen wench. I have heard much fame of the French cookes, but their skill lyeth not in the neat handling of beef and mutton. They have (as generally have all this nation) good fancies, and are speciall fellowes for the making of puff pastes and the ordering of banquets. Their trade is not to feed the belly but the pallat. It is now time you were set down, where the first thing you must do is to say your grace; private graces are as ordinary there as private masses, and from thence I think they learned them. That done, fall to where you like best; they observe no method in their eating, and if you look for a carver you may rise fasting. When you are risen, if you can digest the sluttishness of the cookery, (which is most abominable at first sight) I dare trust you in a garrison. Follow him to church, and there he will shew himself most irreligious and irreverent: I speak not of all, but the general. At a masse, in Cordeliers' church in Paris, I saw two French papists, even when the most sacred mistery of their faith was celebrating, break out into such a blasphemous and atheistical laughter, that even an Ethnick would have hated it: it was well they were catholiques, otherwise some French hot head or other would have sent them laughing to Pluto.
"The French language is, indeed, very sweet and delectable: it is cleared of all harshness, by the cutting and leaving out the consonants, which maketh it fall off the tongue very volubly; yet, in mine opinion, it is rather elegant than copious; and, therefore, is much troubled for want of words to find out periphrases. It expresseth very much of itself in the action: the head, body, and shoulders, concurre all in the pronouncing of it; and he that hopeth to speak it with a good grace, must have something in him of the mimick. It is enriched with a full number of significant proverbs, which is a great help to the French humour in scoffing, and very full of courtship, which maketh all the people complemental; the poorest cobler in the village hath his court cringes, and his eau benite de Cour, his court holy water as perfectly as the Prince of Condé.
"In the passadoes of their courtship, they expresse themselves with much variety of gesture, and, indeed, it doth not misbecome them: were it as gracious in the gentlemen of other nations as in them, it were worth your patience; but the affectation of it is scurvy and ridiculous. Quocunque salutationis artificio corpus inflectant, putes nihil istà institutione magis convenire. Vicinæ autem gentes ridiculo errore decepta, ejusdem venustatis imitationem ludicram faciunt et ingrutam: as one happily observed at his being amongst them. I have heard of a young gallant, sonne to a great lord of the three Brittish kingdomes, that spent some years in France to learn fashions; at his return he desired to see the king, and his father procured him an interviewe: when he came within the presence chamber, he began to compose his head, and carryed it as though he had been ridden with a martingale; next he fell to draw back his leggs and thrust out his shoulders, and that with
such a graceless apishness, that the king asked him if he meant to shoulder him out of his chair, and so left him to act out his complement to the hangings. In their courtship they bestow even the highest titles upon those of the lowest condition. This is the vice, also, of their common talk, the beggar begetteth monsieurs and madames to his sonnes and daughters as familiarly as the king: were there no other reason to perswade me that the Welch or Brittaynes were the descendants of the Gaules, this onely were sufficient that they would all be gentlemen.
"His discourse runneth commonly on two wheeles, treason and ribaldry; I never heard people talk less reverently of their prince, nor more sawcily of his actions; scarce a day passeth away without some seditious pamphlet printed and published in the disgrace of the king, or of some of his courtiers. These are every man's money, and he that buyeth them is not coye of the contents, be they never so scandalous of all humours the most harsh and odious. Take him from this (which you can hardly do till he hath told all) and then he falleth upon his ribaldry; without these crutches his discourse would never be able to keep pace with his company. Thus shall you have them relate the stories of their own uncleanness with a face as confident, as if they had no accident to please their hearers more commendible."
Heylin had a particular inducement to shew the little respect in which he held the French character, and this will account for the unfavourable colours in which he has delineated it. James the First, to whom his Geography had been presented, having, in an unpropitious moment, stumbled upon a passage in which the author stated, that when Edward the Third quartered the arms of France "he gave precedency to the French, because France is the greater and more famous kingdom;" the king was so much offended, that he ordered the lord-keeper to call in the book. And although the doctor found means to reconcile himself to the monarch, by showing that the word is was a typographical mistake for was, yet it is probable he thought it expedient still farther to manifest his opinions in favour of his own nation.
Our author is much more severe on the French women.
"I am now come to the French women; and it were great pitty they should not immediately follow the discourse of the men so like they are one to the other, that one would think them to be the same, and that all the difference lay in the apparel: for person they are generally of an indifferent stature, their bodies straight, and their wastes commonly small; but whether it be so by nature or by restraining of those parts, I cannot say. It is said, that an absolute woman should have (amongst other qualities requisite) the parts of a French woman, from the neck to the girdle; but I beleeve it holdeth not good; their shoulders and backs being so broad, that they hold no proportion with their middles: yet this may be the vice of their apparrel. Their
hands are, in my opinion, the comelyest and best ordered parts of them, long, white, and slender; were their faces answerable, even an English eye would apprehend them lovely: but here I find a pretty contradictory, the hand, as it is the best ornament of the whole structure, so doth it most disgrace it: whether it be that ill dyet be the cause of it, or that hot blood wrought upon by a hot and scalding ayr, must of necessity by such means vent itself, I am not certain: this I am sure of, that scarce the tythe of all the maids we saw had their hands, armes, and wrests, free from scabs; which had overrunne them like a leprosie. Their hair is generally black, and, indeed, somewhat blacker then a gratious loveliness would admit. The poets commend Leda for her black hair, and not unworthily.
Leda fuit nigris conspicienda comis.
"As Ovid hath it; yet was that blackness but a darker brown, and not so fearful as this of the French women. Again the blackness of the hair is there accounted an ornament, when the face about which it hangeth is of so perfect a complection and symmetrie, that it giveth a lustre; then doth the hair set forth the face, as a shaddow doth a picture, and the face becometh the hair, as a field argent doth a sable bearing which kind of armoury the heralds call the most fairest. But in this the French women are most unlucky, Don Quixote did not so deservedly assume to himself the name of the knight of the illfavoured face, as may they that of the damosells of it. It was, therefore, a happy speech of a young French gallant, that came in our company out of England, and had it been spoken among the ancients, it might have been registred for an apothegme: that the English of all the people in the world were only nati ad voluptates: "you have," saith he, "the fairest women, the goodliest horses, and the best breed of doggs under heaven :" for my part (as farre as I could in so short a time observe) I dare in his first believe him. England not onely being (as it is stiled) a paradise for women, by reason of their priviledges; but a paradise also of women, by reason of their unmatchable perfections their dispositions hold good intelligence with their faces; you cannot say of them as Suetonius doth of Galba, Ingenium Galba male habitat: they suit so well one with the other, that in my life I never met with a better decorum. But you must first hear them speak, Loquere ut te videam, was the method in old times, and it holdeth now. You cannot gather a better character of a French woman than from her prating, which is tedious and infinite; that you shall sooner want eares than she tongue. The fastidious pratler, which Horace mentioneth in his ninth Satyre, was but a puesne to her. The writers of these times call the Sicilians gerra Sicula, and not undeservedly; yet were they but the scholers of the French; and learned this faculty of them before the vespers. It is manners to give precedency to the maistresse, and will have it, if words may carry it. For two things, I would have had Aristotle acquainted with these chartings; first, it would have saved him a labour in taking such paines about finding out the perpetual motion: secondly, it would have freed him from an heresie with which his doctrine is now infected, and that is, Quicquid
movetur, ab alio movetur; their tongues I am certain move themselves, and make their own occasions of discoursing: when they are a going they are like a watch, you need not wind them above once in twelve hours, for so long the thred of their tongues will be in spinning. A dame of Paris came in a coach with us from Rouen; fourteen hours we were together, of which time (I'le take my oath upon it) her tongue fretted away a eleven hours and fifty-seven minutes; such everlasting talkers are they all, that they will sooner want breath than words, and they are never silent but in the grave, which may also be doubted.
"As they are endless in their talk, so are they also regardless of the company they speak in; be he stranger or of their acquaintance it much matters not; though, indeed, no man is to them a stranger, within an hour of the first sight you shall have them familiar more than enough; and as merry with you as if they had known your bearing cloth. It may be they are chast, and I perswade myself many of them are; but you will hardly gather it out of their behaviour. Te tamen et cultus damnat, as Ausonius of an honest woman, that carryed herself lesse modestly. They are abundantly full of laughter and toying, and are never without variety of lascivious songs, which they spare not to sing in whose company soever: you would think modesty were quite banished the kingdom, or rather that it had never been there. Neither is this the weakness of some few, it is an epidemicall disease: maids and wives are alike sick of it, though not both so desperately. The galliards of the mayds being of the two a little more tollerable; that of the women coming hard upon the confines of shamelessness."
He is equally piquant on all subjects.-This is what he says of the love of dancing of the French:
"At my being there, the sport was dancing, an exercise much used by the French, who do naturally affect it. And it seems this natural inclination is so strong and deep rooted, that neither age nor the absence of a smiling fortune can prevaile against it. For on this dancinggreen there assembleth not onely youth and gentry, but also age and beggery; old wives, which could not set foot to ground without a crutch in the streets, had here taught their feet to amble; you would have thought by the cleanly conveyance and carriage of their bodies, that they had beene troubled with the sciatica, and yet so eager in the sport, as if their dancing dayes should never be done. Some there were so ragged, that a swift galliard would almost have shaked them into nakednesse, and they, also, most violent to have their carcasses directed in a measure. To have attempted the staying of them at home, or the perswading of them to work when they heard the fiddle, had been a task too unweildy for Hercules. In this mixture of age and condition did we observe them at their pastime; the raggs being so interwoven with the silks, and wrinkled browes so interchangably mingled with fresh beauties, that you would have thought it to have been a mummery of fortunes; as for those of both sexes which were altogether past action, they had caused themselves to be carried thither in their chaires, and trod the measures with their eyes."