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night-caps. My very good friend, said I to the mera cer, you must not pretend to instruct me in silks ; I know these in particular to be no better than your mere flimsy Bungees. That may be, cried the mercer, who I afterwards found had never contradicted a man in his life, I cannot pretend to say but they may ; but I can assure you, my Lady Trail has had a sacque from this piece this very morning. But friend, said I though my Lady has chosen a sacque from it, I see no necessity that I should wear it for a night-cap. be, returned he again, yet what becomes a pretty Lady, will at any time look well on a handsome Gentleman. This short compliment was thrown in so very seasonably upon my ugly face, that even though I disliked the silk, I desired him to cut me off the pattern of a night-cap.
While this business was consigned to his journeyman, the master himself took down some pieces of silk still finer than any I had yet seen, and spreading them before me, There, cries he, there's beauty, my Lord Snakeskin has bespoke the fellow to this for the birth-night this very morning ; it would look charmingly in waistcoats. But I do not want a waistcoat, replied I: Not want a waistcoat, returned the mercer, then I would advise you to buy one; when waistcoats are wanted, you may depend upon it they will come dear. Always buy before you want, and you are sure to be well zised, as they say in Cheapside. There was so much justice in his advice, that I could not refuse taking it; besides, the silk, which was really a good one, increased the temptation; so I gave orders for that too.
As I was waiting to have my bargains measured and cut, which I know not how, they executed but slowly; during the interval, the mercer entertained me with the modern manner of some of the nobility receiving company in their morning gowns; Perhaps Sir, adds he, you have a mind to see what kind of silk is universally worn. Without waiting for my reply, he spreads a piece before me which might be reckoned beautiful even in China. If the nobility', continues he, were to know I sold this to any under a Right Honourable, I should certainly lose their custom ; you sel, my Lord, it is at once rich, tasty, and quite the thing. I am no Lord, interrupted I.--I beg pardon, cried he, but be pleased to remember, when you intend buying a morning gown, that you had an offer from me of something worth money. Conscience, Sir, conscience is my way of dealing ; you may buy a morning gown now, or you may stay till they become dearer and less fashionable, but it is not my business to advise. In short, most reverend Fum, he persuaded me to buy a morning gown also, and would probably have persuaded me to have bought half the goods in his shop, if I had stayed long enough, or was furnished with sufficient money.
Upon returning home, I could not help reflecting with some astonishment, how this very man, with such a confined education and capacity, was yet capable of turning me as he thought proper, and moulding me to his inclinations! I knew he was only answering his own purposes, even while he attempted to appear solicitous about mine: yet by a voluntary infatuation, a sort of passion compounded of vanity and goodnature, I walked into the snare with my eyes open, and put myself to future pain in order to give him immediate pleasure. The wisdom of the ignorant somewhat resembles the instinct of animals; it is diffused in but a very narrow sphere, but within that circle it acts with vigour, uniformity, and success. Adieu.
FROM THE SAME.
FROM my former accounts you may be apt to fancy
may upon another occasion, point out what is most strikingly absurd in other countries ; I shall at present confine myself only to France. The first national peculiarity a traveller meets upon entering that kingdom, is an odd sort of a staring vivacity in every eye, not excepting even the children ; the people, it seems, have got it into their heads that they have more wit than others, and so stare in order to look smart.
I know not how it happens, but there appears a sickly delicacy in the faces of their finest women. This may have introduced the use of paint, and paint produces wrinkles : so that a fine lady shall look like a hag at twenty-three. But as in some measure they never appear young, so it may be equally asserted, that they actually think themselves never old; a gentle Miss shall prepare for new conquests at sixty, shall hobble a rigadoon when she can scarcely hobble out without a crutch, she shall affect the girl, play her fan and her eyes, and talk of sentiments, bleeding hearts, and expiring for love when dying with age. Like a departing philosopher she attempts to make her
last moments the most brilliant of her life.
Their civility to strangers is what they are chiefly proud of; and to confess sincerely, their beggars are the very politest beggars I ever knew ; in other places a traveller is addressed with a pitecus whine, or a
sturdy solemnity, but a French beggar shall ask your charity with a very genteel bow, and thank you for it with a smile and shrug.
Another instance of this people's breeding I must not forget. An Englishman could not speak his native language in a company of foreigners where he was sure that none understood him ; a travelling Hottentot himself would be silent if acquainted only with the language of his country ; but a Frenchman shall talk to you whether you understand his language or not; never troubling his head whether you have learned French, still he keeps up the conversation, fixes his eye full in your face, and asks a thousand questions, which he answers himself for want of a more satisfactory reply.
But their civility to foreigners is not half so great as their admiration of themselves. Every thing that belongs to them and their nation is great, magnificent beyond expression ; quite romantic! every garden is a paradise, every hovel a palace, and every woman an angel. They shut their eyes close, throw their mouths wide open, and cry out in rapture : Sacre! What beauty! 0 Ciel, what taste ! mort de ma vie, what grandeur, was ever any people like ourselves? we are the nation of men, and all the rest no better than two-legged barbarians.
I fancy the French would make the best cooks in the world, if they had but meat; as it is, they can dress you out five different dishes from a nettle-top, seven from a dock leaf, and twice as many from a frog's haunches; these eat prettily enough when one is a little used to them, are easy of digestion, and seldom overload the stomach with crucities. They seldom dine under seven hot dishes; it is true, indeed, with all this magnificence, they seldom spread a cloth before the guests ; but in that I cannot be angry with VOL. IV.
them ; since those who have got no linen on their backs, may very well be excused for wanting it upon their tables.
Even Religion itself loses its solemnity among them. Upon their roads, at about every five miles distance, you see an image of the Virgin Mary, dressed up in grim head-clothes, painted cheeks, and an old red petticoat ; before her a lamp is often kept burning, at which, with the saint's permission, I have frequently lighted my pipe. Instead of the Virgin you are sometimes presented with a crucifix, at other times with a wooden Saviour, fitted out in complete garniture, with sponge, spear, nails, pincers, hammer, bees-wax and vinegar-bottle. Some of these images, I have been told. came down from heaven; if in heaven they have but bungling workmen.
In passing through their towns, you frequently see the men sitting at the doors knitting stockings, while the care of cultivating the ground and pruning the vines falls to the women. This is perhaps the reason why the fair sex are granted some peculiar privileges in this country ; particularly when they can get horses, of riding without a side-saddle.
But I begin to think you may find this description pert and dull enough ; perhaps it is so, yet in general it is the manner in which the French usually describe foreigners ; and it is but just to force a part of that ridicule back upon them, which they attempt to lavish on others.