Sunday, May 1, 2016

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 119

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Remedial Basic English Writing Skills, Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Bawd from Battersea’s Bequest, the Olney Community College Press.

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It is to be regretted that he did not write an account of his travels in France; for as he is reported to have once said, that 'he could write the Life of a Broomstick,' so, notwithstanding so many former travellers have exhausted almost every subject for remark in that great kingdom, his very accurate observation, and peculiar vigour of thought and illustration, would have produced a valuable work. During his visit to it, which lasted but about two months, he wrote notes or minutes of what he saw. He promised to show me them, but I neglected to put him in mind of it; and the greatest part of them has been lost, or perhaps, destroyed in a precipitate burning of his papers a few days before his death, which must ever be lamented.

One small paper-book, however, entitled 'FRANCE II,' has been preserved, and is in my possession. It is a diurnal register of his life and observations, from the 10th of October to the 4th of November, inclusive, being twenty-six days, and shows an extraordinary attention to various minute particulars. Being the only memorial of this tour that remains, my readers, I am confident, will peruse it with pleasure, though his notes are very short, and evidently written only to assist his own recollection.

'Oct. 10. Tuesday. We saw the École Militaire, in which one hundred and fifty young boys are educated for the army. They have arms of different sizes, according to the age;— flints of wood. The building is very large, but nothing fine, except the council-room. The French have large squares in the windows;— they make good iron palisades. Their meals are gross.’

'We visited the Observatory, a large building of a great height. The upper stones of the parapet very large, but not cramped with iron. The flat on the top is very extensive; but there is no parapet. Though it was broad enough, I did not care to go upon it. Maps were printing in one of the rooms.’

'We walked to a small convent of the Fathers of the Oratory. In the reading-desk of the refectory lay the lives of the Saints.’

'Oct. 11. Wednesday. We went to see Hotel de Chatlois, a house not very large, but very elegant. One of the rooms was gilt to a degree that I never saw before. The upper part for servants and their masters was pretty.’

'Thence we went to Mr. Monville's, a house divided into small apartments, furnished with effeminate and minute elegance.— Porphyry.’

'Thence we went to St. Roque's church, which is very large;—the lower part of the pillars incrusted with marble.— Three chapels behind the high altar;— the last a mass of low arches.— Altars, I believe, all round.’

'We passed through Place de Vendôme, a fine square, about as big as Hanover-square.— Inhabited by the high families.— Lewis XIV on horse-back in the middle.’

'The French have no laws for the maintenance of their poor.— Monk not necessarily a priest.— Benedictines rise at four; are at church an hour and half; at church again half an hour before, half an hour after, dinner; and again from half an hour after seven to eight. They may sleep eight hours.— Bodily labour wanted in monasteries.’

'The poor taken to hospitals, and miserably kept.’

'Oct. 12. Thursday. We went to the Gobelins.— Tapestry makes a good picture;— imitates flesh exactly;— the birds not exactly coloured.— Thence we went to the King's cabinet;— very neat, not, perhaps, perfect.— Gold ore.— Candles of the candle-tree.—  Thence to Gagnier's house, where I saw rooms nine, furnished with a profusion of wealth and elegance which I never had seen before.— Vases.— Pictures.— The Dragon china.— The lustre said to be of crystal, and to have cost 3,500£.— The whole furniture said to have cost 125,000£.—Damask hangings covered with pictures.— Porphyry.— This house struck me.’

‘— County towns all beggars.— Cross roads of France very bad.— Good inn at Nismes.— Moors of Barbary fond of Englishmen.— Gibraltar eminently healthy;— It has beef from Barbary;— There is a large garden.— Soldiers sometimes fall from the rock.’

'Oct. 13. Friday. I staid at home all day.’

'Oct. 14. Saturday. We went to the house of Mr. Argenson, which was almost wainscotted with looking-glasses, and covered with gold.— The ladies' closet wainscotted with large squares of glass over painted paper. They always place mirrours to reflect their rooms.’

'At D——' s I looked into the books in the lady's closet, and, in contempt, shewed them to Mr. T..— She was offended, and shut up, as we heard afterwards, her apartment.

'Then we went to Julien Le Roy, the King's watch-maker, a man of character in his business, who shewed a small clock made to find the longitude.— A decent man.’

'Afterwards we saw the Palais Marchand, and the Courts of Justice, civil and criminal.— This building has the old Gothick passages, and a great appearance of antiquity.— Three hundred prisoners sometimes in the gaol.’

'Much disturbed; hope no ill will be.’

(classix comix™ is underwritten in part by a continuing grant from the Bob’s Bowery Bar Foundation for Arts and Letters: “I wonder if our non-carnivorous listeners are aware of the new vegetarian menu on the bill of fare at my favorite caravanserai, Bob’s Bowery Bar, located on the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery? One of my personal favorites is ‘Bob’s Mom’s’ home-made groatloaf sandwich, served on your choice of 4-grain or gluten-free challah toast,

with raw red onion and Jersey tomato slices (in season) and spicy house horseradish sauce, served with hand-cut beet fries and okra pickles.” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents the Philip Morris Commander Literary Hour, broadcast live from the Prince Hal Room of the Hotel St Crispian, Sundays at 3pm (EST) exclusively on the Dumont Radio Network; this week’s guests: Miss Ayn Rand, Mr. John O’Hara, Mr. Fredric Brown, and Miss Kitty Carlisle.)

part 120

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