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LETTERS TO MRS. J. TAYLOR.
DEAR MADAM1, Yarmouth, Sept. 1st, 1785.
Though I have had the pleasure (it was a very real one) of a glimpse of Mr. Taylor, yet I cannot prevail on myself to entrust either him or Mr. Barbauld with those affectionate wishes and grateful acknowledgements of your friendship which, before I leave England, I wish to convey to you with my own hand. Mr. Barbauld will tell you our route.—Now it comes to the point, I cannot help feeling it a solemn thing to leave England, and all our dear connexions in it, for so many months. Often will they be in our minds; and when we recollect those who hold the highest places in our esteem and affection, Mrs. Taylor will always be presented to our thoughts. Allow me, dear madam, again to thank you for your kindness to us at Norwich, and the pleasure we enjoyed in that short but delightful intercourse with you and your family. On that family may health and every blessing ever rest.
By the time we return, I think I shall have had a sufficient draught of idleness, and be very ready to engage again in some active pursuit; but at present, Avaunt care! and Wive la bagatelle! for we are bound for France.
DEAR MADAM, Paris, June 7th, 1786.
THouGH we expect now very soon to finish our long pilgrimage, I cannot quit this country without giving you a little testimonial that in it we think of those beloved English friends from whom the sea now divides us: they are often recalled to my mind by different and opposite trains of thinking, for contrast, you know, is one source of association; and when I see the Parisian ladies covered with rouge and enslaved by fashion, cold to the claims of maternal tenderness, and covering licentiousness with the thin veil of a certain factitious decency of manners, my thoughts turn away from the scene, and delight to contemplate the charming union formed by deep affection and lasting esteem,-the mother endowed with talents and graces to draw the attention of polite circles, yet devoting her time and cares to her family and children—English delicacy, unspoiled beauty, and unaffected sentiment,<-when I think of these, (and your friends will not be at a loss to guess where I look for them,) it gives the same relief to my mind as it would to my eye when wearied and dazzled by their sand-walks and terraces, if it could repose upon the cheerful and soft green of our lawny turf. I would not, however, have you imagine that I am out of humour with Paris, where we have enjoyed much pleasure; only it is the result of our tour, that taking in all things, manners and government as well as climate, we like our own country best: and this is an opinion certainly favourable to our happiness, who shall probably never leave England again. The weather with us is, and has been, extremely hot. The trees are in their freshest green; but one sees that the grass will soon be burnt if we have not rain. Indeed they are obliged every day to water the turf in all their gardens where they are solicitous about verdure. The environs of Paris are charming, yet I think evidently inferior to those of London. Yesterday (Whitsunday) we were gratified with a view of all the magnificence of Versailles. In compliment to the day the water-works played, and there was the brilliant procession of the cordon bleu; in consequence of which all Paris in a manner was poured into Versailles; and I was ready to forgive the enormous expense and ostentation of this palace, when I saw a numerous people of all sorts and degrees filling the rooms and wandering in the gardens, full of admiration, and deriving both
pleasure and pride from their national magnificence; and many a one, I dare say, exulted in the thought that the grand monarque's horses are better lodged than is the king of England himself. The grand gallery filled with Le Brun's paintings is of a striking beauty; the gardens are full of water thrown up in artificial fountains, and glittering through artificial bosquets; the walks are adorned with whole quarries of marble wrought into statues. In short, art and symmetry reign entirely; and I hope they will never attempt to modernize these gardens, because they are a model of magnificence in their kind, and Art appears with so much imposing grandeur, that she seems to have a right to reign. The petit Trianon belonging to the queen is in another style; with cottages and green lawns and winding walks of flowering shrubs in the English mode, which indeed prevails very much at present.
There is a person here, the Abbé d'Hauy, who teaches the blind to read by means of books printed expressly for them in a relief of white. The undertaking is curious; but they are at present somewhat in the state of the blind men brought up for painters in the island of Laputa, who were not so perfect in the mixing their colours but that they sometimes mistook blue for red.
The French stage is not, I think, at present very brilliant; three of their best actors have lately left it. But at the Italian theatre they have a delightful little piece, which under the name of a comic opera draws tears from all the world. It is called Nina, or La Folle d’Amour, and Mademoiselle du Gazonacts the part of Nina; and does it with such enchanting grace, such sweet and delicate touches of sensibility and passion, as I never saw upon any theatre. It is the sweet bells jangled out of tune, but not harsh: no raving, no disorder of dress; but every look and gesture showed an unsettled mind, and a tenderness inimitable. At the Opera they have likewise an actress full of grace, Mademoiselle St. Huberti; but there it is a grace beyond mere nature. Everybody (that is everybody who follows the fashion) leaves Paris in the summer, which was not the case some years ago. We stay now for a fine show, the procession on the Fête Dieu, in which all the tapestry of the Gobelins is exposed in the streets. We shall return by Calais and proceed immediately to London, where we shall take lodgings for some time.
Will you do me the favour to remember us with grateful affection to all our friends at Norwich there are so many that claim our esteem, I do not attempt to enumerate them; but do not forget to give a kiss for us to each of your dear boys, and to assure Mr. Taylor of Mr. Barbauld's and my affectionate esteem.