Part 15 out of 70
however, was the special care of the king, who was very intelligent;
if we are to believe history, but I confess that I laughed when I saw
the ridiculous face of that sovereign.
I had never seen a king before in my life, and a foolish idea made me
suppose that a king must be preeminent--a very rare being--by his
beauty and the majesty of his appearance, and in everything superior
to the rest of men. For a young Republican endowed with reason, my
idea was not, after all, so very foolish, but I very soon got rid of
it when I saw that King of Sardinia, ugly, hump-backed, morose and
vulgar even in his manners. I then realized that it was possible to
be a king without being entirely a man.
I saw L'Astrua and Gafarello, those two magnificent singers on the
stage, and I admired the dancing of La Geofroi, who married at that
time a worthy dancer named Bodin.
During my stay in Turin, no amorous fancy disturbed the peace of my
soul, except an accident which happened to me with the daughter of my
washerwoman, and which increased my knowledge in physics in a
singular manner. That girl was very pretty, and, without being what
might be called in love with her, I wished to obtain her favours.
Piqued at my not being able to obtain an appointment from her, I
contrived one day to catch her at the bottom of a back staircase by
which she used to come to my room, and, I must confess, with the
intention of using a little violence, if necessary.
Having concealed myself for that purpose at the time I expected her,
I got hold of her by surprise, and, half by persuasion, half by the
rapidity of my attack, she was brought to a right position, and I
lost no time in engaging in action. But at the first movement of the
connection a loud explosion somewhat cooled my ardour, the more so
that the young girl covered her face with her hands as if she wished
to hide her shame. However, encouraging her with a loving kiss, I
began again. But, a report, louder even than the first, strikes at
the same moment my ear and my nose. I continue; a third, a fourth
report, and, to make a long matter short, each movement gives an
explosion with as much regularity as a conductor making the time for
a piece of music!
This extraordinary phenomenon, the confusion of the poor girl, our
position--everything, in fact, struck me as so comical, that I burst
into the most immoderate laughter, which compelled me to give up the
undertaking. Ashamed and confused, the young girl ran away, and I
did nothing to hinder her. After that she never had the courage to
present herself before me. I remained seated on the stairs for a
quarter of an hour after she had left me, amused at the funny
character of a scene which even now excites my mirth. I suppose that
the young girl was indebted for her virtue to that singular disease,
and most likely, if it were common to all the fair sex, there would
be fewer gallant women, unless we had different organs; for to pay
for one moment of enjoyment at the expense both of the hearing and of
the smell is to give too high a price.
Baletti, being in a hurry to reach Paris, where great preparations
were being made for the birth of a Duke of Burgundy--for the duchess
was near the time of her delivery--easily persuaded me to shorten my
stay in Turin. We therefore left that city, and in five days we
arrived at Lyons, where I stayed about a week.
Lyons is a very fine city in which at that time there were scarcely
three or four noble houses opened to strangers; but, in compensation,
there were more than a hundred hospitable ones belonging to
merchants, manufacturers, and commission agents, amongst whom was to
be found an excellent society remarkable for easy manners,
politeness, frankness, and good style, without the absurd pride to be
met with amongst the nobility in the provinces, with very few
honourable exceptions. It is true that the standard of good manners
is below that of Paris, but one soon gets accustomed to it. The
wealth of Lyons arises from good taste and low prices, and Fashion is
the goddess to whom that city owes its prosperity. Fashion alters
every year, and the stuff, to which the fashion of the day gives a
value equal, say to thirty, is the next year reduced to fifteen or
twenty, and then it is sent to foreign countries where it is bought
up as a novelty.
The manufacturers of Lyons give high salaries to designers of talent;
in that lies the secret of their success. Low prices come from
Competition--a fruitful source of wealth, and a daughter of Liberty.
Therefore, a government wishing to establish on a firm basis the
prosperity of trade must give commerce full liberty; only being
careful to prevent the frauds which private interests, often wrongly
understood, might invent at the expense of public and general
interests. In fact, the government must hold the scales, and allow
the citizens to load them as they please.
In Lyons I met the most famous courtezan of Venice. It was generally
admitted that her equal had never been seen. Her name was Ancilla.
Every man who saw her coveted her, and she was so kindly disposed
that she could not refuse her favours to anyone; for if all men loved
her one after the other, she returned the compliment by loving them
all at once, and with her pecuniary advantages were only a very
Venice has always been blessed with courtezans more celebrated by
their beauty than their wit. Those who were most famous in my
younger days were Ancilla and another called Spina, both the
daughters of gondoliers, and both killed very young by the excesses
of a profession which, in their eyes, was a noble one. At the age of
twenty-two, Ancilla turned a dancer and Spina became a singer.
Campioni, a celebrated Venetian dancer, imparted to the lovely
Ancilla all the graces and the talents of which her physical
perfections were susceptible, and married her. Spina had for her
master a castrato who succeeded in making of her only a very ordinary
singer, and in the absence of talent she was compelled, in order to
get a living, to make the most of the beauty she had received from
I shall have occasion to speak again of Ancilla before her death.
She was then in Lyons with her husband; they had just returned from
England, where they had been greatly applauded at the Haymarket
Theatre. She had stopped in Lyons only for her pleasure, and, the
moment she shewed herself, she had at her feet the most brilliant
young men of the town, who were the slaves of her slightest caprice.
Every day parties of pleasure, every evening magnificent suppers, and
every night a great faro bank. The banker at the gaming table was a
certain Don Joseph Marratti, the same man whom I had known in the
Spanish army under the name of Don Pepe il Cadetto, and a few years
afterwards assumed the name of Afflisio, and came to such a bad end.
That faro bank won in a few days three hundred thousand francs. In a
capital that would not have been considered a large sum, but in a
commercial and industrial city like Lyons it raised the alarm amongst
the merchants, and the Ultramontanes thought of taking their leave.
It was in Lyons that a respectable individual, whose acquaintance I
made at the house of M. de Rochebaron, obtained for me the favour of
being initiated in the sublime trifles of Freemasonry. I arrived in
Paris a simple apprentice; a few months after my arrival I became
companion and master; the last is certainly the highest degree in
Freemasonry, for all the other degrees which I took afterwards are
only pleasing inventions, which, although symbolical, add nothing to
the dignity of master.
No one in this world can obtain a knowledge of everything, but every
man who feels himself endowed with faculties, and can realize the
extent of his moral strength, should endeavour to obtain the greatest
possible amount of knowledge. A well-born young man who wishes to
travel and know not only the world, but also what is called good
society, who does not want to find himself, under certain
circumstances, inferior to his equals, and excluded from
participating in all their pleasures, must get himself initiated in
what is called Freemasonry, even if it is only to know superficially
what Freemasonry is. It is a charitable institution, which, at
certain times and in certain places, may have been a pretext for
criminal underplots got up for the overthrow of public order, but is
there anything under heaven that has not been abused? Have we not
seen the Jesuits, under the cloak of our holy religion, thrust into
the parricidal hand of blind enthusiasts the dagger with which kings
were to be assassinated! All men of importance, I mean those whose
social existence is marked by intelligence and merit, by learning or
by wealth, can be (and many of them are) Freemasons: is it possible
to suppose that such meetings, in which the initiated, making it a
law never to speak, 'intra muros', either of politics, or of
religions, or of governments, converse only concerning emblems which
are either moral or trifling; is it possible to suppose, I repeat,
that those meetings, in which the governments may have their own
creatures, can offer dangers sufficiently serious to warrant the
proscriptions of kings or the excommunications of Popes?
In reality such proceedings miss the end for which they are
undertaken, and the Pope, in spite of his infallibility, will not
prevent his persecutions from giving Freemasonry an importance which
it would perhaps have never obtained if it had been left alone.
Mystery is the essence of man's nature, and whatever presents itself
to mankind under a mysterious appearance will always excite curiosity
and be sought, even when men are satisfied that the veil covers
nothing but a cypher.
Upon the whole, I would advise all well-born young men, who intend to
travel, to become Freemasons; but I would likewise advise them to be
careful in selecting a lodge, because, although bad company cannot
have any influence while inside of the lodge, the candidate must
guard against bad acquaintances.
Those who become Freemasons only for the sake of finding out the
secret of the order, run a very great risk of growing old under the
trowel without ever realizing their purpose. Yet there is a secret,
but it is so inviolable that it has never been confided or whispered
to anyone. Those who stop at the outward crust of things imagine
that the secret consists in words, in signs, or that the main point
of it is to be found only in reaching the highest degree. This is a
mistaken view: the man who guesses the secret of Freemasonry, and to
know it you must guess it, reaches that point only through long
attendance in the lodges, through deep thinking, comparison, and
deduction. He would not trust that secret to his best friend in
Freemasonry, because he is aware that if his friend has not found it
out, he could not make any use of it after it had been whispered in
his ear. No, he keeps his peace, and the secret remains a secret.
Everything done in a lodge must be secret; but those who have
unscrupulously revealed what is done in the lodge, have been unable
to reveal that which is essential; they had no knowledge of it, and
had they known it, they certainly would not have unveiled the mystery
of the ceremonies.
The impression felt in our days by the non-initiated is of the same
nature as that felt in former times by those who were not initiated
in the mysteries enacted at Eleusis in honour of Ceres. But the
mysteries of Eleusis interested the whole of Greece, and whoever had
attained some eminence in the society of those days had an ardent
wish to take a part in those mysterious ceremonies, while
Freemasonry, in the midst of many men of the highest merit, reckons a
crowd of scoundrels whom no society ought to acknowledge, because
they are the refuse of mankind as far as morality is concerned.
In the mysteries of Ceres, an inscrutable silence was long kept,
owing to the veneration in which they were held. Besides, what was
there in them that could be revealed? The three words which the
hierophant said to the initiated? But what would that revelation
have come to? Only to dishonour the indiscreet initiate, for they
were barbarous words unknown to the vulgar. I have read somewhere
that the three sacred words of the mysteries of Eleusis meant: Watch,
and do no evil. The sacred words and the secrets of the various
masonic degrees are about as criminal.
The initiation in the mysteries of Eleusis lasted nine days. The
ceremonies were very imposing, and the company of the highest.
Plutarch informs us that Alcibiades was sentenced to death and his
property confiscated, because he had dared to turn the mysteries into
ridicule in his house. He was even sentenced to be cursed by the
priests and priestesses, but the curse was not pronounced because one
of the priestesses opposed it, saying:
"I am a priestess to bless and not to curse!"
Sublime words! Lessons of wisdom and of morality which the Pope
despises, but which the Gospel teaches and which the Saviour
In our days nothing is important, and nothing is sacred, for our
Botarelli publishes in a pamphlet all the ceremonies of the
Freemasons, and the only sentence passed on him is:
"He is a scoundrel. We knew that before!"
A prince in Naples, and M. Hamilton in his own house, perform the
miracle of St. Januarius; they are, most likely, very merry over
their performance, and many more with them. Yet the king wears on
his royal breast a star with the following device around the image of
St. Januarius: 'In sanguine foedus'. In our days everything is
inconsistent, and nothing has any meaning. Yet it is right to go
ahead, for to stop on the road would be to go from bad to worse.
We left Lyons in the public diligence, and were five days on our road
to Paris. Baletti had given notice of his departure to his family;
they therefore knew when to expect him. We were eight in the coach
and our seats were very uncomfortable, for it was a large oval in
shape, so that no one had a corner. If that vehicle had been built
in a country where equality was a principle hallowed by the laws, it
would not have been a bad illustration. I thought it was absurd, but
I was in a foreign country, and I said nothing. Besides, being an
Italian, would it have been right for me not to admire everything
which was French, and particularly in France?--Example, an oval
diligence: I respected the fashion, but I found it detestable, and
the singular motion of that vehicle had the same effect upon me as
the rolling of a ship in a heavy sea. Yet it was well hung, but the
worst jolting would have disturbed me less.
As the diligence undulates in the rapidity of its pace, it has been
called a gondola, but I was a judge of gondolas, and I thought that
there was no family likeness between the coach and the Venetian boats
which, with two hearty rowers, glide along so swiftly and smoothly.
The effect of the movement was that I had to throw up whatever was on
my stomach. My travelling companions thought me bad company, but
they did not say so. I was in France and among Frenchmen, who know
what politeness is. They only remarked that very likely I had eaten
too much at my supper, and a Parisian abbe, in order to excuse me,
observed that my stomach was weak. A discussion arose.
"Gentlemen," I said, in my vexation, and rather angrily, "you are all
wrong, for my stomach is excellent, and I have not had any supper."
Thereupon an elderly man told me, with a voice full of sweetness,
that I ought not to say that the gentlemen were wrong, though I might
say that they were not right, thus imitating Cicero, who, instead of
declaring to the Romans that Catilina and the other conspirators were
dead, only said that they had lived.
"Is it not the same thing?"
"I beg your pardon, sir, one way of speaking is polite, the other is
not." And after treating me to a long dissection on politeness, he
concluded by saying, with a smile, "I suppose you are an Italian?"
"Yes, I am, but would you oblige me by telling me how you have found
"Oh! I guessed it from the attention with which you have listened to
my long prattle."
Everybody laughed, and, I, much pleased with his eccentricity, began
to coax him. He was the tutor of a young boy of twelve or thirteen
years who was seated near him. I made him give me during the journey
lessons in French politeness, and when we parted he took me apart in
a friendly manner, saying that he wished to make me a small present.
"What is it?"
"You must abandon, and, if I may say so, forget, the particle 'non',
which you use frequently at random. 'Non' is not a French word;
instead of that unpleasant monosyllable, say, 'Pardon'. 'Non' is
equal to giving the lie: never say it, or prepare yourself to give
and to receive sword-stabs every moment."
"I thank you, monsieur, your present is very precious, and I promise
you never to say non again."
During the first fortnight of my stay in Paris, it seemed to me that
I had become the most faulty man alive, for I never ceased begging
pardon. I even thought, one evening at the theatre, that I should
have a quarrel for having begged somebody's pardon in the wrong
place. A young fop, coming to the pit, trod on my foot, and I
hastened to say,
"Your pardon, sir."
"Sir, pardon me yourself."
"Well, sir, let us pardon and embrace one another!" The embrace put a
stop to the discussion.
One day during the journey, having fallen asleep from fatigue in the
inconvenient gondola, someone pushed my arm.
"Ah, sir! look at that mansion!"
"I see it; what of it?"
"Ah! I pray you, do you not find it...."
"I find nothing particular; and you?"
"Nothing wonderful, if it were not situated at a distance of forty
leagues from Paris. But here! Ah! would my 'badauds' of Parisians
believe that such a beautiful mansion can be found forty leagues
distant from the metropolis? How ignorant a man is when he has never
"You are quite right."
That man was a Parisian and a 'badaud' to the backbone, like a Gaul
in the days of Caesar.
But if the Parisians are lounging about from morning till night,
enjoying everything around them, a foreigner like myself ought to
have been a greater 'badaud' than they! The difference between us was
that, being accustomed to see things such as they are, I was
astonished at seeing them often covered with a mask which changed
their nature, while their surprise often arose from their suspecting
what the mask concealed.
What delighted me, on my arrival in Paris, was the magnificent road
made by Louis XV., the cleanliness of the hotels, the excellent fare
they give, the quickness of the service, the excellent beds, the
modest appearance of the attendant, who generally is the most
accomplished girl of the house, and whose decency, modest manners,
and neatness, inspire the most shameless libertine with respect.
Where is the Italian who is pleased with the effrontery and the
insolence of the hotel-waiters in Italy? In my days, people did not
know in France what it was to overcharge; it was truly the home of
foreigners. True, they had the unpleasantness of often witnessing
acts of odious despotism, 'lettres de cachet', etc.; it was the
despotism of a king. Since that time the French have the despotism
of the people. Is it less obnoxious?
We dined at Fontainebleau, a name derived from Fontaine-belle-eau;
and when we were only two leagues from Paris we saw a berlin
advancing towards us. As it came near the diligence, my friend
Baletti called out to the postillions to stop. In the berlin was his
mother, who offered me the welcome given to an expected friend. His
mother was the celebrated actress Silvia, and when I had been
introduced to her she said to me;
"I hope, sir, that my son's friend will accept a share of our family
supper this evening."
I accepted gratefully, sat down again in the gondola, Baletti got
into the berlin with his mother, and we continued our journey.
On reaching Paris, I found a servant of Silvia's waiting for me with
a coach; he accompanied me to my lodging to leave my luggage, and we
repaired to Baletti's house, which was only fifty yards distant from
Baletti presented me to his father, who was known under the name of
Mario. Silvia and Mario were the stage names assumed by M. and
Madame Baletti, and at that time it was the custom in France to call
the Italian actors by the names they had on the stage. 'Bon jour',
Monsieur Arlequin; 'bon jour', Monsieur Pantalon: such was the manner
in which the French used to address the actors who personified those
characters on the stage.
My Apprenticeship in Paris--Portraits--Oddities--All Sorts of Things
To celebrate the arrival of her son, Silvia gave a splendid supper to
which she had invited all her relatives, and it was a good
opportunity for me to make their acquaintance. Baletti's father, who
had just recovered from a long illness, was not with us, but we had
his father's sister, who was older than Mario. She was known, under
her theatrical name of Flaminia, in the literary world by several
translations, but I had a great wish to make her acquaintance less on
that account than in consequence of the story, known throughout
Italy, of the stay that three literary men of great fame had made in
Paris. Those three literati were the Marquis Maffei, the Abbe Conti,
and Pierre Jacques Martelli, who became enemies, according to public
rumour, owing to the belief entertained by each of them that he
possessed the favours of the actress, and, being men of learning,
they fought with the pen. Martelli composed a satire against Maffei,
in which he designated him by the anagram of Femia.
I had been announced to Flaminia as a candidate for literary fame,
and she thought she honoured me by addressing me at all, but she was
wrong, for she displeased me greatly by her face, her manners, her
style, even by the sound of her voice. Without saying it positively,
she made me understand that, being herself an illustrious member of
the republic of letters, she was well aware that she was speaking to
an insect. She seemed as if she wanted to dictate to everybody
around her, and she very likely thought that she had the right to do
so at the age of sixty, particularly towards a young novice only
twenty-five years old, who had not yet contributed anything to the
literary treasury. In order to please her, I spoke to her of the
Abbe Conti, and I had occasion to quote two lines of that profound
writer. Madam corrected me with a patronizing air for my
pronounciation of the word 'scevra', which means divided, saying that
it ought to be pronounced 'sceura', and she added that I ought to be
very glad to have learned so much on the first day of my arrival in
Paris, telling me that it would be an important day in my life.
"Madam, I came here to learn and not to unlearn. You will kindly
allow me to tell you that the pronunciation of that word 'scevra'
with a v, and not 'sceura' with a u, because it is a contraction of
"It remains to be seen which of us is wrong."
"You, madam, according to Ariosto, who makes 'scevra' rhyme with
'persevra', and the rhyme would be false with 'sceura', which is not
an Italian word."
She would have kept up the discussion, but her husband, a man eighty
years of age, told her that she was wrong. She held her tongue, but
from that time she told everybody that I was an impostor.
Her husband, Louis Riccoboni, better known as Lelio, was the same who
had brought the Italian company to Paris in 1716, and placed it at
the service of the regent: he was a man of great merit. He had been
very handsome, and justly enjoyed the esteem of the public, in
consequence not only of his talent but also of the purity of his
During supper my principal occupation was to study Silvia, who then
enjoyed the greatest reputation, and I judged her to be even above
it. She was then about fifty years old, her figure was elegant, her
air noble, her manners graceful and easy; she was affable, witty,
kind to everybody, simple and unpretending. Her face was an enigma,
for it inspired everyone with the warmest sympathy, and yet if you
examined it attentively there was not one beautiful feature; she
could not be called handsome, but no one could have thought her ugly.
Yet she was not one of those women who are neither handsome nor ugly,
for she possessed a certain something which struck one at first sight
and captivated the interest. Then what was she?
Beautiful, certainly, but owing to charms unknown to all those who,
not being attracted towards her by an irresistible feeling which
compelled them to love her, had not the courage to study her, or the
constancy to obtain a thorough knowledge of her.
Silvia was the adoration of France, and her talent was the real
support of all the comedies which the greatest authors wrote for her,
especially of, the plays of Marivaux, for without her his comedies
would never have gone to posterity. Never was an actress found who
could replace her, and to find one it would be necessary that she
should unite in herself all the perfections which Silvia possessed
for the difficult profession of the stage: action, voice,
intelligence, wit, countenance, manners, and a deep knowledge of the
human heart. In Silvia every quality was from nature, and the art
which gave the last touch of perfection to her qualities was never
To the qualities which I have just mentioned, Silvia added another
which surrounded her with a brilliant halo, and the absence of which
would not have prevented her from being the shining star of the
stage: she led a virtuous life. She had been anxious to have
friends, but she had dismissed all lovers, refusing to avail herself
of a privilege which she could easily have enjoyed, but which would
have rendered her contemptible in her own estimation. The
irreproachable conduct obtained for her a reputation of
respectability which, at her age, would have been held as ridiculous
and even insulting by any other woman belonging to the same
profession, and many ladies of the highest rank honoured her with her
friendship more even than with their patronage. Never did the
capricious audience of a Parisian pit dare to hiss Silvia, not even
in her performance of characters which the public disliked, and it
was the general opinion that she was in every way above her
Silvia did not think that her good conduct was a merit, for she knew
that she was virtuous only because her self-love compelled her to be
so, and she never exhibited any pride or assumed any superiority
towards her theatrical sisters, although, satisfied to shine by their
talent or their beauty, they cared little about rendering themselves
conspicuous by their virtue. Silvia loved them all, and they all
loved her; she always was the first to praise, openly and with good
faith, the talent of her rivals; but she lost nothing by it, because,
being their superior in talent and enjoying a spotless reputation,
her rivals could not rise above her.
Nature deprived that charming woman of ten year of life; she became
consumptive at the age of sixty, ten years after I had made her
acquaintance. The climate of Paris often proves fatal to our Italian
actresses. Two years before her death I saw her perform the
character of Marianne in the comedy of Marivaux, and in spite of her
age and declining health the illusion was complete. She died in my
presence, holding her daughter in her arms, and she was giving her
the advice of a tender mother five minutes before she breathed her
last. She was honourably buried in the church of St. Sauveur,
without the slightest opposition from the venerable priest, who, far
from sharing the anti-christain intolerancy of the clergy in general,
said that her profession as an actress had not hindered her from
being a good Christian, and that the earth was the common mother of
all human beings, as Jesus Christ had been the Saviour of all
You will forgive me, dear reader, if I have made you attend the
funeral of Silvia ten years before her death; believe me I have no
intention of performing a miracle; you may console yourself with the
idea that I shall spare you that unpleasant task when poor Silvia
Her only daughter, the object of her adoration, was seated next to
her at the supper-table. She was then only nine years old, and being
entirely taken up by her mother I paid no attention to her; my
interest in her was to come.
After the supper, which was protracted to a late hour, I repaired to
the house of Madame Quinson, my landlady, where I found myself very
comfortable. When I woke in the morning, the said Madame Quinson
came to my room to tell me that a servant was outside and wished to
offer me his services. I asked her to send him in, and I saw a man
of very small stature; that did not please me, and I told him so.
"My small stature, your honour, will be a guarantee that I shall
never borrow your clothes to go to some amorous rendezvous."
"Any name you please."
"What do you mean? I want the name by which you are known."
"I have none. Every master I serve calls me according to his fancy,
and I have served more than fifty in my life. You may call me what
"But you must have a family name."
"I never had any family. I had a name, I believe, in my young days,
but I have forgotten it since I have been in service. My name has
changed with every new master."
"Well! I shall call you Esprit."
"You do me a great honour."
"Here, go and get me change for a Louis."
"I have it, sir."
"I see you are rich."
"At your service, sir."
"Where can I enquire about you?"
"At the agency for servants. Madame Quinson, besides, can answer
your enquiries. Everybody in Paris knows me."
"That is enough. I shall give you thirty sous a day; you must find
your own clothes: you will sleep where you like, and you must be here
at seven o'clock every morning."
Baletti called on me and entreated me to take my meals every day at
his house. After his visit I told Esprit to take me to the Palais-
Royal, and I left him at the gates. I felt the greatest curiosity
about that renowned garden, and at first I examined everything. I
see a rather fine garden, walks lined with big trees, fountains, high
houses all round the garden, a great many men and women walking
about, benches here and there forming shops for the sale of
newspapers, perfumes, tooth-picks, and other trifles. I see a
quantity of chairs for hire at the rate of one sou, men reading the
newspaper under the shade of the trees, girls and men breakfasting
either alone or in company, waiters who were rapidly going up and
down a narrow staircase hidden under the foliage.
I sit down at a small table: a waiter comes immediately to enquire my
wishes. I ask for some chocolate made with water; he brings me some,
but very bad, although served in a splendid silver-gilt cup. I tell
him to give me some coffee, if it is good.
"Excellent, I made it myself yesterday."
"Yesterday! I do not want it."
"The milk is very good."
"Milk! I never drink any. Make me a cup of fresh coffee without
"Without milk! Well, sir, we never make coffee but in the afternoon.
Would you like a good bavaroise, or a decanter of orgeat?"
"Yes, give me the orgeat."
I find that beverage delicious, and make up my mind to have it daily
for my breakfast. I enquire from the waiter whether there is any
news; he answers that the dauphine has been delivered of a prince.
An abbe, seated at a table close by, says to him,--
"You are mad, she has given birth to a princess."
A third man comes forward and exclaims,--
"I have just returned from Versailles, and the dauphine has not been
delivered either of a prince or of a princess."
Then, turning towards me, he says that I look like a foreigner, and
when I say that I am an Italian he begins to speak to me of the
court, of the city, of the theatres, and at last he offers to
accompany me everywhere. I thank him and take my leave. The abbe
rises at the same time, walks with me, and tells me the names of all
the women we meet in the garden.
A young man comes up to him, they embrace one another, and the abbe
presents him to me as a learned Italian scholar. I address him in
Italian, and he answers very wittily, but his way of speaking makes
me smile, and I tell him why. He expressed himself exactly in the
style of Boccacio. My remark pleases him, but I soon prove to him
that it is not the right way to speak, however perfect may have been
the language of that ancient writer. In less than a quarter of an
hour we are excellent friends, for we find that our tastes are the
My new friend was a poet as I was; he was an admirer of Italian
literature, while I admired the French.
We exchanged addresses, and promise to see one another very often.
I see a crowd in one corner of the garden, everybody standing still
and looking up. I enquire from my friend whether there is anything
wonderful going on.
"These persons are watching the meridian; everyone holds his watch in
his hand in order to regulate it exactly at noon."
"Is there not a meridian everywhere?"
"Yes, but the meridian of the Palais-Royal is the most exact."
I laugh heartily.
"Why do you laugh?"
"Because it is impossible for all meridians not to be the same. That
is true 'badauderie'."
My friend looks at me for a moment, then he laughs likewise, and
supplies me with ample food to ridicule the worthy Parisians. We
leave the Palais-Royal through the main gate, and I observe another
crowd of people before a shop, on the sign-board of which I read "At
the Sign of the Civet Cat."
"What is the matter here?"
"Now, indeed, you are going to laugh. All these honest persons are
waiting their turn to get their snuff-boxes filled."
"Is there no other dealer in snuff?"
"It is sold everywhere, but for the last three weeks nobody will use
any snuff but that sold at the 'Civet Cat.'"
"Is it better than anywhere else?"
"Perhaps it is not as good, but since it has been brought into
fashion by the Duchesse de Chartres, nobody will have any other."
"But how did she manage to render it so fashionable?"
"Simply by stopping her carriage two or three times before the shop
to have her snuff-box filled, and by saying aloud to the young girl
who handed back the box that her snuff was the very best in Paris.
The 'badauds', who never fail to congregate near the carriage of
princes, no matter if they have seen them a hundred times, or if they
know them to be as ugly as monkeys, repeated the words of the duchess
everywhere, and that was enough to send here all the snuff-takers of
the capital in a hurry. This woman will make a fortune, for she
sells at least one hundred crowns' worth of snuff every day."
"Very likely the duchess has no idea of the good she has done."
"Quite the reverse, for it was a cunning artifice on her part. The
duchess, feeling interested in the newly-married young woman, and
wishing to serve her in a delicate manner, thought of that expedient
which has met with complete success. You cannot imagine how kind
Parisians are. You are now in the only country in the world where
wit can make a fortune by selling either a genuine or a false
article: in the first case, it receives the welcome of intelligent
and talented people, and in the second, fools are always ready to
reward it, for silliness is truly a characteristic of the people
here, and, however wonderful it may appear, silliness is the daughter
of wit. Therefore it is not a paradox to say that the French would
be wiser if they were less witty.
"The gods worshipped here although no altars are raised for them--are
Novelty and Fashion. Let a man run, and everybody will run after
him. The crowd will not stop, unless the man is proved to be mad;
but to prove it is indeed a difficult task, because we have a crowd
of men who, mad from their birth, are still considered wise.
"The snuff of the 'Civet Cat' is but one example of the facility with
which the crowd can be attracted to one particular spot. The king
was one day hunting, and found himself at the Neuilly Bridge; being
thirsty, he wanted a glass of ratafia. He stopped at the door of a
drinking-booth, and by the most lucky chance the poor keeper of the
place happened to have a bottle of that liquor. The king, after he
had drunk a small glass, fancied a second one, and said that he had
never tasted such delicious ratafia in his life. That was enough to
give the ratafia of the good man of Neuilly the reputation of being
the best in Europe: the king had said so. The consequence was that
the most brilliant society frequented the tavern of the delighted
publican, who is now a very wealthy man, and has built on the very
spot a splendid house on which can be read the following rather comic
motto: 'Ex liquidis solidum,' which certainly came out of the head of
one of the forty immortals. Which gods must the worthy tavern-keeper
worship? Silliness, frivolity, and mirth."
"It seems to me," I replied, "that such approval, such ratification
of the opinion expressed by the king, the princes of the blood, etc.,
is rather a proof of the affection felt for them by the nation, for
the French carry that affection to such an extent that they believe
"It is certain that everything here causes foreigners to believe that
the French people adore the king, but all thinking men here know well
enough that there is more show than reality in that adoration, and
the court has no confidence in it. When the king comes to Paris,
everybody calls out, 'Vive le Roi!' because some idle fellow begins,
or because some policeman has given the signal from the midst of the
crowd, but it is really a cry which has no importance, a cry given
out of cheerfulness, sometimes out of fear, and which the king
himself does not accept as gospel. He does not feel comfortable in
Paris, and he prefers being in Versailles, surrounded by twenty-five
thousand men who protect him against the fury of that same people of
Paris, who, if ever they became wiser, might very well one day call
out, 'Death to the King!' instead of, 'Long life to the King!' Louis
XIV. was well aware of it, and several councillors of the upper
chamber lost their lives for having advised the assembling of the
states-general in order to find some remedy for the misfortunes of
the country. France never had any love for any kings, with the
exception of St. Louis, of Louis XII, and of the great and good Henry
IV.; and even in the last case the love of the nation was not
sufficient to defend the king against the dagger of the Jesuits, an
accursed race, the enemy of nations as well as of kings. The present
king, who is weak and entirely led by his ministers, said candidly at
the time he was just recovering from illness, 'I am surprised at the
rejoicings of the people in consequence of my health being restored,
for I cannot imagine why they should love me so dearly.' Many kings
might repeat the same words, at least if love is to be measured
according to the amount of good actually done. That candid remark of
Louis XV. has been highly praised, but some philosopher of the court
ought to have informed him that he was so much loved because he had
been surnamed 'le bien aime'."
"Surname or nickname; but are there any philosophers at the court of
"No, for philosophers and courtiers are as widely different as light
and darkness; but there are some men of intelligence who champ the
bit from motives of ambition and interest."
As we were thus conversing, M. Patu (such was the name of my new
acquaintance) escorted me as far as the door of Silvia's house; he
congratulated me upon being one of her friends, and we parted
I found the amiable actress in good company. She introduced me to
all her guests, and gave me some particulars respecting every one of
them. The name of Crebillon struck my ear.
"What, sir!" I said to him, "am I fortunate enough to see you? For
eight years you have charmed me, for eight years I have longed to
know you. Listen, I beg 'of you."
I then recited the finest passage of his 'Zenobie et Rhadamiste',
which I had translated into blank verse. Silvia was delighted to see
the pleasure enjoyed by Crebillon in hearing, at the age of eighty,
his own lines in a language which he knew thoroughly and loved as
much as his own. He himself recited the same passage in French, and
politely pointed out the parts in which he thought that I had
improved on the original. I thanked him, but I was not deceived by
We sat down to supper, and, being asked what I had already seen in
Paris, I related everything I had done, omitting only my conversation
with Patu. After I had spoken for a long time, Crebillon, who had
evidently observed better than anyone else the road I had chosen in
order to learn the good as well as the bad qualities by his
countrymen, said to me,
"For the first day, sir, I think that what you have done gives great
hopes of you, and without any doubt you will make rapid progress.
You tell your story well, and you speak French in such a way as to be
perfectly understood; yet all you say is only Italian dressed in
French. That is a novelty which causes you to be listened to with
interest, and which captivates the attention of your audience; I must
even add that your Franco-Italian language is just the thing to
enlist in your favour the sympathy of those who listen to you,
because it is singular, new, and because you are in a country where
everybody worships those two divinities--novelty and singularity.
Nevertheless, you must begin to-morrow and apply yourself in good
earnest, in order to acquire a thorough knowledge of our language,
for the same persons who warmly applaud you now, will, in two or
three months, laugh at you."
"I believe it, sir, and that is what I fear; therefore the principal
object of my visit here is to devote myself entirely to the study of
the French language. But, sir, how shall I find a teacher? I am a
very unpleasant pupil, always asking questions, curious, troublesome,
insatiable, and even supposing that I could meet with the teacher I
require, I am afraid I am not rich enough to pay him."
"For fifty years, sir, I have been looking out for a pupil such as
you have just described yourself, and I would willingly pay you
myself if you would come to my house and receive my lessons. I
reside in the Marais, Rue de Douze Portes. I have the best Italian
poets. I will make you translate them into French, and you need not
be afraid of my finding you insatiable."
I accepted with joy. I did not know how to express my gratitude, but
both his offer and the few words of my answer bore the stamp of truth
Crebillon was a giant; he was six feet high, and three inches taller
than I. He had a good appetite, could tell a good story without
laughing, was celebrated for his witty repartees and his sociable
manners, but he spent his life at home, seldom going out, and seeing
hardly anyone because he always had a pipe in his mouth and was
surrounded by at least twenty cats, with which he would amuse himself
all day. He had an old housekeeper, a cook, and a man-servant. His
housekeeper had the management of everything; she never allowed him
to be in need of anything, and she gave no account of his money,
which she kept altogether, because he never asked her to render any
accounts. The expression of Crebillon's face was that of the lion's
or of the cat's, which is the same thing. He was one of the royal
censors, and he told me that it was an amusement for him. His
housekeeper was in the habit of reading him the works brought for his
examination, and she would stop reading when she came to a passage
which, in her opinion, deserved his censure, but sometimes they were
of a different opinion, and then their discussions were truly
amusing. I once heard the housekeeper send away an author with these
"Come again next week; we have had no time to examine your
During a whole year I paid M. Crebillon three visits every week, and
from him I learned all I know of the French language, but I found it
impossible to get rid of my Italian idioms. I remark that turn
easily enough when I meet with it in other people, but it flows
naturally from my pen without my being aware of it. I am satisfied
that, whatever I may do, I shall never be able to recognize it any
more than I can find out in what consists the bad Latin style so
constantly alleged against Livy.
I composed a stanza of eight verses on some subject which I do not
recollect, and I gave it to Crebillon, asking him to correct it. He
read it attentively, and said to me,
"These eight verses are good and regular, the thought is fine and
truly poetical, the style is perfect, and yet the stanza is bad."
"I do not know. I cannot tell you what is wanting. Imagine that you
see a man handsome, well made, amiable, witty-in fact, perfect,
according to your most severe judgment. A woman comes in, sees him,
looks at him, and goes away telling you that the man does not please
her. 'But what fault do you find in him, madam?' 'None, only he
does not please me.' You look again at the man, you examine him a
second time, and you find that, in order to give him a heavenly
voice, he has been deprived of that which constitutes a man, and you
are compelled to acknowledge that a spontaneous feeling has stood the
woman in good stead."
It was by that comparison that Crebillon explained to me a thing
almost inexplicable, for taste and feeling alone can account for a
thing which is subject to no rule whatever.
We spoke a great deal of Louis XIV., whom Crebillon had known well
for fifteen years, and he related several very curious anecdotes
which were generally unknown. Amongst other things he assured me
that the Siamese ambassadors were cheats paid by Madame de Maintenon.
He told us likewise that he had never finished his tragedy of
Cromwell, because the king had told him one day not to wear out his
pen on a scoundrel.
Crebillon mentioned likewise his tragedy of Catilina, and he told me
that, in his opinion, it was the most deficient of his works, but
that he never would have consented, even to make a good tragedy, to
represent Caesar as a young man, because he would in that case have
made the public laugh, as they would do if Madea were to appear
previous to her acquaintances with Jason.
He praised the talent of Voltaire very highly, but he accused him of
having stolen from him, Crebillon, the scene of the senate. He,
however, rendered him full justice, saying that he was a true
historian, and able to write history as well as tragedies, but that
he unfortunately adulterated history by mixing with it such a number
of light anecdotes and tales for the sake of rendering it more
attractive. According to Crebillon, the Man with the Iron Mask was
nothing but an idle tale, and he had been assured of it by Louis XIV.
On the day of my first meeting with Crebillon at Silvia's, 'Cenie', a
play by Madame de Graffigny, was performed at the Italian Theatre,
and I went away early in order to get a good seat in the pit.
The ladies all covered with diamonds, who were taking possession of
the private boxes, engrossed all my interest and all my attention. I
wore a very fine suit, but my open ruffles and the buttons all along
my coat shewed at once that I was a foreigner, for the fashion was
not the same in Paris. I was gaping in the air and listlessly
looking round, when a gentleman, splendidly dressed, and three times
stouter than I, came up and enquired whether I was a foreigner. I
answered affirmatively, and he politely asked me how I liked Paris.
I praised Paris very warmly. But at that moment a very stout lady,
brilliant with diamonds, entered the box near us. Her enormous size
astonished me, and, like a fool, I said to the gentleman:
"Who is that fat sow?"
"She is the wife of this fat pig."
"Ah! I beg your pardon a thousand times!"
But my stout gentleman cared nothing for my apologies, and very far
from being angry he almost choked with laughter. This was the happy
result of the practical and natural philosophy which Frenchmen
cultivate so well, and which insures the happiness of their existence
under an appearance of frivolity!
I was confused, I was in despair, but the stout gentleman continued
to laugh heartily. At last he left the pit, and a minute afterwards
I saw him enter the box and speak to his wife. I was keeping an eye
on them without daring to look at them openly, and suddenly the lady,
following the example of her husband, burst into a loud laugh. Their
mirth making me more uncomfortable, I was leaving the pit, when the
husband called out to me, "Sir! Sir!"
"I could not go away without being guilty of impoliteness, and I went
up to their box. Then, with a serious countenance and with great
affability, he begged my pardon for having laughed so much, and very
graciously invited me to come to his house and sup with them that
same evening. I thanked him politely, saying that I had a previous
engagement. But he renewed his entreaties, and his wife pressing me
in the most engaging manner I told them, in order to prove that I was
not trying to elude their invitation, that I was expected to sup at
"In that case I am certain," said the gentleman, "of obtaining your
release if you do not object. Allow me to go myself to Silvia."
It would have been uncourteous on my part to resist any longer. He
left the box and returned almost immediately with my friend Baletti,
who told me that his mother was delighted to see me making such
excellent acquaintances, and that she would expect to see me at
dinner the next day. He whispered to me that my new acquaintance was
M. de Beauchamp, Receiver-General of Taxes.
As soon as the performance was over, I offered my hand to madame, and
we drove to their mansion in a magnificent carriage. There I found
the abundance or rather the profusion which in Paris is exhibited by
the men of finance; numerous society, high play, good cheer, and open
cheerfulness. The supper was not over till one o'clock in the
morning. Madame's private carriage drove me to my lodgings. That
house offered me a kind welcome during the whole of my stay in Paris,
and I must add that my new friends proved very useful to me. Some
persons assert that foreigners find the first fortnight in Paris very
dull, because a little time is necessary to get introduced, but I was
fortunate enough to find myself established on as good a footing as I
could desire within twenty-four hours, and the consequence was that I
felt delighted with Paris, and certain that my stay would prove an
The next morning Patu called and made me a present of his prose
panegyric on the Marechal de Saxe. We went out together and took a
walk in the Tuileries, where he introduced me to Madame du Boccage,
who made a good jest in speaking of the Marechal de Saxe.
"It is singular," she said, "that we cannot have a 'De profundis' for
a man who makes us sing the 'Te Deum' so often."
As we left the Tuileries, Patu took me to the house of a celebrated
actress of the opera, Mademoiselle Le Fel, the favourite of all
Paris, and member of the Royal Academy of Music. She had three very
young and charming children, who were fluttering around her like
"I adore them," she said to me.
"They deserve adoration for their beauty," I answered, "although they
have all a different cast of countenance."
"No wonder! The eldest is the son of the Duke d'Anneci, the second
of Count d'Egmont, and the youngest is the offspring of Maison-Rouge,
who has just married the Romainville."
"Ah! pray excuse me, I thought you were the mother of the three."
"You were not mistaken, I am their mother."
As she said these words she looked at Patu, and both burst into
hearty laughter which did not make me blush, but which shewed me my
I was a, novice in Paris, and I had not been accustomed to see women
encroach upon the privilege which men alone generally enjoy. Yet
mademoiselle Le Fel was not a bold-faced woman; she was even rather
ladylike, but she was what is called above prejudices. If I had
known the manners of the time better, I should have been aware that
such things were every-day occurrences, and that the noblemen who
thus sprinkled their progeny everywhere were in the habit of leaving
their children in the hands of their mothers, who were well paid.
The more fruitful, therefore, these ladies were, the greater was
My want of experience often led me into serious blunders, and
Mademoiselle Le Fel would, I have no doubt, have laughed at anyone
telling her that I had some wit, after the stupid mistake of which I
had been guilty.
Another day, being at the house of Lani, ballet-master of the opera,
I saw five or six young girls of thirteen or fourteen years of age
accompanied by their mothers, and all exhibiting that air of modesty
which is the characteristic of a good education. I addressed a few
gallant words to them, and they answered me with down-cast eyes. One
of them having complained of the headache, I offered her my smelling-
bottle, and one of her companions said to her,
"Very likely you did not sleep well last night."
"Oh! it is not that," answered the modest-looking Agnes, "I think I
am in the family-way."
On receiving this unexpected reply from a girl I had taken for a
maiden, I said to her,
"I should never have supposed that you were married, madam."
She looked at me with evident surprise for a moment, then she turned
towards her friend, and both began to laugh immoderately. Ashamed,
but for them more than myself, I left the house with a firm
resolution never again to take virtue for granted in a class of women
amongst whom it is so scarce. To look for, even to suppose, modesty,
amongst the nymphs of the green room, is, indeed, to be very foolish;
they pride themselves upon having none, and laugh at those who are
simple enough to suppose them better than they are.
Thanks to my friend Patu, I made the acquaintance of all the women
who enjoyed some reputation in Paris. He was fond of the fair sex,
but unfortunately for him he had not a constitution like mine, and
his love of pleasure killed him very early. If he had lived, he
would have gone down to posterity in the wake of Voltaire, but he
paid the debt of nature at the age of thirty.
I learned from him the secret which several young French literati
employ in order to make certain of the perfection of their prose,
when they want to write anything requiring as perfect a style as they
can obtain, such as panegyrics, funeral orations, eulogies,
dedications, etc. It was by surprise that I wrested that secret from
Being at his house one morning, I observed on his table several
sheets of paper covered with dode-casyllabic blank verse.
I read a dozen of them, and I told him that, although the verses were
very fine, the reading caused me more pain than pleasure.
"They express the same ideas as the panegyric of the Marechal de
Saxe, but I confess that your prose pleases me a great deal more."
"My prose would not have pleased you so much, if it had not been at
first composed in blank verse."
"Then you take very great trouble for nothing."
"No trouble at all, for I have not the slightest difficulty in
writing that sort of poetry. I write it as easily as prose."
"Do you think that your prose is better when you compose it from your
"No doubt of it, it is much better, and I also secure the advantage
that my prose is not full of half verses which flow from the pen of
the writer without his being aware of it."
"Is that a fault?"
"A great one and not to be forgiven. Prose intermixed with
occasional verses is worse than prosaic poetry."
"Is it true that the verses which, like parasites, steal into a
funeral oration, must be sadly out of place?"
"Certainly. Take the example of Tacitus, who begins his history of
Rome by these words: 'Urbem Roman a principio reges habuere'. They
form a very poor Latin hexameter, which the great historian certainly
never made on purpose, and which he never remarked when he revised
his work, for there is no doubt that, if he had observed it, he would
have altered that sentence. Are not such verses considered a blemish
in Italian prose?"
"Decidedly. But I must say that a great many poor writers have
purposely inserted such verses into their prose, believing that they
would make it more euphonious. Hence the tawdriness which is justly
alleged against much Italian literature. But I suppose you are the
only writer who takes so much pains."
"The only one? Certainly not. All the authors who can compose blank
verses very easily, as I can, employ them when they intend to make a
fair copy of their prose. Ask Crebillon, the Abby de Voisenon,
La Harpe, anyone you like, and they will all tell you the same thing.
Voltaire was the first to have recourse to that art in the small
pieces in which his prose is truly charming. For instance, the
epistle to Madame du Chatelet, which is magnificent. Read it, and if
you find a single hemistich in it I will confess myself in the
I felt some curiosity about the matter, and I asked Crebillon about
it. He told me that Fatu was right, but he added that he had never
practised that art himself.
Patu wished very much to take me to the opera in order to witness the
effect produced upon me by the performance, which must truly astonish
an Italian. 'Les Fetes Venitiennes' was the title of the opera which
was in vogue just then--a title full of interest for me. We went for
our forty sous to the pit, in which, although the audience was
standing, the company was excellent, for the opera was the favourite
amusement of the Parisians.
After a symphony, very fine in its way and executed by an excellent
orchestra, the curtain rises, and I see a beautiful scene
representing the small St. Mark's Square in Venice, taken from the
Island of St. George, but I am shocked to see the ducal palace on my
left, and the tall steeple on my right, that is to say the very
reverse of reality. I laugh at this ridiculous mistake, and Patu, to
whom I say why I am laughing, cannot help joining me. The music,
very fine although in the ancient style, at first amused me on
account of its novelty, but it soon wearied me. The melopaeia
fatigued me by its constant and tedious monotony, and by the shrieks
given out of season. That melopaeia, of the French replaces--at
least they think so--the Greek melapaeia and our recitative which
they dislike, but which they would admire if they understood Italian.
The action of the opera was limited to a day in the carnival, when
the Venetians are in the habit of promenading masked in St. Mark's
Square. The stage was animated by gallants, procuresses, and women
amusing themselves with all sorts of intrigues. The costumes were
whimsical and erroneous, but the whole was amusing. I laughed very
heartily, and it was truly a curious sight for a Venetian, when I saw
the Doge followed by twelve Councillors appear on the stage, all
dressed in the most ludicrous style, and dancing a 'pas d'ensemble'.
Suddenly the whole of the pit burst into loud applause at the
appearance of a tall, well-made dancer, wearing a mask and an
enormous black wig, the hair of which went half-way down his back,
and dressed in a robe open in front and reaching to his heels. Patu
said, almost reverently, "It is the inimitable Dupres." I had heard
of him before, and became attentive. I saw that fine figure coming
forward with measured steps, and when the dancer had arrived in front
of the stage, he raised slowly his rounded arms, stretched them
gracefully backward and forward, moved his feet with precision and
lightness, took a few small steps, made some battements and
pirouettes, and disappeared like a butterfly. The whole had not
lasted half a minute. The applause burst from every part of the
house. I was astonished, and asked my friend the cause of all those
"We applaud the grace of Dupres and, the divine harmony of his
movements. He is now sixty years of age, and those who saw him forty
years ago say that he is always the same."
"What! Has he never danced in a different style?"
"He could not have danced in a better one, for his style is perfect,
and what can you want above perfection?"
"Nothing, unless it be a relative perfection."
"But here it is absolute. Dupres always does the same thing, and
everyday we fancy we see it for the first time. Such is the power of
the good and beautiful, of the true and sublime, which speak to the
soul. His dance is true harmony, the real dance, of which you have
no idea in Italy."
At the end of the second act, Dupres appeared again, still with a
mask, and danced to a different tune, but in my opinion doing exactly
the same as before. He advanced to the very footlights, and stopped
one instant in a graceful attitude. Patu wanted to force my
admiration, and I gave way. Suddenly everyone round me exclaimed,--
"Look! look! he is developing himself!"
And in reality he was like an elastic body which, in developing
itself, would get larger. I made Patu very happy by telling him that
Dupres was truly very graceful in all his movements. Immediately
after him we had a female dancer, who jumped about like a fury,
cutting to right and left, but heavily, yet she was applauded 'con
"This is," said Patu, "the famous Camargo. I congratulate you, my
friend, upon having arrived in Paris in time to see her, for she has
accomplished her twelfth lustre."
I confessed that she was a wonderful dancer.
"She is the first artist," continued my friend, "who has dared to
spring and jump on a French stage. None ventured upon doing it
before her, and, what is more extraordinary, she does not wear any
"I beg your pardon, but I saw...."
"What? Nothing but her skin which, to speak the truth, is not made
of lilies and roses."
"The Camargo," I said, with an air of repentance, "does not please
me. I like Dupres much better."
An elderly admirer of Camargo, seated on my left, told me that in her
youth she could perform the 'saut de basque' and even the
'gargouillade', and that nobody had ever seen her thighs, although
she always danced without drawers.
"But if you never saw her thighs, how do you know that she does not
wear silk tights?"
"Oh! that is one of those things which can easily be ascertained. I
see you are a foreigner, sir."
"You are right."
But I was delighted at the French opera, with the rapidity of the
scenic changes which are done like lightning, at the signal of a
whistle--a thing entirely unknown in Italy. I likewise admired the
start given to the orchestra by the baton of the leader, but he
disgusted me with the movements of his sceptre right and left, as if
he thought that he could give life to all the instruments by the mere
motion of his arm. I admired also the silence of the audience, a
thing truly wonderful to an Italian, for it is with great reason that
people complain of the noise made in Italy while the artists are
singing, and ridicule the silence which prevails through the house as
soon as the dancers make their appearance on the stage. One would
imagine that all the intelligence of the Italians is in their eyes.
At the same time I must observe that there is not one country in the
world in which extravagance and whimsicalness cannot be found,
because the foreigner can make comparisons with what he has seen
elsewhere, whilst the natives are not conscious of their errors.
Altogether the opera pleased me, but the French comedy captivated me.
There the French are truly in their element; they perform splendidly,
in a masterly manner, and other nations cannot refuse them the palm
which good taste and justice must award to their superiority. I was
in the habit of going there every day, and although sometimes the
audience was not composed of two hundred persons, the actors were
perfect. I have seen 'Le Misanthrope', 'L'Avare', 'Tartufe', 'Le
Joueur', 'Le Glorieux', and many other comedies; and, no matter how
often I saw them. I always fancied it was the first time. I arrived
in Paris to admire Sarrazin, La Dangeville, La Dumesnil, La Gaussin,
La Clairon, Preville, and several actresses who, having retired from
the stage, were living upon their pension, and delighting their
circle of friends. I made, amongst others, the acquaintance of the
celebrated Le Vasseur. I visited them all with pleasure, and they
related to me several very curious anecdotes. They were generally
most kindly disposed in every way.
One evening, being in the box of Le Vasseur, the performance was
composed of a tragedy in which a very handsome actress had the part
of a dumb priestess.
"How pretty she is!" I said.
"Yes, charming," answered Le Vasseur, "She is the daughter of the
actor who plays the confidant. She is very pleasant in company, and
is an actress of good promise."
"I should be very happy to make her acquaintance."
"Oh! well; that is not difficult. Her father and mother are very
worthy people, and they will be delighted if you ask them to invite
you to supper. They will not disturb you; they will go to bed early,
and will let you talk with their daughter as long as you please. You
are in France, sir; here we know the value of life, and try to make
the best of it. We love pleasure, and esteem ourselves fortunate
when we can find the opportunity of enjoying life."
"That is truly charming, madam; but how could I be so bold as to
invite myself to supper with worthy persons whom I do not know, and
who have not the slightest knowledge of me?"
"Oh, dear me! What are you saying? We know everybody. You see how
I treat you myself. After the performance, I shall be happy to
introduce you, and the acquaintance will be made at once."
"I certainly must ask you to do me that honour, but another time."
"Whenever you like."
My Blunders in the French Language, My Success, My Numerous
Acquaintances--Louis XV.--My Brother Arrives in Paris.
All the Italian actors in Paris insisted upon entertaining me, in
order to shew me their magnificence, and they all did it in a
sumptuous style. Carlin Bertinazzi who played Harlequin, and was a
great favourite of the Parisians, reminded me that he had already
seen me thirteen years before in Padua, at the time of his return
from St. Petersburg with my mother. He offered me an excellent
dinner at the house of Madame de la Caillerie, where he lodged. That
lady was in love with him. I complimented her upon four charming
children whom I saw in the house. Her husband, who was present, said
"They are M. Carlin's children."
"That may be, sir, but you take care of them, and as they go by your
name, of course they will acknowledge you as their father."
"Yes, I should be so legally; but M. Carlin is too honest a man not
to assume the care of his children whenever I may wish to get rid of
them. He is well aware that they belong to him, and my wife would be
the first to complain if he ever denied it."
The man was not what is called a good, easy fellow, far from it; but
he took the matter in a philosophical way, and spoke of it with calm,
and even with a sort of dignity. He was attached to Carlin by a warm
friendship, and such things were then very common in Paris amongst
people of a certain class. Two noblemen, Boufflers and Luxembourg,
had made a friendly exchange of each other's wives, and each had
children by the other's wife. The young Boufflers were called
Luxembourg, and the young Luxembourg were called Boufflers. The
descendants of those tiercelets are even now known in France under
those names. Well, those who were in the secret of that domestic
comedy laughed, as a matter of course, and it did not prevent the
earth from moving according to the laws of gravitation.
The most wealthy of the Italian comedians in Paris was Pantaloon, the
father of Coraline and Camille, and a well-known usurer. He also
invited me to dine with his family, and I was delighted with his two
daughters. The eldest, Coraline, was kept by the Prince of Monaco,
son of the Duke of Valentinois, who was still alive; and Camille was
enamoured of the Count of Melfort, the favourite of the Duchess of
Chartres, who had just become Duchess of Orleans by the death of her
Coraline was not so sprightly as Camille, but she was prettier. I
began to make love to her as a young man of no consequence, and at
hours which I thought would not attract attention: but all hours
belong by right to the established lover, and I therefore found
myself sometimes with her when the Prince of Monaco called to see
her. At first I would bow to the prince and withdraw, but afterwards
I was asked to remain, for as a general thing princes find a tete-a-
tete with their mistresses rather wearisome. Therefore we used to
sup together, and they both listened, while it was my province to
eat, and to relate stories.
I bethought myself of paying my court to the prince, and he received
my advances very well. One morning, as I called on Coraline, he said
"Ah! I am very glad to see you, for I have promised the Duchess of
Rufe to present you to her, and we can go to her immediately."
Again a duchess! My star is decidedly in the ascendant. Well, let
us go! We got into a 'diable', a sort of vehicle then very
fashionable, and at eleven o'clock in the morning we were introduced
to the duchess.
Dear reader, if I were to paint it with a faithful pen, my portrait
of that lustful vixen would frighten you. Imagine sixty winters
heaped upon a face plastered with rouge, a blotched and pimpled
complexion, emaciated and gaunt features, all the ugliness of
libertinism stamped upon the countenance of that creature relining
upon the sofa. As soon as she sees me, she exclaims with rapid joy,
"Ah! this is a good-looking man! Prince, it is very amiable on your
part to bring him to me. Come and sit near me, my fine fellow!"
I obeyed respectfully, but a noxious smell of musk, which seemed to
me almost corpse-like, nearly upset me. The infamous duchess had
raised herself on the sofa and exposed all the nakedness of the most
disgusting bosom, which would have caused the most courageous man to
draw back. The prince, pretending to have some engagement, left us,
saying that he would send his carriage for me in a short time.
As soon as we were alone, the plastered skeleton thrust its arms
forward, and, without giving me time to know what I was about, the
creature gave me a horrible kiss, and then one of her hands began to
stray with the most bare-faced indecency.
"Let me see, my fine cock," she said, "if you have a fine . . ."
I was shuddering, and resisted the attempt.
"Well, well! What a baby you are!" said the disgusting Messaline;
"are you such a novice?"
"No, madam; but...."
"Oh, the villain!" she exclaimed, loosing her hold; "what was I going
to expose myself to!"
I availed myself of the opportunity, snatched my hat, and took to my
heels, afraid lest the door-keeper should stop me.
I took a coach and drove to Coraline's, where I related the
adventure. She laughed heartily, and agreed with me that the prince
had played me a nasty trick. She praised the presence of mind with
which I had invented an impediment, but she did not give me an
opportunity of proving to her that I had deceived the duchess.
Yet I was not without hope, and suspected that she did not think me
sufficiently enamoured of her.
Three or four days afterwards, however, as we had supper together and
alone, I told her so many things, and I asked her so clearly to make
me happy or else to dismiss me, that she gave me an appointment for
the next day.
"To-morrow," she said, "the prince goes to Versailles, and he will
not return until the day after; we will go together to the warren to
hunt ferrets, and have no doubt we shall come back to Paris pleased
with one another."
"That is right."
The next day at ten o'clock we took a coach, but as we were nearing
the gate of the city a vis-a-vis, with servants in a foreign livery
came tip to us, and the person who was in it called out, "Stop!
The person was the Chevalier de Wurtemburg, who, without deigning to
cast even one glance on me, began to say sweet words to Coraline, and
thrusting his head entirely out of his carriage he whispered to her.
She answered him likewise in a whisper; then taking my hand, she said
to me, laughingly,
"I have some important business with this prince; go to the warren
alone, my dear friend, enjoy the hunt, and come to me to-morrow."
And saying those words she got out, took her seat in the vis-a-vis,
and I found myself very much in the position of Lot's wife, but not
Dear reader, if you have ever been in such a predicament you will
easily realize the rage with which I was possessed: if you have never
been served in that way, so much the better for you, but it is
useless for me to try to give you an idea of my anger; you would not
I was disgusted with the coach, and I jumped out of it, telling the
driver to go to the devil. I took the first hack which happened to
pass, and drove straight to Patu's house, to whom I related my
adventure, almost foaming with rage. But very far from pitying me or
sharing my anger, Patu, much wiser, laughed and said,
"I wish with all my heart that the same thing might happen to me; for
you are certain of possessing our beautiful Coraline the very first
time you are with her."
"I would not have her, for now I despise her heartily." "Your
contempt ought to have come sooner. But, now that is too late to
discuss the matter, I offer you, as a compensation, a dinner at the
Hotel du Roule."
"Most decidedly yes; it is an excellent idea. Let us go."
The Hotel du Roule was famous in Paris, and I had not been there yet.
The woman who kept it had furnished the place with great elegance,
and she always had twelve or fourteen well-chosen nymphs, with all
the conveniences that could be desired. Good cooking, good beds,
cleanliness, solitary and beautiful groves. Her cook was an artist,
and her wine-cellar excellent. Her name was Madame Paris; probably
an assumed name, but it was good enough for the purpose. Protected
by the police, she was far enough from Paris to be certain that those
who visited her liberally appointed establishment were above the
middle class. Everything was strictly regulated in her house and
every pleasure was taxed at a reasonable tariff. The prices were six
francs for a breakfast with a nymph, twelve for dinner, and twice
that sum to spend a whole night. I found the house even better than
its reputation, and by far superior to the warren.
We took a coach, and Patu said to the driver,
"I understand, your honour."
After a drive of half an hour, we stopped before a gate on which
could be read, "Hotel du Roule."
The gate was closed. A porter, sporting long mustachioes, came out
through a side-door and gravely examined us. He was most likely
pleased with our appearance, for the gate was opened and we went in.
A woman, blind of one eye, about forty years old, but with a remnant
of beauty, came up, saluted us politely, and enquired whether we
wished to have dinner. Our answer being affirmative, she took us to
a fine room in which we found fourteen young women, all very
handsome, and dressed alike in muslin. As we entered the room, they
rose and made us a graceful reverence; they were all about the same
age, some with light hair, some with dark; every taste could be
satisfied. We passed them in review, addressing a few words to each,
and made our choice. The two we chose screamed for joy, kissed us
with a voluptuousness which a novice might have mistaken for love,
and took us to the garden until dinner would be ready. That garden
was very large and artistically arranged to minister to the pleasures
of love. Madame Paris said to us,
"Go, gentlemen, enjoy the fresh air with perfect security in every
way; my house is the temple of peace and of good health."
The girl I had chosen was something like Coraline, and that made me
find her delightful. But in the midst of our amorous occupations we
were called to dinner. We were well served, and the dinner had given
us new strength, when our single-eyed hostess came, watch in hand, to
announce that time was up. Pleasure at the "Hotel du Roule" was
measured by the hour.
I whispered to Patu, and, after a few philosophical considerations,
addressing himself to madame la gouvernante, he said to her,
"We will have a double dose, and of course pay double."
"You are quite welcome, gentlemen."
We went upstairs, and after we had made our choice a second time, we
renewed our promenade in the garden. But once more we were
disagreeably surprised by the strict punctuality of the lady of the
house. "Indeed! this is too much of a good thing, madam."
"Let us go up for the third time, make a third choice, and pass the
whole night here."
"A delightful idea which I accept with all my heart."
"Does Madame Paris approve our plan?"
"I could not have devised a better one, gentlemen; it is a
When we were in the room, and after we had made a new choice, the
girls laughed at the first ones who had not contrived to captivate
us, and by way of revenge these girls told their companions that we
were lanky fellows.
This time I was indeed astonished at my own choice. I had taken a
true Aspasia, and I thanked my stars that I had passed her by the
first two times, as I had now the certainty of possessing her for
fourteen hours. That beauty's name was Saint Hilaire; and under that
name she became famous in England, where she followed a rich lord the
year after. At first, vexed because I had not remarked her before,
she was proud and disdainful; but I soon proved to her that it was
fortunate that my first or second choice had not fallen on her, as
she would now remain longer with me. She then began to laugh, and
shewed herself very agreeable.
That girl had wit, education and talent-everything, in fact, that is
needful to succeed in the profession she had adopted. During the
supper Patu told me in Italian that he was on the point of taking her
at the very moment I chose her, and the next morning he informed me
that he had slept quietly all night. The Saint Hilaire was highly
pleased with me, and she boasted of it before her companions. She
was the cause of my paying several visits to the Hotel du Roule, and
all for her; she was very proud of my constancy.
Those visits very naturally cooled my ardour for Coraline. A singer
from Venice, called Guadani, handsome, a thorough musician, and very
witty, contrived to captivate her affections three weeks after my
quarrel with her. The handsome fellow, who was a man only in
appearance, inflamed her with curiosity if not with love, and caused
a rupture with the prince, who caught her in the very act. But
Coraline managed to coax him back, and, a short time after, a
reconciliation took place between them, and such a good one, that a
babe was the consequence of it; a girl, whom the prince named
Adelaide, and to whom he gave a dowry. After the death of his
father, the Duke of Valentinois, the prince left her altogether and
married Mlle. de Brignole, from Genoa. Coraline became the mistress
of Count de la Marche, now Prince de Conti. Coraline is now dead, as
well as a son whom she had by the count, and whom his father named
Count de Monreal.
Madame la Dauphine was delivered of a princess, who received the
title of Madame de France.
In the month of August the Royal Academy had an exhibition at the
Louvre, and as there was not a single battle piece I conceived the
idea of summoning my brother to Paris. He was then in Venice, and he
had great talent in that particular style. Passorelli, the only
painter of battles known in France, was dead, and I thought that
Francois might succeed and make a fortune. I therefore wrote to M.
Grimani and to my brother; I persuaded them both, but Francois did
not come to Paris till the beginning of the following year.
Louis XV., who was passionately fond of hunting, was in the habit of
spending six weeks every year at the Chateau of Fontainebleau. He
always returned to Versailles towards the middle of November. That
trip cost him, or rather cost France, five millions of francs. He
always took with him all that could contribute to the amusement of
the foreign ambassadors and of his numerous court. He was followed
by the French and the Italian comedians, and by the actors and
actresses of the opera.
During those six weeks Fontainebleau was more brilliant than
Versailles; nevertheless, the artists attached to the theatres were
so numerous that the Opera, the French and Italian Comedies, remained
open in Paris.
Baletti's father, who had recovered his health, was to go to
Fontainebleau with Silvia and all his family. They invited me to
accompany them, and to accept a lodging in a house hired by them.
It was a splendid opportunity; they were my friends, and I accepted,
for I could not have met with a better occasion to see the court and
all the foreign ministers. I presented myself to M. de Morosini, now
Procurator at St. Mark's, and then ambassador from the Republic to
the French court.
The first night of the opera he gave me permission to accompany him;
the music was by Lulli. I had a seat in the pit precisely under the
private box of Madame de Pompadour, whom I did not know. During the
first scene the celebrated Le Maur gave a scream so shrill and so
unexpected that I thought she had gone mad. I burst into a genuine
laugh, not supposing that any one could possibly find fault with it.
But a knight of the Order of the Holy Ghost, who was near the
Marquise de Pompadour, dryly asked me what country I came from. I
answered, in the same tone,
"I have been there, and have laughed heartily at the recitative in
"I believe you, sir, and I feel certain that no one ever thought of
objecting to your laughing."
My answer, rather a sharp one, made Madame de Pompadour laugh, and
she asked me whether I truly came from down there.
"What do you mean by down there?"
"I mean Venice."
"Venice, madam, is not down there, but up there."
That answer was found more singular than the first, and everybody in
the box held a consultation in order to ascertain whether Venice was
down or up. Most likely they thought I was right, for I was left
alone. Nevertheless, I listened to the opera without laughing; but
as I had a very bad cold I blew my nose often. The same gentleman
addressing himself again to me, remarked that very likely the windows
of my room did not close well. That gentleman, who was unknown to me
was the Marechal de Richelieu. I told him he was mistaken, for my
windows were well 'calfoutrees'. Everyone in the box burst into a
loud laugh, and I felt mortified, for I knew my mistake; I ought to
have said 'calfeutrees'. But these 'eus' and 'ous' cause dire misery
to all foreigners.
Half an hour afterwards M. de Richelieu asked me which of the two
actresses pleased me most by her beauty.
"That one, sir."
"But she has ugly legs."
"They are not seen, sir; besides, whenever I examine the beauty of a
woman, 'la premiere chose que j'ecarte, ce sont les jambes'."
That word said quite by chance, and the double meaning of which I did
not understand, made at once an important personage of me, and
everybody in the box of Madame de Pompadour was curious to know me.
The marshal learned who I was from M. de Morosini, who told me that
the duke would be happy to receive me. My 'jeu de mots' became
celebrated, and the marshal honoured me with a very gracious welcome.
Among the foreign ministers, the one to whom I attached myself most
was Lord Keith, Marshal of Scotland and ambassador of the King of
Prussia. I shall have occasion to speak of him.
The day after my arrival in Fontainebleau I went alone to the court,
and I saw Louis XV., the handsome king, go to the chapel with the
royal family and all the ladies of the court, who surprised me by
their ugliness as much as the ladies of the court of Turin had
astonished me by their beauty. Yet in the midst of so many ugly ones
I found out a regular beauty. I enquired who she was.
"She is," answered one of my neighbours, "Madame de Brionne, more
remarkable by her virtue even than by her beauty. Not only is there
no scandalous story told about her, but she has never given any
opportunity to scandal-mongers of inventing any adventure of which
she was the heroine."
"Perhaps her adventures are not known."
"Ah, monsieur! at the court everything is known."
I went about alone, sauntering through the apartments, when suddenly
I met a dozen ugly ladies who seemed to be running rather than
walking; they were standing so badly upon their legs that they
appeared as if they would fall forward on their faces. Some
gentleman happened to be near me, curiosity impelled me to enquire
where they were coming from, and where they were going in such haste.
"They are coming from the apartment of the queen who is going to
dine, and the reason why they walk so badly is that their shoes have
heels six inches high, which compel them to walk on their toes and
with bent knees in order to avoid falling on their faces."
"But why do they not wear lower heels?"
"It is the fashion."
"What a stupid fashion!"
I took a gallery at random, and saw the king passing along, leaning
with one arm on the shoulder of M. d'Argenson. "Oh, base servility!"
I thought to myself. "How can a man make up his mind thus to bear
the yoke, and how can a man believe himself so much above all others
as to take such unwarrantable liberties!"
Louis XV. had the most magnificent head it was possible to see, and
he carried it with as much grace as majesty. Never did even the most
skilful painter succeed in rendering justice to the expression of
that beautiful head, when the king turned it on one side to look with
kindness at anyone. His beauty and grace compelled love at once. As
I saw him, I thought I had found the ideal majesty which I had been
so surprised not to find in the king of Sardinia, and I could not
entertain a doubt of Madame de Pompadour having been in love with the
king when she sued for his royal attention. I was greatly mistaken,
perhaps, but such a thought was natural in looking at the countenance
of Louis XV.
I reached a splendid room in which I saw several courtiers walking
about, and a table large enough for twelve persons, but laid out only
"For whom is this table?"
"For the queen. Her majesty is now coming in."
It was the queen of France, without rouge, and very simply dressed;
her head was covered with a large cap; she looked old and devout.
When she was near the table, she graciously thanked two nuns who were
placing a plate with fresh butter on it. She sat down, and
immediately the courtiers formed a semicircle within five yards of
the table; I remained near them, imitating their respectful silence.
Her majesty began to eat without looking at anyone, keeping her eyes
on her plate. One of the dishes being to her taste, she desired to
be helped to it a second time, and she then cast her eyes round the
circle of courtiers, probably in order to see if among them there was
anyone to whom she owed an account of her daintiness. She found that
person, I suppose, for she said,
"Monsieur de Lowendal!"
At that name, a fine-looking man came forward with respectful
inclination, and said,
"I believe this is a fricassee of chickens."
"I am of the same opinion, madam."
After this answer, given in the most serious tone, the queen
continued eating, and the marshal retreated backward to his original
place. The queen finished her dinner without uttering a single word,
and retired to her apartments the same way as she had come. I
thought that if such was the way the queen of France took all her
meals, I would not sue for the honour of being her guest.
I was delighted to have seen the famous captain who had conquered
Bergen-op-Zoom, but I regretted that such a man should be compelled
to give an answer about a fricassee of chickens in the serious tone
of a judge pronouncing a sentence of death.
I made good use of this anecdote at the excellent dinner Silvia gave
to the elite of polite and agreeable society.
A few days afterwards, as I was forming a line with a crowd of
courtiers to enjoy the ever new pleasure of seeing the king go to
mass, a pleasure to which must be added the advantage of looking at
the naked and entirely exposed arms and bosoms of Mesdames de France,
his daughters, I suddenly perceived the Cavamacchia, whom I had left
in Cesena under the name of Madame Querini. If I was astonished to
see her, she was as much so in meeting me in such a place. The
Marquis of Saint Simon, premier 'gentilhomme' of the Prince de Conde,
"Madame Querini in Fontainebleau?"
"You here? It reminds me of Queen Elizabeth saying,
"'Pauper ubique facet.'"
"An excellent comparison, madam."
"I am only joking, my dear friend; I am here to see the king, who
does not know me; but to-morrow the ambassador will present me to his
She placed herself in the line within a yard or two from me, beside
the door by which the king was to come. His majesty entered the
gallery with M. de Richelieu, and looked at the so-called Madame
Querini. But she very likely did not take his fancy, for, continuing
to walk on, he addressed to the marshal these remarkable words, which
Juliette must have overheard,
"We have handsomer women here."
In the afternoon I called upon the Venetian ambassador. I found him
in numerous company, with Madame Querini sitting on his right. She
addressed me in the most flattering and friendly manner; it was
extraordinary conduct on the part of a giddy woman who had no cause
to like me, for she was aware that I knew her thoroughly, and that I
had mastered her vanity; but as I understood her manoeuvring I made
up my mind not to disoblige her, and even to render her all the good
offices I could; it was a noble revenge.
As she was speaking of M. Querini, the ambassador congratulated her
upon her marriage with him, saying that he was glad M. Querini had
rendered justice to her merit, and adding,
"I was not aware of your marriage."
"Yet it took place more than two years since," said Juliette.
"I know it for a fact," I said, in my turn; "for, two years ago, the
lady was introduced as Madame Querini and with the title of
excellency by General Spada to all the nobility in Cesena, where I
was at that time."
"I have no doubt of it," answered the ambassador, fixing his eyes
upon me, "for Querini has himself written to me on the subject."
A few minutes afterwards, as I was preparing to take my leave, the
ambassador, under pretense of some letters the contents of which he
wished to communicate to me, invited me to come into his private
room, and he asked me what people generally thought of the marriage
"Nobody knows it, and it is even rumoured that the heir of the house
of Querini is on the point of marrying a daughter of the Grimani
family; but I shall certainly send the news to Venice."
"That Juliette is truly Madame Querini, since your excellency will
present her as such to Louis XV."
"Who told you so?"
"Perhaps she has altered her mind."
I repeated to the ambassador the words which the king had said to
M. de Richelieu after looking at Juliette.
"Then I can guess," remarked the ambassador, "why Juliette does not
wish to be presented to the king."
I was informed some time afterwards that M. de Saint Quentin, the
king's confidential minister, had called after mass on the handsome
Venetian, and had told her that the king of France had most certainly
very bad taste, because he had not thought her beauty superior to
that of several ladies of his court. Juliette left Fontainebleau the
In the first part of my Memoirs I have spoken of Juliette's beauty;
she had a wonderful charm in her countenance, but she had already
used her advantages too long, and her beauty was beginning to fade
when she arrived in Fontainebleau.
I met her again in Paris at the ambassador's, and she told me with a
laugh that she had only been in jest when she called herself Madame
Querini, and that I should oblige her if for the future I would call
her by her real name of Countess Preati. She invited me to visit her
at the Hotel de Luxembourg, where she was staying. I often called on
her, for her intrigues amused me, but I was wise enough not to meddle
She remained in Paris four months, and contrived to infatuate M.
Ranchi, secretary of the Venetian Embassy, an amiable and learned
man. He was so deeply in love that he had made up his mind to marry
her; but through a caprice which she, perhaps, regretted afterwards,
she ill-treated him, and the fool died of grief. Count de Canes.
ambassador of Maria Theresa, had some inclination for her, as well as
the Count of Zinzendorf. The person who arranged these transient and
short-lived intrigues was a certain Guasco, an abbe not over-favoured
with the gifts of Plutus. He was particularly ugly, and had to
purchase small favours with great services.
But the man whom she really wished to marry was Count Saint Simon.
He would have married her if she had not given him false addresses to
make enquiries respecting her birth. The Preati family of Verona
denied all knowledge of her, as a matter of course, and M. de Saint
Simon, who, in spite of all his love, had not entirely lost his
senses, had the courage to abandon her. Altogether, Paris did not
prove an 'el dorado' for my handsome countrywoman, for she was
obliged to pledge her diamonds, and to leave them behind her. After
her return to Venice she married the son of the Uccelli, who sixteen
years before had taken her out of her poverty. She died ten years
I was still taking my French lessons with my good old Crebillon; yet
my style, which was full of Italianisms, often expressed the very
reverse of what I meant to say. But generally my 'quid pro quos'
only resulted in curious jokes which made my fortune; and the best of
it is that my gibberish did me no harm on the score of wit: on the
contrary, it procured me fine acquaintances.
Several ladies of the best society begged me to teach them Italian,
saying that it would afford them the opportunity of teaching me
French; in such an exchange I always won more than they did.
Madame Preodot, who was one of my pupils, received me one morning;
she was still in bed, and told me that she did not feel disposed to
have a lesson, because she had taken medicine the night previous.
Foolishly translating an Italian idiom, I asked her, with an air of
deep interest, whether she had well 'decharge'?
"Sir, what a question! You are unbearable."
I repeated my question; she broke out angrily again.
"Never utter that dreadful word."
"You are wrong in getting angry; it is the proper word."
"A very dirty word, sir, but enough about it. Will you have some
"No, I thank you. I have taken a 'cafe' and two 'Savoyards'."
"Dear me! What a ferocious breakfast! Pray, explain yourself."
"I say that I have drunk a cafe and eaten two Savoyards soaked in it,
and that is what I do every morning."
"You are stupid, my good friend. A cafe is the establishment in
which coffee is sold, and you ought to say that you have drunk 'use
tasse de cafe'"
"Good indeed! Do you drink the cup? In Italy we say a 'caffs', and
we are not foolish enough to suppose that it means the coffee-house."
"He will have the best of it! And the two 'Savoyards', how did you
"Soaked in my coffee, for they were not larger than these on your
"And you call these 'Savoyards'? Say biscuits."
"In Italy, we call them 'Savoyards' because they were first invented
in Savoy; and it is not my fault if you imagined that I had swallowed
two of the porters to be found at the corner of the streets--big
fellows whom you call in Paris Savoyards, although very often they
have never been in Savoy."
Her husband came in at that moment, and she lost no time in relating