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A Residence in France During the Years 1792, 1793, 1794 and 1795, by An English Lady

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_tabouret,_* or _les grandes ou petites entrees;_ but from the gentry,
those of easy fortunes, merchants, &c.--in fact, from people of that
degree which it would be fair to cite as what may be called genteel
society in England.

* The tabouret was a stool allowed to the Ladies of the Court
particularly distinguished by rank or favour, when in presence of
the Royal Family.--"Les entrees" gave a familiar access to the King
and Queen.

This cessation of intercourse with our country dispirits me, and, as it
will probably continue some time, I shall amuse myself by noting more
particularly the little occurrences which may not reach your public
prints, but which tend more than great events to mark both the spirit of
the government and that of the people.--Perhaps you may be ignorant that
the prohibition of the English mails was not the consequence of a decree
of the Convention, but a simple order of its commissioners; and I have
some reason to think that even they acted at the instigation of an
individual who harbours a mean and pitiful dislike to England and its
inhabitants.--Yours, &c.

May 18, 1793.

Near six weeks ago a decree was passed by the Convention, obliging all
strangers, who had not purchased national property, or who did not
exercise some profession, to give security to the amount of half their
supposed fortune, and under these conditions they were to receive a
certificate, allowing them to reside, and were promised the protection of
the laws. The administrators of the departments, who perceive that they
become odious by executing the decrees of the Convention, begin to relax
much of their diligence, and it is not till long after a law is
promulgated, and their personal fear operates as a stimulant, that they
seriously enforce obedience to these mandates. This morning, however, we
were summoned by the Committee of our section (or ward) in order to
comply with the terms of the decree, and had I been directed only by my
own judgement, I should have given the preference to an immediate return
to England; but Mrs. D____ is yet ill, and Mr. D____ is disposed to
continue. In vain have I quoted "how fickle France was branded 'midst
the nations of the earth for perfidy and breach of public faith;" in vain
have I reasoned upon the injustice of a government that first allured
strangers to remain by insidious offers of protection, and now subjects
them to conditions which many may find it difficult to subscribe to: Mr.
D____ wishes to see our situation in the most favourable point of view:
he argues upon the moral impossibility of our being liable to any
inconvenience, and persists in believing that one government may act with
treachery towards another, yet, distinguishing between falsehood and
meanness, maintain its faith with individuals--in short, we have
concluded a sort of treaty, by which we are bound, under the forfeiture
of a large sum, to behave peaceably and submit to the laws. The
government, in return, empowers us to reside, and promises protection and

It is to be observed, that the spirit of this regulation depends upon
those it affects producing six witnesses of their _"civisme;"_* yet so
little interest do the people take on these occasions, that our witnesses
were neighbours we had scarcely ever seen, and even one was a man who
happened to be casually passing by.

* Though the meaning of this word is obvious, we have no one that is
exactly synonymous to it. The Convention intend by it an attachment
to their government: but the people do not trouble themselves about
the meaning of words--they measure their unwilling obedience by the

These Committees, which form the last link of a chain of despotism, are
composed of low tradesmen and day-labourers, with an attorney, or some
person that can read and write, at their head, as President. Priests and
nobles, with all that are related, or anywise attached, to them, are
excluded by the law; and it is understood that true sans-culottes only
should be admitted.

With all these precautions, the indifference and hatred of the people to
their government are so general, that, perhaps, there are few places
where this regulation is executed so as to answer the purposes of the
jealous tyranny that conceived it. The members of these Committees seem
to exact no farther compliances than such as are absolutely necessary to
the mere form of the proceeding, and to secure themselves from the
imputation of disobedience; and are very little concerned whether the
real design of the legislature be accomplished or not. This negligence,
or ill-will, which prevails in various instances, tempers, in some
degree, the effect of that restless suspicion which is the usual
concomitant of an uncertain, but arbitrary, power. The affections or
prejudices that surround a throne, by ensuring the safety of the Monarch,
engage him to clemency, and the laws of a mild government are, for the
most part, enforced with exactness; but a new and precarious authority,
which neither imposes on the understanding nor interests the heart, which
is supported only by a palpable and unadorned tyranny, is in its nature
severe, and it becomes the common cause of the people to counteract the
measures of a despotism which they are unable to resist.--This (as I have
before had occasion to observe) renders the condition of the French less
insupportable, but it is by no means sufficient to banish the fears of a
stranger who has been accustomed to look for security, not from a
relaxation or disregard of the laws, but from their efficacy; not from
the characters of those who execute them, but from the rectitude with
which they are formed.--What would you think in England, if you were
obliged to contemplate with dread the three branches of your legislature,
and depend for the protection of your person and property on soldiers and
constables? Yet such is nearly the state we are in; and indeed a system
of injustice and barbarism gains ground so fast, that almost any
apprehension is justified.--The Tribunal Revolutionnaire has already
condemned a servant maid for her political opinions; and one of the
Judges of this tribunal lately introduced a man to the Jacobins, with
high panegyrics, because, as he alledged, he had greatly contributed to
the condemnation of a criminal. The same Judge likewise apologized for
having as yet sent but a small number to the Guillotine, and promises,
that, on the first appearance of a "Brissotin" before him, he will show
him no mercy.

When the minister of public justice thus avows himself the agent of a
party, a government, however recent its formation, must be far advanced
in depravity; and the corruption of those who are the interpreters of the
law has usually been the last effort of expiring power.

My friends, Mons. And Mad. de B____, are released from their confinement;
not as you might expect, by proving their innocence, but by the efforts
of an individual, who had more weight than their accuser: and, far from
obtaining satisfaction for the injury they have received, they are
obliged to accept as a favour the liberty they were deprived of by malice
and injustice. They will, most probably, never be acquainted with the
nature of the charges brought against them; and their accuser will escape
with impunity, and, perhaps, meet with reward.

All the French papers are filled with descriptions of the enthusiasm with
which the young men "start to arms" [_Offian._] at the voice of their
country; yet it is very certain, that this enthusiasm is of so subtle and
aerial a form as to be perceivable only to those who are interested in
discovering it. In some places these enthusiastic warriors continue to
hide themselves--from others they are escorted to the place of their
destination by nearly an equal number of dragoons; and no one, I believe,
who can procure money to pay a substitute, is disposed to go himself.
This is sufficiently proved by the sums demanded by those who engage as
substitutes: last year from three to five hundred livres was given; at
present no one will take less than eight hundred or a thousand, besides
being furnished with clothes, &c. The only real volunteers are the sons
of aristocrates, and the relations of emigrants, who, sacrificing their
principles to their fears, hope, by enlisting in the army, to protect
their estates and families: those likewise who have lucrative
employments, and are afraid of losing them, affect great zeal, and expect
to purchase impunity for civil peculation at home, by the military
services of their children abroad.

This, I assure you, is the real state of that enthusiasm which occasions
such an expence of eloquence to our gazette-writers; but these fallacious
accounts are not like the ephemeral deceits of your party prints in
England, the effect of which is destroyed in a few hours by an opposite
assertion. None here are bold enough to contradict what their sovereigns
would have believed; and a town or district, driven almost to revolt by
the present system of recruiting, consents very willingly to be described
as marching to the frontiers with martial ardour, and burning to combat
les esclaves des tyrans! By these artifices, one department is misled
with regard to the dispositions of another, and if they do not excite to
emulation, they, at least, repress by fear; and, probably, many are
reduced to submission, who would resist, were they not doubtful of the
support and union of their neighbours. Every possible precaution is
taken to prevent any connections between the different departments--
people who are not known cannot obtain passports without the
recommendation of two housekeepers--you must give an account of the
business you go upon, of the carriage you mean to travel in, whether it
has two wheels or four: all of which must be specified in your passport:
and you cannot send your baggage from one town to another without the
risk of having it searched. All these things are so disgusting and
troublesome, that I begin to be quite of a different opinion from Brutus,
and should certainly prefer being a slave among a free people, than thus
be tormented with the recollection that I am a native of England in a
land of slavery. Whatever liberty the French might have acquired by
their first revolution, it is now much like Sir John Cutler's worsted
stockings, so torn, and worn, and disguised by patchings and mendings,
that the original texture is not discoverable.--Yours, &c.

June 3, 1793.

We have been three days without receiving newspapers; but we learn from
the reports of the courier, that the Brissotins are overthrown, that many
of them have been arrested, and several escaped to raise adherents in the
departments. I, however, doubt much if their success will be very
general: the people have little preference between Brissot and Marat,
Condorcet and Robespierre, and are not greatly solicitous about the names
or even principles of those who govern them--they are not yet accustomed
to take that lively interest in public events which is the effect of a
popular constitution. In England every thing is a subject of debate and
contest, but here they wait in silence the result of any political
measure or party dispute; and, without entering into the merits of the
cause, adopt whatever is successful. While the King was yet alive, the
news of Paris was eagerly sought after, and every disorder of the
metropolis created much alarm: but one would almost suppose that even
curiosity had ceased at his death, for I have observed no subsequent
event (except the defection of Dumouriez) make any very serious
impression. We hear, therefore, with great composure, the present
triumph of the more violent republicans, and suffer without impatience
this interregnum of news, which is to continue until the Convention shall
have determined in what manner the intelligence of their proceedings
shall be related to the departments.

The great solicitude of the people is now rather about their physical
existence than their political one--provisions are become enormously
dear, and bread very scarce: our servants often wait two hours at the
baker's, and then return without bread for breakfast. I hope, however,
the scarcity is rather artificial than real. It is generally supposed to
be occasioned by the unwillingness of the farmers to sell their corn for
paper. Some measures have been adopted with an intention of remedying
this evil, though the origin of it is beyond the reach of decree. It
originates in that distrust of government which reconciles one part of
the community to starving the other, under the idea of self-preservation.
While every individual persists in establishing it as a maxim, that any
thing is better than assignats, we must expect that all things will be
difficult to procure, and will, of course, bear a high price. I fear,
all the empyricism of the legislature cannot produce a nostrum for this
want of faith. Dragoons and penal laws only "linger, and linger it out;"
the disease is incurable.

My friends, Mons. and Mad. de B____, by way of consolation for their
imprisonment, now find themselves on the list of emigrants, though they
have never been a single day absent from their own province, or from
places of residence where they are well known. But that they may not
murmur at this injustice, the municipality have accompanied their names
with those of others who have not even been absent from the town, and of
one gentleman in particular, who I believe may have been seen on the
ramparts every day for these seven years.--This may appear to you only
very absurd, and you may imagine the consequences easily obviated; yet
these mistakes are the effect of private malice, and subject the persons
affected by them to an infinity of expence and trouble. They are
obliged, in order to avert the confiscation of their property, to appear,
in every part of the republic where they have possessions, with
attestations of their constant residence in France, and perhaps suffer a
thousand mortifications from the official ignorance and brutality of the
persons to whom they apply. No remedy lies against the authors of these
vexations, and the sufferer who is prudent fears even to complain.

I have, in a former letter, noticed the great number of beggars that
swarm at Arras: they are not less numerous at Amiens, though of a
different description--they are neither so disgusting, nor so wretched,
but are much more importunate and insolent--they plead neither sickness
nor infirmity, and are, for the most part, able and healthy. How so many
people should beg by profession in a large manufacturing town, it is
difficult to conceive; but, whatever may be the cause, I am tempted to
believe the effect has some influence on the manners of the inhabitants
of Amiens. I have seen no town in France so remarkable for a rude and
unfeeling behaviour, and it is not fanciful to conjecture that the
multitude of poor may tend in part to occasion it. The constant view of
a sort of misery that excites little compassion, of an intrusive
necessity which one is more desirous to repulse than to relieve, cannot
but render the heart callous, and the manners harsh. The avarice of
commerce, which is here unaccompanied by its liberality, is glad to
confound real distress with voluntary and idle indigence, till, in time,
an absence of feeling becomes part of the character; and the constant
habit of petulant refusals, or of acceding more from fatigue than
benevolence, has perhaps a similar effect on the voice, gesture, and

This place has been so often visited by those who describe better than
myself, that I have thought it unnecessary to mention public buildings,
or any thing equally obvious to the traveller or the resident. The
beauty and elegance of the cathedral have been celebrated for ages, and I
only remind you of it to indulge my national vanity in the reflection
that one of the most splendid monuments of Gothic architecture in France
is the work of our English ancestors. The edifice is in perfect
preservation, and the hand of power has not yet ventured to appropriate
the plate or ornaments; but this forbearance will most probably give way
to temptation and impunity. The Convention will respect ancient
prejudices no longer than they suppose the people have courage to defend
them, and the latter seem so entirely subdued, that, however they may
murmur, I do not think any serious resistance is to be expected from
them, even in behalf of the relics of St. Firmin. [St. Firmin, the patron
of Amiens, where he is, in many of the streets, represented with his head
in his hand.]--The bust of Henry the Fourth, which was a present from the
Monarch himself, is banished the town-house, where it was formerly
placed, though, I hope, some royalist has taken possession of it, and
deposited it in safety till better times. This once popular Prince is
now associated with Nero and Caligula, and it is "leze nation" to speak
of him to a thorough republican.--I know not if the French had before the
revolution reached the acme of perfection, but they have certainly been
retrograding very fast since. Every thing that used to create fondness
and veneration is despised, and things are esteemed only in proportion as
they are worthless. Perhaps the bust of Robespierre may one day replace
that of Henry the Fourth, and, to speak in the style of an eastern
epistle, "what can I say more?"

Should you ever travel this way with Gray in your hand, you will look for
the Ursuline convent, and regret the paintings he mentions: but you may
recollect, for your consolation, that they are merely pretty, and
remarkable only for being the work of one of the nuns.--Gray, who seems
to have had that enthusiastic respect for religious orders common to
young minds, admired them on this account; and numbers of English
travellers have, I dare say, prepossessed by such an authority,
experienced the same disappointment I myself felt on visiting the
Ursuline church. Many of the chapels belonging to these communities were
very showy and much decorated with gilding and sculpture: some of them
are sold for a mere trifle, but the greatest part are filled with corn
and forage, and on the door is inscribed "Magazin des armees." The
change is almost incredible to those who remember, that less than four
years ago the Catholic religion was strictly practised, and the violation
of these sanctuaries deemed sacrilegious. Our great historian [Gibbon]
might well say "the influence of superstition is fluctuating and
precarious;" though, in the present instance, it has rather been
restrained than subdued; and the people, who have not been convinced, but
intimidated, secretly lament these innovations, and perhaps reproach
themselves conscientiously with their submission.--Yours.

June 20, 1793.

Mercier, in his Tableau de Paris, notices, on several occasions, the
little public spirit existing among his countrymen--it is also
observable, that many of the laws and customs presume on this deficiency,
and the name of republicans has by no means altered that cautious
disposition which makes the French consider either misfortunes or
benefits only as their personal interest is affected by them.--I am just
returned from a visit to Abbeville, where we were much alarmed on Sunday
by a fire at the Paraclete convent. The tocsin rang great part of the
day, and the principal street of the town was in danger of being
destroyed. In such circumstances, you will suppose, that people of all
ranks eagerly crouded to offer their service, and endeavour to stop the
progress of so terrible a calamity. By no means--the gates of the town
were shut to prevent its entire evacuation, many hid themselves in
garrets and cellars, and dragoons patrolled the streets, and even entered
the houses, to force the inhabitants to assist in procuring water; while
the consternation, usually the effect of such accidents, was only owing
to the fear of being obliged to aid the sufferers.--This employment of
military coercion for what humanity alone should dictate, is not
ascribeable to the principles of the present government--it was the same
before the revolution, (except that the agents of the ancient system were
not so brutal and despotic as the soldiers of the republic,) and
compulsion was always deemed necessary where there was no stimulant but
the general interest.

In England, at any alarm of the fort, all distinction of ranks is
forgotten, and every one is solicitous to contribute as much as he is
able to the safety of his fellow-citizens; and, so far from an armed
force being requisite to procure assistance, the greatest difficulty is
to repress the too-officious zeal of the croud.--I do not pretend to
account for this national disparity, but I fear what a French gentleman
once said to me of the Parisians is applicable to the general character,
_"Ils sont tous egoistes,"_ ["They are all selfish!"] and they would not
do a benevolent action at the risk of soiling a coat or tearing a ruffle.

Distrust of the assignats, and scarcity of bread, have occasioned a law
to oblige the farmers, in every part of the republic, to sell their corn
at a certain price, infinitely lower than what they have exacted for some
months past. The consequence of this was, that, on the succeeding market
days, no corn came to market, and detachments of dragoons are obliged to
scour the country to preserve us from a famine. If it did not convey an
idea both of the despotism and want with which the nation is afflicted,
one should be amused by the ludicrous figures of the farmers, who enter
the town preceded by soldiers, and reposing with doleful visages on their
sacks of wheat. Sometimes you see a couple of dragoons leading in
triumph an old woman and an ass, who follow with lingering steps their
military conductors; and the very ass seems to sympathize with his
mistress on the disaster of selling her corn at a reduced price, and for
paper, when she had hoped to hoard it till a counter-revolution should
bring back gold and silver.

The farmers are now, perhaps, the greatest aristocrates in the country;
but as both their patriotism and their aristocracy have been a mere
calculation of interest, the severity exercised on their avarice is not
much to be regretted. The original fault is, however, in an usurped
government, which inspires no confidence, and which, to supply an
administration lavish beyond all example, has been obliged to issue such
an immense quantity of paper as nearly destroys its credit. In
political, as in moral, vices, the first always necessitates a second,
and these must still be sustained by others; until, at length, the very
sense of right and wrong becomes impaired, and the latter is not only
preferred from habit, but from choice.

Thus the arbitrary emission of paper has been necessarily followed by
still more arbitrary decrees to support it. For instance--the people
have been obliged to sell their corn at a stated price, which has again
been the source of various and general vexations. The farmers, irritated
by this measure, concealed their grain, or sold it privately, rather than
bring it to market.--Hence, some were supplied with bread, and others
absolutely in want of it. This was remedied by the interference of the
military, and a general search for corn has taken place in all houses
without exception, in order to discover if any was secreted; even our
bedchambers were examined on this occasion: but we begin to be so
accustomed to the visite domiciliaire, that we find ourselves suddenly
surrounded by the Garde Nationale, without being greatly alarmed.--I know
not how your English patriots, who are so enamoured of French liberty,
yet thunder with the whole force of their eloquence against the ingress
of an exciseman to a tobacco warehouse, would reconcile this domestic
inquisition; for the municipalities here violate your tranquillity in
this manner under any pretext they choose, and that too with an armed
cortege sufficient to undertake the siege of your house in form.

About fifteen departments are in insurrection, ostensibly in behalf of
the expelled Deputies; but I believe I am authorized in saying, it is by
no means the desire of the people at large to interfere. All who are
capable of reflection consider the dispute merely as a family quarrel,
and are not partial enough to either party to adopt its cause. The
tropps they have already raised have been collected by the personal
interest of the members who contrived to escape, or by an attempt of a
few of the royalists to make one half of the faction subservient to the
destruction of the other. If you judge of the principles of the nation
by the success of the Foederalists,* and the superiority of the
Convention, you will be extremely deceived; for it is demonstrable, that
neither the most zealous partizans of the ancient system, nor those of
the abolished constitution, have taken any share in the dispute; and the
departments most notoriously aristocratic have all signified their
adherence to the proceedings of the Assembly.

* On the 31st of May and 2d of June, the Convention, who had been
for some months struggling with the Jacobins and the municipality of
Paris, was surrounded by an armed force: the most moderate of the
Deputies (those distinguished by the name of Brissotins,) were
either menaced into a compliance with the measures of the opposite
faction, or arrested; others took flight, and, by representing the
violence and slavery in which the majority of the Convention was
holden, excited some of the departments to take arms in their
favour.--This contest, during its short existence, was called the
war of the Foederalists.--The result is well known.

Those who would gladly take an active part in endeavouring to establish a
good government, are averse from risking their lives and properties in
the cause of Brissot or Condorcet.--At Amiens, where almost every
individual is an aristocrate, the fugitive Deputies could not procure the
least encouragement, but the town would have received Dumouriez, and
proclaimed the King without opposition. But this schism in the
legislature is considered as a mere contest of banditti, about the
division of spoil, not calculated to excite an interest in those they
have plundered and oppressed.

The royalists who have been so mistaken as to make any effort on this
occasion, will, I fear, fall a sacrifice, having acted for the most part
without union or concert; and their junction with the Deputies renders
them suspicious, if not odious, to their own party. The extreme
difficulty, likewise, of communication between the departments, and the
strict watch observed over all travellers, form another obstacle to the
success of any attempt at present; and, on the whole, the only hope of
deliverance for the French seems to rest upon the allied armies and the
insurgents of La Vendee.

When I say this, I do not assert from prejudices, which often deceive,
nor from conjecture, that is always fallible; but from unexceptionable
information--from an intercourse with various ranks of people, and a
minute observance of all. I have scarcely met with a single person who
does not relate the progress of the insurgents in La Vendee with an air
of satisfaction, or who does not appear to expect with impatience the
surrender of Conde: and even their language, perhaps unconsciously,
betrays their sentiments, for I remark, they do not, when they speak of
any victory gained by the arms of the republic, say, Nous, or Notre
armee, but, Les Francais, and, Les troupes de la republique;--and that
always in a tone as though they were speaking of an enemy.--Adieu.

June 30, 1793.

Our modern travellers are mostly either sentimental or philosophical, or
courtly or political; and I do not remember to have read any who describe
the manner of living among the gentry and middle ranks of life in France.
I will, therefore, relieve your attention for a moment from our actual
distresses, and give you the picture of a day as usually passed by those
who have easy fortunes and no particular employment.--The social
assemblage of a whole family in the morning, as in England, is not very
common, for the French do not generally breakfast: when they do, it is
without form, and on fruit, bread, wine, and water, or sometimes coffee;
but tea is scarcely ever used, except by the sick. The morning is
therefore passed with little intercourse, and in extreme dishabille. The
men loiter, fiddle, work tapestry, and sometimes read, in a robe de
chambre, or a jacket and _"pantalons;"_ [Trowsers.] while the ladies,
equipped only in a short manteau and petticoat, visit their birds, knit,
or, more frequently, idle away the forenoon without doing any thing. It
is not customary to walk or make visits before dinner, and if by chance
any one calls, he is received in the bedchamber. At half past one or two
they dine, but without altering the negligence of their apparel, and the
business of the toilette does not begin till immediately after the
repast. About four, visits of ceremony begin, and may be made till six
or seven according to the season; but those who intend passing an evening
at any particular house, go before six, and the card parties generally
finish between eight and nine. People then adjourn to their supper
engagements, which are more common than those for dinner, and are, for
the most part, in different places, and considered as a separate thing
from the earlier amusements of the evening. They keep better hours than
the English, most families being in bed by half past ten. The theatres
are also regulated by these sober habits, and the dramatic
representations are usually over by nine.

A day passed in this manner is, as you may imagine, susceptible of much
ennui, and the French are accordingly more subject to it than
to any other complaint, and hold it in greatest dread than either
sickness or misfortune. They have no conception how one can remain two
hours alone without being ennuye a la mort; and but few, comparatively
speaking, read for amusement: you may enter ten houses without seeing a
book; and it is not to be wondered at that people, who make a point of
staying at home all the morning, yet do not read, are embarrassed with
the disposition of so much time.--It is this that occasions such a
general fondness for domestic animals, and so many barbarous musicians,
and male-workers of tapestry and tambour.

I cannot but attribute this littleness and dislike of morning exercise to
the quantity of animal food the French eat at night, and to going to rest
immediately after it, in consequence of which their activity is checked
by indigestions, and they feel heavy and uncomfortable for half the
succeeding day.--The French pique themselves on being a gayer nation than
the English; but they certainly must exclude their mornings from the
account, for the forlorn and neglected figure of a Frenchman till dinner
is a very antidote to chearfulness, especially if contrasted with the
animation of our countrymen, whose forenoon is passed in riding or
walking, and who make themselves at least decent before they appear even
in their own families.

The great difficulty the French have in finding amusement makes them
averse from long residences in the country, and it is very uncommon for
those who can afford only one house not to prefer a town; but those whose
fortune will admit of it, live about three months of the year in the
country, and the rest in the neighbouring town. This, indeed, as they
manage it, is no very considerable expence, for the same furniture often
serves for both habitations, and the one they quit being left empty,
requires no person to take charge of it, especially as house-breaking is
very uncommon in France; at least it was so before the revolution, when
the police was more strict, and the laws against robbers were more

You will say, I often describe the habits and manners of a nation so
frequently visited, as though I were writing from Kamschatka or Japan;
yet it is certain, as I have remarked above, that those who are merely
itinerant have not opportunities of observing the modes of familiar life
so well as one who is stationary, and travellers are in general too much
occupied by more important observations to enter into the minute and
trifling details which are the subject of my communications to you. But
if your attention be sometimes fatigued by occurrences or relations too
well known, or of too little consequence to be interesting, I claim some
merit in never having once described the proportions of a building, nor
given you the history of a town; and I might have contrived as well to
tax your patience by an erudite description, as a superficial reflection,
or a female remark. The truth is, my pen is generally guided by
circumstances as they rise, and my ideas have seldom any deeper origin
than the scene before me. I have no books here, and I am apt to think if
professed travellers were deprived of this resource, many learned
etymologies and much profound compilation would be lost to the modern

The insurgents of La Vendee continue to have frequent and decided
successes, but the insurrections in the other departments languish. The
avowed object of liberating the Convention is not calculated to draw
adherents, and if any better purpose be intended, while a faction are the
promoters of it, it will be regarded with too much suspicion to procure
any effectual movement. Yet, however partial and unconnected this revolt
may be, it is an object of great jealousy and inquietude: all the
addresses or petitions brought in favour of it are received with
disapprobation, and suppressed in the official bulletin of the
legislature; but those which express contrary sentiments are ordered to
be inserted with the usual terms of "applaudi, adopte, et mention
honorable."--In this manner the army and the people, who derive their
intelligence from these accounts (which are pasted up in the streets,)
are kept in ignorance of the real state of distant provinces, and, what
is still more important for the Convention, the communication of
examples, which they know so many are disposed to imitate, is retarded.

The people here are nearly in the same state they have been in for some
time--murmuring in secret, and submitting in public; expecting every
thing from that energy in others which they have not themselves, and
accumulating the discontents they are obliged to suppress. The
Convention call them the brave republicans of Amiens; but if their
bravery were as unequivocal as their aristocracy, they would soon be at
the gates of Paris. Even the first levies are not all departed for the
frontiers, and some who were prevailed on to go are already returned.--
All the necessaries of life are augmenting in price--the people complain,
pillage the shops and the markets one day, and want the next. Many of
the departments have opposed the recruiting much more decidedly than they
have ventured to do here; and it was not without inspiring terror by
numerous arrests, that the levies which were immediately necessary were
procured.--France offers no prospect but that of scarcity, disorder, and
oppression; and my friends begin to perceive that we have committed an
imprudence in remaining so long. No passports can now be obtained, and
we must, as well as several very respectable families still here, abide
the event of the war.

Some weeks have elapsed since I had letters from England, and those we
receive from the interior come open, or sealed with the seal of the
district. This is not peculiar to our letters, as being foreigners, but
the same unceremonious inspection is practised with the correspondence of
the French themselves. Thus, in this land of liberty, all epistolary
intercourse has ceased, except for mere matters of business; and though
in the declaration of the rights of man it be asserted, that every one is
entitled to write or print his thoughts, yet it is certain no person can
entrust a letter to the post, but at the risk of having it opened; nor
could Mr. Thomas Paine himself venture to express the slightest
disapprobation of the measures of government, without hazarding his
freedom, and, in the end, perhaps, his life. Even these papers, which I
reserve only for your amusement, which contain only the opinions of an
individual, and which never have been communicated, I am obliged to
conceal with the utmost circumspection; for should they happen to fall
into the hands of our domiciliary inquisitors, I should not, like your
English liberties, escape with the gentle correction of imprisonment, or
the pillory.--A man, who had murdered his wife, was lately condemned to
twenty years imprisonment only; but people are guillotined every day for
a simple discourse, or an inadvertent expression.--Yours.

Amiens, July 5, 1793.

It will be some consolation to the French, if, from the wreck of their
civil liberty, they be able to preserve the mode of administering justice
as established by the constitution of 1789. Were I not warranted by the
best information, I should not venture an opinion on the subject without
much diffidence, but chance has afforded me opportunities that do not
often occur to a stranger, and the new code appears to me, in many parts,
singularly excellent, both as to principle and practice.--Justice is here
gratuitous--those who administer it are elected by the people--they
depend only on their salaries, and have no fees whatever. Reasonable
allowances are made to witnesses both for time and expences at the public
charge--a loss is not doubled by the costs of a prosecution to recover
it. In cases of robbery, where property found is detained for the sake
of proof, it does not become the prey of official rapacity, but an
absolute restitution takes place.--The legislature has, in many respects,
copied the laws of England, but it has simplified the forms, and
rectified those abuses which make our proceedings in some cases almost as
formidable to the prosecutor as to the culprit. Having to compose an
entire new system, and being unshackled by professional reverence for
precedents, they were at liberty to benefit by example, to reject those
errors which have been long sanctioned by their antiquity, and are still
permitted to exist, through our dread of innovation. The French,
however, made an attempt to improve on the trial by jury, which I think
only evinces that the institution as adopted in England is not to be
excelled. The decision is here given by ballot--unanimity is not
required--and three white balls are sufficient to acquit the prisoner.
This deviation from our mode seems to give the rich an advantage over the
poor. I fear, that, in the number of twelve men taken from any country,
it may sometimes happen that three may be found corruptible: now the
wealthy delinquent can avail himself of this human failing; but, "through
tatter'd robes small vices do appear," and the indigent sinner has less
chance of escaping than another.

It is to be supposed, that, at this time, the vigour of the criminal laws
is much relaxed, and their execution difficult. The army offers refuge
and impunity to guilt of all kinds, and the magistrates themselves would
be apprehensive of pursuing an offender who was protected by the mob, or,
which is the same thing, by the Jacobins.

The groundwork of much of the French civil jurisprudence is arbitration,
particularly in those trifling processes which originate in a spirit of
litigation; and it is not easy for a man here, however well disposed, to
spend twenty pounds in a contest about as many pence, or to ruin himself
in order to secure the possession of half an acre of land. In general,
redress is easily obtained without unnecessary procrastination, and with
little or no cost. Perhaps most legal codes may be simple and
efficacious at their first institution, and the circumstance of their
being encumbered with forms which render them complex and expensive, may
be the natural consequence of length of time and change of manners.
Littleton might require no commentary in the reign of Henry II. and the
mysterious fictions that constitute the science of modern judicature were
perhaps familiar, and even necessary, to our ancestors. It is to be
regretted that we cannot adapt our laws to the age in which we live, and
assimilate them to our customs; but the tendency of our nature to
extremes perpetuates evils, and makes both the wise and the timid enemies
to reform. We fear, like John Calvin, to tear the habit while we are
stripping off the superfluous decoration; and the example of this country
will probably long act as a discouragement to all change, either judicial
or political. The very name of France will repress the desire of
innovation--we shall cling to abuses as though they were our support, and
every attempt to remedy them will become an objection of suspicion and
terror.--Such are the advantages which mankind will derive from the
French revolution.

The Jacobin constitution is now finished, and, as far as I am able to
judge, it is what might be expected from such an origin: calculated to
flatter the people with an imaginary sovereignty--to place the whole
power of election in the class most easily misled--to exclude from the
representation those who have a natural interest in the welfare of the
country, and to establish the reign of anarchy and intrigue.--Yet,
however averse the greater number of the French may be from such a
constitution, no town or district has dared to reject it; and I remark,
that amongst those who have been foremost in offering their acceptation,
are many of the places most notoriously aristocratic. I have enquired of
some of the inhabitants of these very zealous towns on what principle
they acted so much in opposition to their known sentiments: the reply is
always, that they fear the vengeance of the Jacobins, and that they are
awed by military force. This reasoning is, of course, unanswerable; and
we learn, from the debates of the Convention, that the people have
received the new constitution _"avec la plus vive reconnoissance,"_
["With the most lively gratitude."] and that they have all sworn to die
in its defence.--Yours, &c.

July 14, 1793.

The return of this day cannot but suggest very melancholy reflections to
all who are witnesses of the changes which a single year has produced.
In twelve months only the government of France has been overturned, her
commerce destroyed, the country depopulated to raise armies, and the
people deprived of bread to support them. A despotism more absolute than
that of Turkey is established, the manners of the nation are corrupted,
and its moral character is disgraced in the eyes of all Europe. A
barbarous rage has laid waste the fairest monuments of art--whatever
could embellish society, or contribute to soften existence, has
disappeared under the reign of these modern Goths--even the necessaries
of life are becoming rare and inadequate to the consumption--the rich are
plundered and persecuted, yet the poor are in want--the national credit
is in the last stage of debasement, yet an immense debt is created, and
daily accumulating; and apprehension, distrust, and misery, are almost
universal.--All this is the work of a set of adventurers who are now
divided among themselves--who are accusing each other of those crimes
which the world imputes to them all--and who, conscious they can no
longer deceive the nation, now govern with the fear and suspicion of
tyrants. Every thing is sacrificed to the army and Paris, and the people
are robbed of their subsistence to supply an iniquitous metropolis, and a
military force that awes and oppresses them.

The new constitution has been received here officially, but no one seems
to take the least interest in it: it is regarded in just the same light
as a new tax, or any other ministerial mandate, not sent to be discussed
but obeyed. The mode of proclaiming it conveyed a very just idea of its
origin and tendency. It was placed on a cushion, supported by Jacobins
in their red caps, and surrounded by dragoons. It seemed the image of
Anarchy, guarded by Despotism.--In this manner they paraded the town, and
the "sacred volume" was then deposed on an altar erected on the Grande
Place.--The Garde Nationale, who were ordered to be under arms, attended,
and the constitution was read. A few of the soldiers cried "Vive la
republique!" and every one returned home with countenances in which
delight was by no means the prevailing expression.

A trifling incident which I noticed on this occasion, will serve, among
others of the same kind that I could enumerate, to prove that even the
very lower class of the people begin to ridicule and despise their
legislators. While a municipal officer was very gravely reading the
constitution, an ass forced his way across the square, and placed himself
near the spot where the ceremony was performing: a boy, who was under our
window, on observing it, cried out, "Why don't they give him the
_accolade fraternelle!"_*

* Fraternal embrace.--This is the reception given by the President
to any one whom the Convention wish particularly to distinguish. On
an occasion of the sort, the fraternal embrace was given to an old
Negress.--The honours of the fitting are also daily accorded to
deputations of fish-women, chimney-sweepers, children, and all whose
missions are flattering. There is no homage so mean as not to
gratify the pride of those to whom dominion is new; and these
expressions are so often and so strangely applied, that it is not
surprizing they are become the cant phrases of the mob.

--"Yes, (rejoined another,) and admit him _aux honneurs de la feance."_
[To the honours of the fitting.] This disposition to jest with their
misfortunes is, however, not so common as it was formerly. A bon mot may
alleviate the loss of a battle, and a lampoon on the court solace under
the burthen of a new impost; but the most thoughtless or improvident can
find nothing very facetious in the prospect of absolute want--and those
who have been used to laugh under a circumscription of their political
liberty, feel very seriously the evil of a government which endows its
members with unlimited power, and enables a Deputy, often the meanest and
most profligate character of his department, to imprison all who, from
caprice, interest, or vengeance, may have become the objects of his

I know this will appear so monstrous to an Englishman, that, had I an
opportunity of communicating such a circumstance before it were publicly
authenticated, you would suppose it impossible, and imagine I had been
mistaken, or had written only from report; it is nevertheless true, that
every part of France is infested by these Commissioners, who dispose,
without appeal, of the freedom and property of the whole department to
which they are sent. It frequently happens, that men are delegated to
places where they have resided, and thus have an opportunity of
gratifying their personal malice on all who are so unfortunate as to be
obnoxious to them. Imagine, for a moment, a village-attorney acting with
uncontrouled authority over the country where he formerly exercised his
profession, and you will have some idea of what passes here, except that
I hope no class of men in England are so bad as those which
compose the major part of the National Convention.--Yours, &c.

July 23, 1793.

The events of Paris which are any way remarkable are so generally
circulated, that I do not often mention them, unless to mark their effect
on the provinces; but you will be so much misled by the public papers
with regard to the death of Marat, that I think it necessary to notice
the subject while it is yet recent in my memory. Were the clubs, the
Convention, or the sections of Paris to be regarded as expressing the
sense of the people, the assassination of this turbulent journalist must
be considered being the case, that the departments are for the most part,
if not rejoiced, indifferent--and many of those who impute to him the
honour of martyrdom, or assist at his apotheosis, are much better
satisfied both with his christian and heathen glories, than they were
while he was living to propagate anarchy and pillage. The reverence of
the Convention itself is a mere political pantomime. Within the last
twelve months nearly all the individuals who compose it have treated
Marat with contempt; and I perfectly remember even Danton, one of the
members of the Committee of Salut Publique, accusing him of being a
contre revolutionnaire.

But the people, to use a popular expression here, require to be
electrified.--St. Fargeau is almost forgotten, and Marat is to serve the
same purposes when dead, to which he contributed while living.--An
extreme grossness and want of feeling form the characteristic feature of
the Parisians; they are ignorant, credulous, and material, and the
Convention do not fail on all occasions to avail themselves of these
qualities. The corpse of Marat decently enclosed in a coffin would have
made little impression, and it was not pity, but revenge, which was to be
excited. The disgusting object of a dead leper was therefore exposed to
the eyes of a metropolis calling itself the most refined and enlightened
of all Europe--

"And what t'oblivion better were consign'd,
Is hung on high to poison half mankind."

I know not whether these lines are most applicable to the display of
Marat's body, or the consecration of his fame, but both will be a lasting
stigma on the manners and morals of Paris.

If the departments, however, take no interest in the loss of Marat, the
young woman who assassinated him has created a very lively one. The
slightest anecdotes concerning her are collected with avidity, and
repeated with admiration; and this is a still farther proof of what you
have heard me advance, that neither patriotism nor humanity has an
abundant growth in this country. The French applaud an act in itself
horrid and unjustifiable, while they have scarcely any conception of the
motive, and such a sacrifice seems to them something supernatural.--The
Jacobins assert, that Charlotte Corday was an emissary of the allied
powers, or, rather, of Mr. Pitt; and the Parisians have the complaisance
to believe, that a young woman could devote herself to certain
destruction at the instigation of another, as though the same principles
which would lead a person to undertake a diplomatic commission, would
induce her to meet death.

I wrote some days ago to a lady of my acquaintance at Caen, to beg she
would procure me some information relative to this extraordinary female,
and I subjoin an extract of her answer, which I have just received:

"Miss Corday was a native of this department, and had, from her earliest
years, been very carefully educated by an aunt who lives at Caen. Before
she was twenty she had decided on taking the veil, and her noviciate was
just expired when the Constituent Assembly interdicted all religious vows
for the future: she then left the convent, and resided entirely with her
aunt. The beauty of her person, and particularly her mental
acquisitions, which were superior to that of French women in general,
rendered an object of much admiration. She spoke uncommonly well, and
her discourse often turned on the ancients, and on such subjects as
indicated that masculine turn of mind which has since proved so fatal to
her. Perhaps her conversation was a little tinctured with that pedantry
not unjustly attributed to our sex when they have a little more knowledge
than usual, but, at the same time, not in such a degree as to render it
unpleasant. She seldom gave any opinion on the revolution, but
frequently attended the municipalities to solicit the pensions of the
expelled religious, or on any other occasion where she could be useful to
her friends. On the arrival of Petion, Barbaroux, and others of the
Brissotin faction, she began to frequent the clubs, and to take a more
lively interest in political affairs. Petion, and Barbaroux especially,
seemed to be much respected by her. It was even said, she had a tender
partiality for the latter; but this I believe is untrue.--I dined with
her at her aunt's on the Sunday previous to her departure for Paris.
Nothing very remarkable appeared in her behaviour, except that she was
much affected by a muster of the recruits who were to march against
Paris, and seemed to think many lives might be lost on the occasion,
without obtaining any relief for the country.--On the Tuesday following
she left Caen, under pretext of visiting her father, who lives at Sens.
Her aunt accompanied her to the gate of the town, and the separation was
extremely sorrowful on both sides. The subsequent events are too well
known to need recital."

On her trial, and at her execution, Miss Corday was firm and modest;
and I have been told, that in her last moments her whole figure was
interesting beyond description. She was tall, well formed, and
beautiful--her eyes, especially, were fine and expressive--even her dress
was not neglected, and a simple white dishabille added to the charms of
this self-devoted victim. On the whole, it is not possible to ascertain
precisely the motives which determined her to assassinate Marat. Her
letter to Barbaroux expresses nothing but republican sentiments; yet it
is difficult to conceive that a young woman, who had voluntarily embraced
the life of a cloister, could be really of this way of thinking.--I
cannot but suppose her connection with the Deputies arose merely from an
idea that they might be the instruments of restoring the abolished
government, and her profession of republican principles after she was
arrested might probably be with a view of saving Duperret, and others of
the party, who were still in the power of the Convention.--Her selection
of Marat still remains to be accounted for. He was, indeed, the most
violent of the Jacobins, but not the most dangerous, and the death of
several others might have been more serviceable to the cause. Marat was,
however, the avowed persecutor of priests and religion, and if we
attribute any influence to Miss Corday's former habits, we may suppose
them to have had some share in the choice of her victim. Her refusal of
the ministry of a constitutional priest at the scaffold strengthens this
opinion. We pay a kind of involuntary tribute of admiration to such
firmness of mind in a young and beautiful woman; and I do not recollect
that history has transmitted any thing parallel to the heroism of
Charlotte Corday. Love, revenge, and ambition, have often sacrificed
their victims, and sustained the courage of their voluntaries under
punishment; but a female, animated by no personal motives, sensible only
to the misfortunes of her country, patriotic both from feeling and
reflection, and sacrificing herself from principle, is singular in the
annals of human nature.--Yet, after doing justice to such an instance of
fortitude and philanthropic devotion, I cannot but sincerely lament the
act to which it has given rise. At a time when so many spirits are
irritated by despair and oppression, the example may be highly
pernicious, and a cause, however good, must always be injured by the use
of such means in its support.--Nothing can sanctify an assassination; and
were not the French more vindictive than humane, the crimes of the
republican party would find a momentary refuge in this injudicious effort
to punish them.

My friend La Marquise de ____ has left Paris, and is now at Peronne,
where she has engaged me to pass a few weeks with her; so that my next
will most probably be dated from thence.--Mr. D____ is endeavouring to
get a passport for England. He begins to regret having remained here.
His temper, naturally impatient of restraint, accords but ill with the
portion of liberty enjoyed by our republicans. Corporal privations and
mental interdictions multiply so fast, that irritable people like
himself, and valetudinarians like Mrs. C____ and me, could not choose a
worse residence; and, as we are now unanimous on the subject, I hope soon
to leave the country.--There is, as you observe in your last, something
of indolence as well as friendship in my having so long remained here;
but if actions were always analyzed so strictly, and we were not allowed
to derive a little credit from our weaknesses, how many great characters
would be reduced to the common level. Voltaire introduced a sort of rage
for anecdotes, and for tracing all events to trifling causes, which has
done much more towards exploding the old-fashioned system or the dignity
of human nature than the dry maxims of Rochefaucault, the sophisms of
Mandeville, or even the malicious wit of Swift. This is also another
effect of the progress of philosophy; and this sort of moral Quixotism,
continually in search of evil, and more gratified in discovering it than
pained by its existence, may be very philosophical; but it is at least
gloomy and discouraging; and we may be permitted to doubt whether mankind
become wiser or better by learning, that those who have been most
remarkable either for wisdom or virtue were occasionally under the
influence of the same follies and passions as other people.--Your
uncharitable discernment, you see, has led me into a digression, and I
have, without intending it, connected the motives of my stay with
reflections on Voltaire's General History, Barillon's Letters, and all
the secret biography of our modern libraries. This, you will say, is
only a chapter of a "man's importance to himself;" but public affairs are
now so confused and disgusting, that we are glad to encourage any train
of ideas not associated with them.

The Commissioners I gave you some account of in a former letter are
departed, and we have lately had Chabot, an Ex-capuchin, and a patriot of
special note in the Convention, and one Dumont, an attorney of a
neighbouring village. They are, like all the rest of these missionaries,
entrusted with unlimited powers, and inspire apprehension and dismay
wherever they approach.

The Garde Nationale of Amiens are not yet entirely subdued to the times,
and Chabot gave some hints of a project to disarm them, and actually
attempted to arrest some of their officers; but, apprized of his design,
they remained two nights under arms, and the Capuchin, who is not
martially inclined, was so alarmed at this indication of resistance,
that he has left the town with more haste than ceremony.--He had, in an
harangue at the cathedral, inculcated some very edifying doctrines on the
division of property and the right of pillage; and it is not improbable,
had he not withdrawn, but the Amienois would have ventured, on this
pretext, to arrest him. Some of them contrived, in spite of the centinel
placed at the lodging of these great men, to paste up on the door two
figures, with the names of Chabot and Dumont; in the "fatal position of
the unfortunate brave;" and though certain events in the lives of these
Deputies may have rendered this perspective of their last moments not
absolutely a novelty, yet I do not recollect that Akenside, or any other
author, has enumerated a gibbet amongst the objects, which, though not
agreeable in themselves, may be reconciled to the mind by familiarity.
I wish, therefore, our representatives may not, in return for this
admonitory portrait of their latter end, draw down some vengeance on the
town, not easily to be appeased. I am no astrologer, but in our
sublunary world the conjunction of an attorney and a renegade monk cannot
present a fortunate aspect; and I am truly anxious to find myself once
again under the more benign influence of your English hemisphere.--Yours.

Peronne, July 29, 1793.

Every attempt to obtain passports has been fruitless, and, with that sort
of discontented resignation which is the effect of necessity, I now look
upon myself as fixed here till the peace. I left Mr. and Mrs. D____
yesterday morning, the disappointment operating upon them in full force.
The former takes longer walks than usual, breaks out in philippics
against tyrannies of all kinds, and swears ten times a day that the
French are the most noisy people upon earth--the latter is vexed, and,
for that reason, fancies she is ill, and calculates, with great
ingenuity, all the hazard and inconvenience we may be liable to by
remaining here. I hope, on my return, to find them more reconciled.

At Villars de Bretonne, on my road hither, some people told me, with
great gaiety, that the English had made a descent on the coast of
Picardy. Such a report (for I did not suppose it possible) during the
last war would have made me tremble, but I heard this without alarm,
having, in no instance, seen the people take that kind of interest in
public events which formerly made a residence in France unpleasant to an
individual of an hostile nation. It is not that they are become more
liberal, or better informed--no change of this kind has been discovered
even by the warmest advocates of the revolution; but they are more
indifferent, and those who are not decidedly the enemies of the present
government, for the most part concern themselves as little about the
events of the war, as though it were carried on in the South Sea.

I fear I should risk an imputation on my veracity, were I to describe the
extreme ignorance and inattention of the French with respect to public
men and measures. They draw no conclusions from the past, form no
conjectures for the future, and, after exclaiming "Il ne peut pas durer
comme cela," they, with a resignation which is certainly neither pious
nor philosophic, leave the rest to the agency of Providence.--Even those
who are more informed so bewilder themselves in the politics of Greece
and Rome, that they do not perceive how little these are applicable to
their own country. Indeed, it should seem that no modern age or people
is worthy the knowledge of a Frenchman.--I have often remarked, in the
course of our correspondence, how little they are acquainted with what
regards England or the English; and scarcely a day passes that I have not
occasion to make the same observation.

My conductor hither, who is a friend of Mad. de T____, and esteemed "bien
instruit," was much surprized when I told him that the population and
size of London exceeded that of Paris--that we had good fruit, and better
vegetables than were to be found in many parts of France. I saw that he
suspected my veracity, and there is always on these occasions such a
decided and impenetrable incredulity in a Frenchman as precludes all
hopes of convincing him. He listens with a sort of self-sufficient
complacence which tells you he does not consider your assertions as any
thing more than the exaggerations of national vanity, but that his
politeness does not allow him to contradict you. I know nothing more
disgustingly impertinent than his ignorance, which intrenches itself
behind the forms of civility, and, affecting to decline controversy,
assumes the merit of forbearance and moderation: yet this must have been
often observed by every one who has lived much in French society: for the
first emotion of a Frenchman, on hearing any thing which tends to place
another country on an equality with France, is doubt--this doubt is
instantly reinforced by vanity--and, in a few seconds, he is perfectly
satisfied that the thing is impossible.

One must be captious indeed to object to this, did it arise from that
patriotic feeling so common in the English; but here it is all vanity,
downright vanity: a Frenchman must have his country and his mistress
admired, though he does not often care much for either one or the other.
I have been in various parts of France in the most critical periods of
the revolution--I have conversed with people of all parties and of all
ranks--and I assert, that I have never yet met but with one man who had a
grain of real patriotism. If the Athenian law were adopted which doomed
all to death who should be indifferent to the public welfare in a time of
danger, I fear there would be a woeful depopulation here, even among the
loudest champions of democracy.

It is not thirty miles from Amiens to Peronne, yet a journey of thirty
miles is not now to be undertaken inconsiderately; the horses are so much
worked, and so ill fed, that few perform such a distance without rest and
management. If you wish to take others, and continue your route, you
cannot, or if you wait while your own horses are refreshed, as a reward
for your humanity you get starved yourself. Bread being very scarce, no
family can get more than sufficient for its own consumption, and those
who travel without first supplying themselves, do it at the risk of
finding none on the road.

Peronne is chiefly remarkable in history for never having been taken, and
for a tower where Louis XI. was confined for a short time, after being
outwitted in a manner somewhat surprizing for a Monarch who piqued
himself on his talents for intrigue, by Charles le Temeraire, Duke of
Burgundy. It modern reputation, arises from its election of the Abbe
Maury for its representative, and for entertaining political principles
every way analogous to such a choice.

I found the Marquise much altered in her person, and her health much
impaired, by the frequent alarms and continual apprehensions she had been
subject to at Paris. Fortunately she has no imputation against her but
her rank and fortune, for she is utterly guiltless of all political
opinions; so that I hope she will be suffered to knit stockings, tend her
birds and dogs, and read romances in peace.--Yours, &c. &c.

August 1, 1793.

When the creation of assignats was first proposed, much ingenuity was
employed in conjecturing, and much eloquence displayed in expatiating
upon, the various evils that might result from them; yet the genius of
party, however usually successful in gloomy perspective, did not at that
time imagine half the inconvenience this measure was fraught with. It
was easy, indeed, to foresee, that an immense circulation of paper, like
any other currency, must augment the price of every thing; but the
excessive discredit of the assignats, operating accessarily to their
quantity, has produced a train of collateral effects of greater magnitude
than even those that were originally apprehended. Within the last twelve
months the whole country are become monopolizers--the desire of realizing
has so possessed all degrees of people, that there is scarcely an article
of consumption which is not bought up and secreted. One would really
suppose that nothing was perishable but the national credit--the
nobleman, the merchant, the shopkeeper, all who have assignats, engage in
these speculations, and the necessities of our dissipated heirs do not
drive them to resources for obtaining money more whimsical than the
commerce now practised here to get rid of it. I know a beau who has
converted his _hypotheque_ [Mortgage.] on the national domains into train
oil, and a General who has given these "airy nothings" the substance and
form of hemp and leather!*

* In the late rage for monopolies in France, a person who had
observed the vast daily consumption of onions, garlic, and
eschalots, conceived the project of making the whole district of
Amiens tributary for this indispensible article. In consequence, he
attended several market-days, and purchased all that came in his
way. The country people finding a ready sale for their onions,
poured in from all quarters, and our projector found that, in
proportion as he bought, the market became more profusely supplied,
and that the commodity he had hoped to monopolize was inexhaustible.

Goods purchased from such motives are not as you may conceive sold till
the temptation of an exorbitant profit seduces the proprietor to risk a
momentary possession of assignats, which are again disposed of in a
similar way. Thus many necessaries of life are withdrawn from
circulation, and when a real scarcity ensues, they are produced to the
people, charged with all the accumulated gains of these intermediate

This illiberal and pernicious commerce, which avarice and fear have for
some time kept in great activity, has at length attracted the notice of
the Convention, and very severe laws are now enacted against monopolies
of all kinds. The holder of any quantity of merchandize beyond what he
may be supposed to consume is obliged to declare it to his municipality,
and to expose the articles he deals in in writing over his door. These
clauses, as well as every other part of the decree, seem very wise and
equitable; but I doubt if the severity of the punishment annexed to any
transgression of it will not operate so as to defeat the purposes
intended to be produced. A false declaration is punishable by six years
imprisonment, and an absolute non-compliance with death.--Blackstone
remarks, that it is the certainty, not the severity, of punishment, which
makes laws efficacious; and this must ever be the case amongst an humane
people.--An inordinate desire of gain is not often considered by mankind
as very criminal, and those who would willingly subject it to its
adequate punishment of fine and confiscation, will hesitate to become the
means of inflicting death on the offender, or of depriving him of his
liberty. The Poets have, from time immemorial, claimed a kind of
exclusive jurisdiction over the sin of avarice: but, unfortunately, minds
once steeled by this vice are not often sensible to the attacks of
ridicule; and I have never heard that any poet, from Plautus to Moliere,
has reformed a single miser. I am not, therefore, sorry that our
legislature has encroached on this branch of the poetical prerogative,
and only wish that the mild regimen of the Muses had been succeeded by
something less rigid than the prison or the guillotine. It is true,
that, in the present instance, it is not the ordinary and habitual
practice of avarice that has called forth the severity of the laws, but a
species so destructive and extensive in its consequences, that much may
be said in defence of any penalty short of death; and such is the general
distrust of the paper-money, that I really believe, had not some measure
of the kind been adopted, no article susceptible of monopoly would have
been left for consumption. There are, however, those who retort on the
government, and assert, that the origin of the evil is in the waste and
peculation of its agents, which also make the immense emission of paper
more necessary; and they are right in the fact, though not in their
deduction, for as the evil does exist whatever may be the cause, it is
certainly wise to endeavour to remedy it.

The position of Valenciennes, which is supposed to be on the eve of a
surrender--the progress of the insurgents in La Vendee--the discontents
in the South--and the charge of treachery against so many of the
Generals, and particularly Custine--all together seem to have agitated
the public extremely: yet it is rather the agitation of uncertainty than
that occasioned by any deep impression of hope or fear. The people wish
to be relieved from their present situation, yet are without any
determinate views for the future; and, indeed, in this part of the
country, where they have neither leaders nor union, it would be very
difficult for them to take a more active part.

The party of the foederalists languish, merely because it is nothing more
than a party, and a party of which the heads excite neither interest nor
esteem. I conclude you learn from the papers all the more important
events, and I confine myself, as usual, to such details as I think less
likely to reach you. The humanity of the English must often banish their
political animosities when they read what passes here; and thousands of
my countrymen must at this moment lament with me the situation to which
France is reduced by projects in which common sense can distinguish no
medium between wickedness and folly.

All apparent attachment to royalism is now cautiously avoided, but the
royalists do not diminish by persecution, and the industry with which
they propagate their opinions is nearly a match for all the force armee
of the republicans.--It is not easy to print pamphlets or newspapers, but
there are certain shops which one would think were discovered by
instinct, where are sold a variety of mysterious emblems of royalty, such
as fans that have no visible ornaments except landscapes, &c. but when
opened by the initiated, present tolerable likenesses of the Royal
Family; snuff-boxes with secret lids, containing miniature busts of the
late King; and music so ingeniously printed, that what to the common eye
offers only some popular air, when folded so as to join the heads and
tails of the notes together, forms sentences of very treasonable import,
and by no means flattering to the existing government--I have known these
interdicted trifles purchased at extravagant prices by the best-reputed
patriots, and by officers who in public breathe nothing but unconquerable
democracy, and detestation of Kings. Yet, though these things are
circulated with extreme caution, every body has something of the sort,
and, as Charles Surface says, "for my part, I don't see who is out of the

The belief in religious miracles is exploded, and it is only in political
ones that the faith of the people is allowed to exercise itself.--We have
lately seen exhibited at the fairs and markets a calf, produced into the
world with the tri-coloured cockade on its head; and on the painted cloth
that announces the phoenomenon is the portrait of this natural
revolutionist, with a mayor and municipality in their official scarfs,
addressing the four-footed patriot with great ceremony.

We set out early to-morrow-morning for Soissons, which is about twenty
leagues from hence. Travelling is not very desirable in the present
circumstances, but Mad. de F____ has some affairs to settle there which
cannot well be entrusted to a third person. The times, however, have a
very hostile appearance, and we intend, if possible, to be absent but
three days.--Yours.

Soissons, August 4, 1793.

"And you may go by Beauvais if you will, for which reason many go by
Beauvais;" and the stranger who turns out of his road to go by Soissons,
must use the same reasoning, for the consciousness of having exercised
his free agency will be all his reward for visiting Soissons. This, by
the way; for my journey hither not being one of curiosity, I have no
right to complain; yet somehow or other, by associating the idea of the
famous Vase, the ancient residence of the first French Kings, and other
circumstances as little connected as these I suppose with modern history,
I had ranked Soissons in my imagination as one of the places I should see
with interest. I find it, however, only a dull, decent-looking town,
tolerably large, but not very populous. In the new division of France it
is the capital of the department De l'Aisne, and is of course the seat of
the administration.

We left Peronne early, and, being so fortunate as to encounter no
accidental delays, we arrived within a league of Soissons early in the
afternoon. Mad. de F____, recollecting an acquaintance who has a chateau
not far out of our road, determined to stop an hour or two; for, as she
said, her friend was so "fond of the country," she should be sure to find
him there. We did, indeed, find this Monsieur, who is so "fond of the
country," at home, extremely well powdered, dressed in a striped silk
coat, and engaged with a card party, on a warm afternoon on the third of
August.--The chateau was situated as a French chateau usually is, so as
to be benefited by all the noises and odours of the village--built with a
large single front, and a number of windows so judiciously placed, that
it must be impossible either to be cool in summer or warm in winter.

We walked out after taking some coffee, and I learned that this lover of
the country did not keep a single acre of land in his own hands, but that
the part immediately contiguous to the house was cultivated for a certain
share of the profit by a farmer who lives in a miserable looking place
adjoining, and where I saw the operations of the dairy-maid carried on
amidst pigs, ducks, and turkeys, who seemed to have established a very
familiar access.

Previous to our arrival at Soissons, the Marquise (who, though she does
not consider me as an aristocrate, knows I am by no means a republican,)
begged me to be cautious in expressing my sentiments, as the Comte de
____, where we were going, had embraced the principles of the revolution
very warmly, and had been much blamed by his family on this account.
Mad. de F____ added, that she had not seen him for above a year, but that
she believed him still to be "extremement patriote."

We reached Mons. de ____'s just as the family were set down to a very
moderate supper, and I observed that their plate had been replaced by
pewter. After the first salutations were over, it was soon visible that
the political notions of the count were much changed. He is a sensible
reflecting man, and seems really to wish the good of his country. He
thinks, with many others, that all the good effects which might have been
obtained by the revolution will be lost through the contempt and hatred
which the republican government has drawn upon it.

Mons. de ____ has two sons who have distinguished themselves very
honourably in the army, and he has himself made great pecuniary
sacrifices; but this has not secured him from numerous domiciliary visits
and vexations of all kinds. The whole family are at intervals a little
pensive, and Mons. de ____ told us, at a moment when the ladies were
absent, that the taking of Valenciennes had occasioned a violent
fermentation at Paris, and that he had serious apprehensions for those
who have the misfortune to be distinguished by their rank, or obnoxious
from their supposed principles--that he himself, and all who were
presumed to have an attachment to the constitution of eighty-nine, were
much more feared, and of course more suspected, than the original
aristocrates--and "enfin" that he had made up his mind a la Francaise to
the worst that could happen.

I have just run over the papers of the day, and I perceive that the
debates of the Convention are filled with invectives against the English.
A letter has been very opportunely found on the ramparts of Lisle, which
is intended to persuade the people that the British government has
distributed money and phosphoric matches in every town in France--the one
to provoke insurrection, the other to set fire to the corn.* You will
conclude this letter to be a fabrication, and it is imagined and executed
with so little ingenuity, that I doubt whether it will impose on the most
ignorant of the people for a moment.

* "The National Convention, in the name of violated humanity,
denounces to all the world, and to the people of England in
particular, the base, perfidious, and wicked conduct of the British
government, which does not hesitate to employ fire, poison,
assassination, and every other crime, to procure the triumph of
tyranny, and the destruction of the rights of man." (Decree, 1st
August, 1793.)

The Queen has been transferred to the Conciergerie, or common prison, and
a decree is passed for trying her; but perhaps at this moment (whatever
may be the result hereafter) they only hope her situation may operate as
a check upon the enemy; at least I have heard it doubted by many whether
they intend to proceed seriously on this trial so long threatened.--
Perhaps I may have before noticed to you that the convention never seemed
capable of any thing great or uniform, and that all their proceedings
took a tinge from that frivolity and meanness which I am almost tempted
to believe inherent in the French character. They have just now, amidst
a long string of decrees, the objects of which are of the first
consequence, inserted one for the destruction of all the royal tombs
before the tenth of August, and another for reducing the expences of the
King's children, particularly their food, to bare necessaries. Had our
English revolutionists thus employed themselves, they might have expelled
the sculptured Monarchs from the Abbey, and waged a very successful war
on the admirers of Gothic antiquity; but neither the Stuarts, nor the
Catholic religion, would have had much to fear from them.

We have been wandering about the town all day, and I have not remarked
that the successes of the enemy have occasioned any regret. When I was
in France three years ago, you may recollect that my letters usually
contained some relation of our embarrassment and delays, owing to the
fear and ignorance of the people. At one place they apprehended the
introduction of foreign troops--at another, that the Comte d'Artois was
to burn all the corn. In short, the whole country teemed with plots and
counterplots, every one of which was more absurd and inexplicable than
those of Oates, with his whole tribe of Jesuits. At present, when a
powerful army is invading the frontiers, and people have not in many
places bread to eat, they seem to be very little solicitous about the
former, and as little disposed to blame the aristocrates for the latter.

It is really extraordinary, after all the pains that have been taken to
excite hatred and resentment against the English, that I have not heard
of a single instance of their having been insulted or molested. Whatever
inconveniencies they may have been subjected to, were acts of the
government, not of the people; and perhaps this is the first war between
the two nations in which the reverse has not been the case.

I accompanied Mad. de ____ this afternoon to the house of a rich
merchant, where she had business, and who, she told me, had been a
furious patriot, but his ardour is now considerably abated. He had just
returned from the department, [Here used for the place where the public
business is transacted.] where his affairs had led him; and he assures
us, that in general the agents of the republic were more inaccessible,
more insolent, corrupt, and ignorant, than any employed under the old
government. He demurred to paying Mad. de ____ a sum of money all in
_assignats a face;_* and this famous patriot would readily have given me
an hundred livres for a pound sterling.

* _Assignats a face_--that is, with the King's effigy; at this time
greatly preferred to those issued after his death.

We shall return to Peronne to-morrow, and I have availed myself of the
hour between cards and supper, which is usually employed by the French in
undressing, to scribble my remarks. In some families, I suppose, supping
in dishabille is an arrangement of oeconomy, in others of ease; but I
always think it has the air of preparation for a very solid meal; and, in
effect, supping is not a mere ceremony with either sex in this country.

I learnt in conversation with M. de ____, whose sons were at Famars when
the camp was forced, that the carnage was terrible, and that the loss of
the French on this occasion amounted to several thousands. You will be
informed of this much more accurately in England, but you will scarcely
imagine that no official account was ever published here, and that in
general the people are ignorant of the circumstance, and all the
disasters attending it. In England, you have opposition papers that
amply supply the omissions of the ministerial gazettes, and often dwell
with much complacence on the losses and defeats of their country; here
none will venture to publish the least event which they suppose the
government wish to keep concealed. I am told, a leading feature of
republican governments is to be extremely jealous of the liberty of the
press, and that of France is, in this respect, truly republican.--Adieu.

Peronne, August, 1793.

I have often regretted, my dear brother, that my letters have for some
time been rather intended to satisfy your curiosity than your affection.
At this moment I feel differently, and I rejoice that the inquietude and
danger of my situation will, probably, not come to your knowledge till I
shall be no longer subject to them. I have been for several days unwell,
and yet my body, valetudinarian as I am at best, is now the better part
of me; for my mind has been so deranged by suspense and terror, that I
expect to recover my health long before I shall be able to tranquillize
my spirits.

On our return from Soissons I found, by the public prints, that a decree
had passed for arresting all natives of the countries with which France
is at war, and who had not constantly resided there since 1789.--This
intelligence, as you will conceive, sufficiently alarmed me, and I lost
no time in consulting Mad. de ____'s friends on the subject, who were
generally of opinion that the decree was merely a menace, and that it was
too unjust to be put in execution. As some days elapsed and no steps
were taken in consequence, I began to think they were right, and my
spirits were somewhat revived; when one evening, as I was preparing to go
to bed, my maid suddenly entered the room, and, before she could give me
any previous explanation, the apartment was filled with armed men. As
soon as I was collected enough to enquire the object of this unseasonable
visit, I learned that all this military apparel was to put the seals on
my papers, and convey my person to the Hotel de Ville!--I knew it would
be vain to remonstrated, and therefore made an effort to recover my
spirits and submit. The business, however, was not yet terminated, my
papers were to be sealed--and though they were not very voluminous, the
process was more difficult than you would imagine, none of the company
having been employed on affairs of the kind before. A debate ensued on
the manner in which it should be done, and, after a very tumultuous
discussion, it was sagaciously concluded to seal up the doors and windows
of all the apartments appropriated to my use. They then discovered that
they had no seal fit for the purpose, and a new consultation was holden
on the propriety of affixing a cypher which was offered them by one of
the Garde Nationale.

This weighty matter being at length decided, the doors of my bedchamber,
dressing-room, and of the apartments with which they communicated, were
carefully fastened up, though not without an observation on my part that
I was only a guest at Mad. de ____'s, and that an order to seize my
papers or person was not a mandate for rendering a part of her home
useless. But there was no reasoning with ignorance and a score of
bayonets, nor could I obtain permission even to take some linen out of my
drawers. On going down stairs, I found the court and avenues to the
garden amply guarded, and with this numerous escort, and accompanied by
Mad. de ____, I was conducted to the Hotel de Ville. I know not what
resistance they might expect from a single female, but, to judge by their
precautions, they must have deemed the adventure a very perilous one.
When we arrived at the Hotel de Ville, it was near eleven o'clock: the
hall was crouded, and a young man, in a dirty linen jacket and trowsers
and dirty linen, with the air of a Polisson and the countenance of an
assassin, was haranguing with great vehemence against the English, who,
he asserted, were all agents of Pitt, (especially the women,) and were to
set fire to the corn, and corrupt the garrisons of the fortified towns.--
The people listened to these terrible projects with a stupid sort of
surprize, and, for the most part, seemed either very careless or very
incredulous. As soon as this inflammatory piece of eloquence was
finished, I was presented to the ill-looking orator, who, I learned, was
a representant du peuple. It was very easy to perceive that my spirits
were quite overpowered, and that I could with difficulty support myself;
but this did not prevent the representant du peuple from treating me with
that inconsiderable brutality which is commonly the effect of a sudden
accession of power on narrow and vulgar minds. After a variety of
impertinent questions, menaces of a prison for myself, and exclamations
of hatred and vengeance against my country, on producing some friends of
Mad. de ____, who were to be answerable for me, I was released, and
returned home more dead than alive.

You must not infer, from what I have related, that I was particularly
distinguished on this occasion, for though I have no acquaintance with
the English here, I understand they had all been treated much in the same
manner.--As soon as the representant had left the town, by dint of
solicitation we prevailed on the municipality to take the seal off the
rooms, and content themselves with selecting and securing my papers,
which was done yesterday by a commission, formally appointed for the
purpose. I know not the quality of the good citizens to whom this
important charge was entrusted, but I concluded from their costume that
they had been more usefully employed the preceding part of the day at the
anvil and last. It is certain, however, they had undertaken a business
greatly beyond their powers. They indeed turned over all my trunks and
drawers, and dived to the bottom of water-jugs and flower-jars with great
zeal, but neglected to search a large portfolio that lay on the table,
probably from not knowing the use of it; and my servant conveyed away
some letters, while I amused them with the sight of a blue-bottle fly
through a microscope. They were at first much puzzled to know whether
books and music were included under the article of papers, and were very
desirous of burning a history of France, because they discovered, by the
title-plate, that it was "about Kings;" but the most difficult part of
this momentous transaction was taking an account of it in writing.
However, as only one of the company could write, there was no disputing
as to the scribe, though there was much about the manner of execution. I
did not see the composition, but I could hear that it stated "comme
quoi," they had found the seals unbroken, "comme quoi," they had taken
them off, and divers "as hows" of the same kind. The whole being
concluded, and my papers deposited in a box, I was at length freed from
my guests, and left in possession of my apartments.

It is impossible to account for this treatment of the English by any mode
of reasoning that does not exclude both justice and policy; and viewing
it only as a symptom of that desperate wickedness which commits evil, not
as a means, but an end, I am extremely alarmed for our situation. At
this moment the whole of French politics seems to center in an endeavour
to render the English odious both as a nation and as individuals. The
Convention, the clubs, and the streets of Paris, resound with low abuse
of this tendency; and a motion was made in the former, by one Garnier, to
procure the assassination of Mr. Pitt. Couthon, a member of the Comite
de Salut Publique, has proposed and carried a decree to declare him the
enemy of mankind; and the citizens of Paris are stunned by the hawkers of
Mr. Pitt's plots with the Queen to "starve all France," and "massacre all
the patriots."--Amidst so many efforts* to provoke the destruction of the
English, it is wonderful, when we consider the sanguinary character which
the French people have lately evinced, that we are yet safe, and it is in
effect only to be accounted for by their disinclination to take any part
in the animosities of their government.

* When our representative appeared at Abbeville with an intention of
arresting the English and other foreigners, the people, to whom
these missionaries with unlimited powers were yet new, took the
alarm, and became very apprehensive that he was come likewise to
disarm their Garde Nationale. The streets were crouded, the town
house was beset, and Citizen Dumout found it necessary to quiet the
town's people by the following proclamation. One part of his
purpose, that of insuring his personal safety, was answered by it;
but that of exciting the people against the English, failed--
insomuch, that I was told even the lowest classes, so far from
giving credit to the malignant calumnies propagated against the
English, openly regretted their arrestation.


"On my arrival amongst you, I little thought that malevolence would
be so far successful as to alarm you on the motives of my visit.
Could the aristocrates, then, flatter themselves with the hope of
making you believe I had the intention of disarming you? Be deaf, I
beseech you, to so absurd a calumny, and seize on those who
propagate it. I came here to fraternize with you, and to assist you
in getting rid of those malcontents and foreigners, who are striving
to destroy the republic by the most infernal manoeuvres.--An
horrible plot has been conceived. Our harvests are to be fired by
means of phosphoric matches, and all the patriots assassinated.
Women, priests, and foreigners, are the instruments employed by the
coalesced despots, and by England above all, to accomplish these
criminal designs.--A law of the first of this month orders the
arrest of all foreigners born in the countries with which the
republic is at war, and not settled in France before the month of
July, 1789. In execution of this law I have required domiciliary
visits to be made. I have urged the preservation of the public
tranquillity. I have therefore done my duty, and only what all good
citizens must approve."

I have just received a few lines from Mrs. D____, written in French, and
put in the post without sealing. I perceive, by the contents, though she
enters into no details, that circumstances similar to those I have
described have likewise taken place at Amiens. In addition to my other
anxieties, I have the prospect of a long separation from my friends; for
though I am not in confinement, I cannot, while the decree which arrested
me remains in force, quit the town of Peronne. I have not often looked
forward with so little hope, or so little certainty, and though a
first-rate philosopher might make up his mind to a particular event, yet
to be prepared for any thing, and all things, is a more difficult

The histories of Greece and Rome have long constituted the grand
resources of French eloquence, and it is not till within a few days that
an orator has discovered all this good learning to be of no use--not, as
you might imagine, because the moral character and political situation of
the French differ from those of the Greeks and Romans, but because they
are superior to all the people who ever existed, and ought to be cited as
models, instead of descending to become copyists. "Therefore, continues
this Jacobin sage, (whose name is Henriot, and who is highly popular,)
let us burn all the libraries and all the antiquities, and have no guide
but ourselves--let us cut off the heads of all the Deputies who have not
voted according to our principles, banish or imprison all the gentry and
the clergy, and guillotine the Queen and General Custine!"

These are the usual subjects of discussion at the clubs, and the
Convention itself is not much more decent. I tremble when I recollect
that I am in a country where a member of the legislature proposes rewards
for assassination, and the leader of a society, that pretends to inform
and instruct the people, argues in favour of burning all the books. The
French are on the eve of exhibiting the singular spectacle of a nation
enlightened by science, accustomed to the benefit of laws and the
enjoyment of arts, suddenly becoming barbarous by system, and sinking
into ignorance from choice.--When the Goths shared the most curious
antiques by weight, were they not more civilized than the Parisian of
1793, who disturbs the ashes of Henry the Fourth, or destroys the
monument of Turenne, by a decree?--I have myself been forced to an act
very much in the spirit of the times, but I could not, without risking my
own safety, do otherwise; and I sat up late last night for the purpose of
burning Burke, which I had brought with me, but had fortunately so well
concealed, that it escaped the late inquisition. I indeed made this
sacrifice to prudence with great unwillingness--every day, by confirming
Mr. Burke's assertions, or fulfilling his predictions, had so increased
my reverence for the work, that I regarded it as a kind of political
oracle. I did not, however, destroy it without an apologetic apostrophe
to the author's benevolence, which I am sure would suffer, were he to be
the occasion, though involuntarily, of conducting a female to a prison or
the Guillotine.

"How chances mock, and changes fill the cup of alteration up with divers
liquors."--On the same hearth, and in a mingled flame, was consumed the
very constitution of 1789, on which Mr. Burke's book was a censure, and
which would now expose me to equal danger were it to be found in my
possession. In collecting the ashes of these two compositions, the
tendency of which is so different, (for such is the complexion of the
moment, that I would not have even the servant suspect I had been burning
a quantity of papers,) I could not but moralize on the mutability of
popular opinion. Mr. Burke's Gallic adversaries are now most of them
proscribed and anathematized more than himself. Perhaps another year may
see his bust erected on the piedestal which now supports that of Brutus
or Le Pelletier.

The letters I have written to you since the communication was
interrupted, with some other papers that I am solicitous to preserve,
I have hitherto always carried about me, and I know not if any danger,
merely probable, will induce me to part with them. You will not, I
think, suspect me of attaching any consequence to my scribblings from
vanity; and if I run some personal risk in keeping them, it is because
the situation of this country is so singular, and the events which occur
almost daily so important, that the remarks of any one who is unlucky
enough to be a spectator, may interest, without the advantage of literary

Peronne, August 24, 1793.

I have been out to-day for the first time since the arrest of the
English, and, though I have few acquaintances here, my adventure at the
Hotel de Ville has gained me a sort of popularity. I was saluted by many
people I did not know, and overwhelmed with expressions of regret for
what had happened, or congratulations on my having escaped so well.

The French are not commonly very much alive to the sufferings of others,
and it is some mortification to my vanity that I cannot, but at the
expence of a reproaching conscience, ascribe the civilities I have
experienced on this occasion to my personal merit. It would doubtless
have been highly flattering to me to relate the tender and general
interest I had excited even among this cold-hearted people, who scarcely
feel for themselves: but the truth is, they are disposed to take the part
of any one whom they think persecuted by their government; and their
representative, Dumont, is so much despised in his private character, and
detested in his public one, that it suffices to have been ill treated by
him, to ensure one a considerable portion of the public good will.

This disposition is not a little consolatory, at a time when the whole
rage of an oligarchical tyranny, though impotent against the English as a
nation, meanly exhausts itself on the few helpless individuals within its
power. Embarrassments accumulate and if Mr. Pitt's agents did not most
obligingly write letters, and these letters happen to be intercepted just
when they are most necessary, the Comite de Salut Publique would be at a
loss how to account for them.

Assignats have fallen into a discredit beyond example, an hundred and
thirty livres having been given for one Louis-d'or; and, as if this were
not the natural result of circumstances like the present, a
correspondence between two Englishmen informs us, that it is the work of
Mr. Pitt, who, with an unparalleled ingenuity, has contrived to send
couriers to every town in France, to concert measures with the bankers
for this purpose. But if we may believe Barrere, one of the members of
the Committee, this atrocious policy of Mr. Pitt will not be unrevenged,
for another intercepted letter contains assurances that an hundred
thousand men have taken up arms in England, and are preparing to march
against the iniquitous metropolis that gives this obnoxious Minister

My situation is still the same--I have no hope of returning to Amiens,
and have just reason to be apprehensive for my tranquillity here. I had
a long conversation this morning with two people whom Dumont has left
here to keep the town in order during his absence. The subject was to
prevail on them to give me a permission to leave Peronne, but I could not
succeed. They were not, I believe, indisposed to gratify me, but were
afraid of involving themselves. One of them expressed much partiality
for the English, but was very vehement in his disapprobation of their
form of government, which he said was "detestable." My cowardice did not
permit me to argue much in its behalf, (for I look upon these people as
more dangerous than the spies of the old police,) and I only ventured to
observe, with great diffidence, that though the English government was
monarchical, yet the power of the Crown was very much limited; and that
as the chief subjects of our complaints at present were not our
institutions, but certain practical errors, they might be remedied
without any violent or radical changes; and that our nobility were
neither numerous nor privileged, and by no means obnoxious to the
majority of the people.--_"Ah, vous avez donc de la noblesse blesse en
Angleterre, ce sont peut-etre les milords,"_ ["What, you have nobility in
England then? The milords, I suppose."] exclaimed our republican, and it
operated on my whole system of defence like my uncle Toby's smoke-jack,
for there was certainly no discussing the English constitution with a
political critic, who I found was ignorant even of the existence of a
third branch of it; yet this reformer of governments and abhorrer of
Kings has power delegated to him more extensive than those of an English
Sovereign, though I doubt if he can write his own language; and his moral
reputation is still less in his favour than his ignorance--for, previous
to the revolution, he was known only as a kind of swindler, and has more
than once been nearly convicted of forgery.--This is, however, the
description of people now chiefly employed, for no honest man would
accept of such commissions, nor perform the services annexed to them.

Bread continues very scarce, and the populace of Paris are, as usual,
very turbulent; so that the neighbouring departments are deprived of
their subsistence to satisfy the wants of a metropolis that has no claim
to an exemption from the general distress, but that which arises from the
fears of the Convention. As far as I have opportunity of learning or
observing, this part of France is in that state of tranquillity which is
not the effect of content but supineness; the people do not love their
government, but they submit to it, and their utmost exertions amount only
to a little occasional obstinacy, which a few dragoons always reduce to
compliance. We are sometimes alarmed by reports that parties of the
enemy are approaching the town, when the gates are shut, and the great
bell is toll'd; but I do not perceive that the people are violently
apprehensive about the matter. Their fears are, I believe, for the most
part, rather personal than political--they do not dread submission to the
Austrians, but military licentiousness.

I have been reading this afternoon Lord Orrery's definition of the male
Cecisbeo, and it reminds me that I have not yet noticed to you a very
important class of females in France, who may not improperly be
denominated female Cecisbeos. Under the old system, when the rank of a
woman of fashion had enabled her to preserve a degree of reputation and
influence, in spite of the gallantries of her youth and the decline of
her charms, she adopted the equivocal character I here allude to, and,
relinquishing the adorations claimed by beauty, and the respect due to
age, charitably devoted herself to the instruction and advancement of
some young man of personal qualifications and uncertain fortune. She
presented him to the world, panegyrized him into fashion, and insured his
consequence with one set of females, by hinting his successes with
another. By her exertions he was promoted in the army or distinguished
at the levee, and a career begun under such auspices often terminated in
a brilliant establishment.--In the less elevated circle, a female
Cecisbeo is usually of a certain age, of an active disposition, and great
volubility, and her functions are more numerous and less dignified. Here
the grand objects are not to besiege Ministers, nor give a "ton" to the
protege at a fashionable ruelle, but to obtain for him the solid
advantages of what she calls _"un bon parti."_ [A good match.] To this
end she frequents the houses of widows and heiresses, vaunts the docility
of his temper, and the greatness of his expectations, enlarges on the
solitude of widowhood, or the dependence and insignificance of a
spinster; and these prefatory encomiums usually end in the concerted
introduction of the Platonic "ami."

But besides these principal and important cares, a female Cecisbeo of the
middle rank has various subordinate ones--such as buying linen, choosing
the colour of a coat, or the pattern of a waistcoat, with all the
minutiae of the favourite's dress, in which she is always consulted at
least, if she has not the whole direction.

It is not only in the first or intermediate classes that these useful
females abound, they are equally common in more humble situations, and
only differ in their employments, not in their principles. A woman in
France, whatever be her condition, cannot be persuaded to resign her
influence with her youth; and the bourgeoise who has no pretensions to
court favour or the disposal of wealthy heiresses, attaches her eleve by
knitting him stockings, forcing him with bons morceaux till he has an
indigestion, and frequent regales of coffee and liqueur.

You must not conclude from all this that there is any gallantry implied,
or any scandal excited--the return for all these services is only a
little flattery, a philosophic endurance of the card-table, and some
skill in the disorders of lap-dogs. I know there are in England, as well
as in France, many notable females of a certain age, who delight in what
they call managing, and who are zealous in promoting, matches among the
young people of their acquaintance; but for one that you meet with in
England there are fifty here.

I doubt much if, upon the whole, the morals of the English women are not
superior to those of the French; but however the question may be decided
as to morals, I believe their superiority in decency of manners is
indisputable--and this superiority is, perhaps, more conspicuous in women
of a certain age, than in the younger part of the sex. We have a sort of
national regard for propriety, which deters a female from lingering on
the confines of gallantry, when age has warned her to withdraw; and an
old woman that should take a passionate and exclusive interest about a
young man not related to her, would become at least an object of
ridicule, if not of censure:--yet in France nothing is more common; every
old woman appropriates some youthful dangler, and, what is extraordinary,
his attentions are not distinguishable from those he would pay to a
younger object.--I should remark, however, as some apology for these
juvenile gallants, that there are very few of what we call Tabbies in
France; that is, females of severe principles and contracted features, in
whose apparel every pin has its destination with mathematical exactness,
who are the very watch-towers of a neighbourhood, and who give the alarm
on the first appearance of incipient frailty. Here, antique dowagers and
faded spinsters are all gay, laughing, rouged, and indulgent--so that
'bating the subtraction of teeth and addition of wrinkles, the disparity
between one score and four is not so great:

"Gay rainbow silks their mellow charms enfold,
Nought of these beauties but themselves is old."

I know if I venture to add a word in defence of Tabbyhood, I shall be
engaged in a war with yourself and all our young acquaintance; yet in
this age, which so liberally "softens, and blends, and weakens, and
dilutes" away all distinctions, I own I am not without some partiality
for strong lines of demarcation; and, perhaps, when fifty retrogrades
into fifteen, it makes a worse confusion in society than the toe of the
peasant treading on the heel of the courtier.--But, adieu: I am not gay,
though I trifle. I have learnt something by my residence in France, and
can be, as you see, frivolous under circumstances that ought to make me

Peronne, August 29, 1793.

The political horizon of France threatens nothing but tempests. If we
are still tranquil here, it is only because the storm is retarded, and,
far from deeming ourselves secure from its violence, we suffer in
apprehension almost as much as at other places is suffered in reality.
An hundred and fifty people have been arrested at Amiens in one night,
and numbers of the gentry in the neighbouring towns have shared the same
fate. This measure, which I understand is general throughout the
republic, has occasioned great alarms, and is beheld by the mass of the
people themselves with regret. In some towns, the Bourgeois have
petitions to the Representatives on mission in behalf of their gentry
thus imprisoned: but, far from succeeding, all who have signed such
petitions are menaced and intimidated, and the terror is so much
increased, that I doubt if even this slight effort will be repeated any

The levee en masse, or rising in a body, which has been for some time
decreed, has not yet taken place. There are very few, I believe, that
comprehend it, and fewer who are disposed to comply. Many consultations
have been holden, many plans proposed; but as the result of all these
consultations and plans is to send a certain number to the frontiers, the
suffrages have never been unanimous except in giving their negative.--
Like Falstaff's troops, every one has some good cause of exemption; and
if you were to attend a meeting where this affair is discussed, you would
conclude the French to be more physically miserable than any people on
the glove. Youths, in apparent good health, have internal disorders, or
concealed infirmities--some are near-sighted--others epileptic--one is
nervous, and cannot present a musquet--another is rheumatic, and cannot
carry it. In short, according to their account, they are a collection of
the lame, the halt, and the blind, and fitter to send to the hospital,
than to take the field. But, in spite of all these disorders and
incapacities, a considerable levy must be made, and the dragoons will, I
dare say, operate very wonderful cures.

The surrender of Dunkirk to the English is regarded as inevitable. I am
not politician enough to foresee the consequences of such an event, but
the hopes and anxieties of all parties seem directed thither, as if the
fate of the war depended on it. As for my own wishes on the subject,
they are not national, and if I secretly invoke the God of Armies for the
success of my countrymen, it is because I think all that tends to destroy
the present French government may be beneficial to mankind. Indeed, the
successes of war can at no time gratify a thinking mind farther than as
they tend to the establishment of peace.

After several days of a mockery which was called a trial, though the
witnesses were afraid to appear, or the Counsel to plead in his favour,
Custine has suffered at the Guillotine. I can be no judge of his
military conduct, and Heaven alone can judge of his intentions. None of
the charges were, however, substantiated, and many of them were absurd or
frivolous. Most likely, he has been sacrificed to a cabal, and his
destruction makes a part of that system of policy, which, by agitating
the minds of the people with suspicions of universal treason and
unfathomable plots, leaves them no resource but implicit submission to
their popular leaders.

The death of Custine seems rather to have stimulated than appeased the
barbarity of the Parisian mob. At every defeat of their armies they call
for executions, and several of those on whom the lot has fallen to march
against the enemy have stipulated, at the tribune of the Jacobins, for
the heads they exact as a condition of their departure,* or as the reward
for their labours. The laurel has no attraction for heroes like these,
who invest themselves with the baneful yew and inauspicious cypress, and
go to the field of honour with the dagger of the assassin yet

* Many insisted they would not depart until after the death of the
Queen--some claimed the death of one General, some that of another,
and all, the lives or banishment of the gentry and clergy.

"Fair steeds, gay shields, bright arms," [Spencer.] the fancy-created
deity, the wreath of fame, and all that poets have imagined to decorate
the horrors of war, are not necessary to tempt the gross barbarity of the
Parisian: he seeks not glory, but carnage--his incentive is the groans of
defenceless victims--he inlists under the standard of the Guillotine, and
acknowledges the executioner for his tutelary Mars.

In remarking the difficulties that have occurred in carrying into
execution the levee en masse, I neglected to inform you that the prime
mover of all these machinations is your omnipotent Mr. Pitt--it is he who
has fomented the perverseness of the towns, and alarmed the timidity of
the villages--he has persuaded some that it is not pleasant to leave
their shops and families, and insinuated into the minds of others that
death or wounds are not very desirable--he has, in fine, so effectually
achieved his purpose, that the Convention issues decree after decree, the
members harangue to little purpose, and the few recruits already levied,
like those raised in the spring, go from many places strongly escorted to
the army.--I wish I had more peaceful and more agreeable subjects for
your amusement, but they do not present themselves, and "you must blame
the times, not me." I would wish to tell you that the legislature is
honest, that the Jacobins are humane, and the people patriots; but you
know I have no talent for fiction, and if I had, my situation is not
favourable to any effort of fancy.--Yours.

Peronne, Sept. 7, 1793.

The successes of the enemy on all sides, the rebellion at Lyons and
Marseilles, with the increasing force of the insurgents in La Vendee,
have revived our eagerness for news, and if the indifference of the
French character exempt them from more patriotic sensations, it does not
banish curiosity; yet an eventful crisis, which in England would draw
people together, here keeps them apart. When an important piece of
intelligence arrives, our provincial politicians shut themselves up with
their gazettes, shun society, and endeavour to avoid giving an opinion
until they are certain of the strength of a party, or the success of an
attempt. In the present state of public affairs, you may therefore
conceive we have very little communication--we express our sentiments
more by looks and gestures than words, and Lavater (admitting his system)
would be of more use to a stranger than Boyer or Chambaud. If the
English take Dunkirk, perhaps we may be a little more social and more

Mad. de ____ has a most extensive acquaintance, and, as we are situated
on one of the roads from Paris to the northern army, notwithstanding the
cautious policy of the moment, we are tolerably well informed of what
passes in most parts of France; and I cannot but be astonished, when I
combine all I hear, that the government is able to sustain itself. Want,
discord, and rebellion, assail it within--defeats and losses from
without. Perhaps the solution of this political problem can only be
found in the selfishness of the French character, and the want of
connection between the different departments. Thus one part of the
country is subdued by means of another: the inhabitants of the South take
up arms in defence of their freedom and their commerce, while those of
the North refuse to countenance or assist them, and wait in selfish
tranquillity till the same oppression is extended to themselves. The
majority of the people have no point of union nor mode of communication,
while the Jacobins, whose numbers are comparatively insignificant, are
strong, by means of their general correspondence, their common center at
Paris, and the exclusive direction of all the public prints. But,
whatever are the causes, it is certain that the government is at once
powerful and detested--almost without apparent support, yet difficult to
overthrow; and the submission of Rome to a dotard and a boy can no longer
excite the wonder of any one who reflects on what passes in France.

After various decrees to effect the levee en masse, the Convention have
discovered that this sublime and undefined project was not calculated for
the present exhausted state of martial ardour. They therefore no longer
presume on any movement of enthusiasm, but have made a positive and
specific requisition of all the male inhabitants of France between
eighteen and twenty-five years of age. This, as might be expected, has
been more effectual, because it interests those that are exempt to force
the compliance of those who are not. Our young men here were like
children with a medicine--they proposed first one form of taking this
military potion, then another, and finding them all equally unpalatable,
would not, but for a little salutary force, have decided at all.

A new law has been passed for arresting all the English who cannot
produce two witnesses of their civisme, and those whose conduct is thus
guaranteed are to receive tickets of hospitality, which they are to wear
as a protection. This decree has not yet been carried into effect at
Peronne, nor am I much disturbed about it. Few of our countrymen will
find the matter very difficult to arrange, and I believe they have all a
better protection in the disposition of the people towards them, than any
that can be assured them by decrees of the Convention.

Sept. 11. The news of Lord Hood's taking possession of Toulon, which the
government affected to discredit for some days, is now ascertained; and
the Convention, in a paroxism of rage, at once cowardly and unprincipled,
has decreed that all the English not resident in France before 1789,
shall be imprisoned as hostages, and be answerable with their lives for
the conduct of their countrymen and of the Toulonese towards Bayle and
Beauvais, two Deputies, said to be detained in the town at the time of
its surrender. My first emotions of terror and indignation have
subsided, and I have, by packing up my clothes, disposing of my papers,
and providing myself with money, prepared for the worst. My friends,
indeed, persuade me, (as on a former occasion,) that the decree is too
atrocious to be put in execution; but my apprehensions are founded on a
principle not likely to deceive me--namely, that those who have possessed
themselves of the French government are capable of any thing. I live in
constant fear, watching all day and listening all night, and never go to
bed but with the expectation of being awakened, nor rise without a
presentiment of misfortune.--I have not spirits nor composure to write,
and shall discontinue my letters until I am relieved from suspense, if
nor from uneasiness. I risk much by preserving these papers, and,
perhaps, may never be able to add to them; but whatever I may be reserved
for, while I have a hope they may reach you they shall not be destroyed.
--I bid you adieu in a state of mind which the circumstances I am under
will describe better than words.--Yours.

Maison d'Arret, Arras, Oct. 15, 1793.

Dear Brother,

The fears of a timid mind usually magnify expected evil, and anticipated
suffering often diminishes the effect of an apprehended blow; yet my
imagination had suggested less than I have experienced, nor do I find
that a preparatory state of anxiety has rendered affliction more
supportable. The last month of my life has been a compendium of misery;
and my recollection, which on every other subject seems to fail me, is,
on this, but too faithful, and will enable me to relate events which will
interest you not only as they personally concern me, but as they present
a picture of the barbarity and despotism to which this whole country is
subject, and to which many thousands besides myself were at the same
instant victims.

A few evenings after I concluded my last, the firing of cannon and
ringing the great bell announced the arrival of Dumont (still
Representative en mission in our department). The town was immediately
in alarm, all the gates were shut, and the avenues leading to the
ramparts guarded by dragoons. Our house being in a distant and
unfrequented street, before we could learn the cause of all this
confusion, a party of the national guard, with a municipal officer at
their head, arrived, to escort Mad. de ___ and myself to a church, where
the Representant was then examining the prisoners brought before him.
Almost as much astonished as terrified, we endeavoured to procure some
information of our conductors, as to what was to be the result of this
measure; but they knew nothing, and it was easy to perceive they thought
the office they were executing an unpleasant one. The streets we passed
were crouded with people, whose silent consternation and dismayed
countenances increased our forebodings, and depressed the little courage
we had yet preserved. The church at our arrival was nearly empty, and
Dumont preparing to depart, when the municipal officer introduced us to
him. As soon as he learned that Mad. de ____ was the sister of an
emigrant, and myself a native of England, he told us we were to pass the
night in a church appointed for the purpose, and that on the morrow we
should be conveyed to Arras. For a moment all my faculties became
suspended, and it was only by an effort almost convulsive that I was able
to ask how long it was probable we should be deprived of our liberty. He
said he did not know--"but that the raising of the siege of Dunkirk, and

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