E-text prepared by Desmond Grocott
OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
Lady M——y W——y M——e;
WRITTEN DURING HER TRAVELS IN EUROPE, ASIA, AND AFRICA,
Persons of Distinction, Men of Letters, &c. in different PARTS of EUROPE.
Which contain, among other curious Relations, ACCOUNTS of the POLICY and MANNERS of the TURKS.
Drawn from Sources that have been inaccessible to other Travellers.
A NEW EDITION, COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME.
LONDON; PRINTED FOR THOMAS MARTIN,
BY A L A D Y.
WRITTEN IN 1724.
I WAS going, like common editors, to advertise the reader of the beauties and excellencies of the work laid before him: To tell him, that the illustrious author had opportunities that other travellers, whatever their quality or curiosity may have been, cannot obtain; and a genius capable of making the best improvement of every opportunity. But if the reader, after perusing one letter only has not discernment to distinguish that natural elegance, that delicacy of sentiment and observation, that easy gracefulness, and lovely simplicity, (which is the perfection of writing) and in which these Letters exceed all that has appeared in this kind, or almost in any other, let him lay the book down, and leave it to those who have.
THE noble author had the goodness to lend me her MS. to satisfy my curiosity in some inquiries I had made concerning her travels; and when I had it in my hands, how was it possible to part with it? I once had the vanity to hope I might acquaint the public, that it owed this invaluable treasure to my importunities. But, alas! the most ingenious author has condemned it to obscurity during her life; and conviction, as well as deference, obliges me to yield to her reasons. However, if these Letters appear hereafter, when I am in my grave, let this attend them, in testimony to posterity, that among her contemporaries, one woman, at least, was just to her merit.
THERE is not any thing so excellent, but some will carp at it; and the (sic) rather, because of its excellency. But to such hypercritics I shall not say ************.
I CONFESS, I am malicious enough to desire, that the world should see to how much better purpose the LADIES travel than their LORDS; and that, whilst it is surfeited with Male travels, all in the same tone, and stuffed with the same trifles; a lady has the skill to strike out a new path, and to embellish a worn-out subject with variety of fresh and elegant entertainment. For, besides the vivacity and spirit which enliven every part, and that inimitable beauty which spreads through the whole; besides the purity of the style, for which it may justly, be accounted the standard of the English tongue; the reader will find a more true and accurate account of the customs and manners of the several nations with whom this lady conversed, than he can in any other author. But, as her ladyship's penetration discovers the inmost follies of the heart, so the candour of her temper passed over them with an air of pity, rather than reproach; treating with the politeness of a court, and the gentleness of a lady, what the severity of her judgment could not but condemn.
IN short, let her own sex at least, do her justice; lay aside diabolical Envy, and its brother Malice [Footnote: This fair and elegant prefacer (sic) has resolved that Malice should be of the masculine gender: I believe it is both masculine and feminine, and I heartily wish it were neuter.] with all their accursed company, sly whispering, cruel back-biting, spiteful detraction, and the rest of that hideous crew, which, I hope, are very falsely said to attend the Tea-table, being more apt to think, they frequent those public places, where virtuous women never come. Let the men malign one another, if they think fit, and strive to pull down merit, when they cannot equal it. Let us be better natured, than to give way to any unkind or disrespectful thought of so bright an ornament of our sex, merely because she has better sense; for I doubt not but our hearts will tell us, that this is the real and unpardonable offence, whatever may be pretended. Let us be better Christians, than to look upon her with an evil eye, only because the giver of all good gifts has entrusted and adorned her with the most excellent talents. Rather let us freely own the superiority, of this sublime genius, as I do, in the sincerity of my soul; pleased that a woman triumphs, and proud to follow in her train. Let us offer her the palm which is so justly her due; and if we pretend to any laurels, lay them willingly at her feet.
December 18.. 1724. M. A.
Charm'd into love of what obscures my fame, If I had wit, I'd celebrate her name, And all the beauties of her mind proclaim. Till Malice, deafen'd with the mighty sound, Its ill-concerted calumnies confound; Let fall the mask, and with pale envy meet, To ask and find, their pardon at her feet.
You see, Madam, how I lay every thing at your feet. As the tautology shews (sic) the poverty of my genius, it likewise shews the extent of your empire over my imagination.
May 31. 1725.
ADVERTISEMENT OF THE EDITOR
THE editor of these letters, who, during his residence at Venice, was honoured with the esteem and friendship of their ingenious and elegant author, presents them to the public, for the two following reasons:
First, Because it was the manifest intention of the late Lady M——y W——Y M——e; that this SELECT COLLECTION of her letters should be communicated to the public: an intention declared, not only to the editor, but to a few more chosen friends, to whom she gave, copies of the incomparable letters.
The second, and principal reason, that has engaged the editor to let this Collection see the light, is, that the publication of these letters will be an immortal monument to the memory of Lady M——y W——y M——e; and will shew, as long as the English language endures, the sprightliness of her wit, the solidity of her judgment, the extent of her knowledge, the elegance of her taste, and the excellence of her real character.
The SELECT COLLECTION, here published, was faithfully transcribed from the original manuscript of her ladyship at Venice.
The letters from Ratisbon, Vienna, Dresden, Peterwaradin, Belgrade, Adrianople, Constantinople, Pera, Tunis, Genoa, Lyons, and Paris, are certainly, the most curious and interesting part of this publication; and, both in point of matter and form, are, to say no more of them, singularly worthy of the curiosity and attention of all men of taste, and even of all women of fashion. As to those female readers, who read for improvement, and think their beauty an insipid thing, if it is not seasoned by intellectual charms, they will find in these letters what they seek for; and will behold in their author, an ornament and model to their sex.
TO THE COUNTESS OF ——.
Rotterdam, Aug. 3. O. S. 1716.
I FLATTER, myself, dear sister, that I shall give you some pleasure in letting you know that I have safely passed the sea, though we had the ill fortune of a storm. We were persuaded by the captain of the yacht to set out in a calm, and he pretended there was nothing so easy as to tide it over; but, after two days slowly moving, the wind blew so hard, that none of the sailors could keep their feet, and we were all Sunday night tossed very handsomely. I never saw a man more frighted (sic) than the captain. For my part, I have been so lucky, neither to suffer from fear nor seasickness; though, I confess, I was so impatient to see myself once more upon dry land, that I would not stay till the yacht could get to Rotterdam, but went in the long-boat to Helvoetsluys, where we had voitures to carry us to the Briel. I was charmed with the neatness of that little town; but my arrival at Rotterdam presented me a new scene of pleasure. All the streets are paved with broad stones, and before many of the meanest artificers doors are placed seats of various coloured marbles, so neatly kept, that, I assure you, I walked almost all over the town yesterday, incognito, in my slippers without receiving one spot of dirt; and you may see the Dutch maids washing the pavement of the street, with more application than ours do our bed-chambers. The town seems so full of people, with such busy faces, all in motion, that I can hardly fancy it is not some celebrated fair; but I see it is every day the same. 'Tis certain no town can be more advantageously situated for commerce. Here are seven large canals, on which the merchants ships come up to the very doors of their houses. The shops and warehouses are of a surprising neatness and magnificence, filled with an incredible quantity of fine merchandise, and so much cheaper than what we see in England, that I have much ado to persuade myself I am still so near it. Here is neither dirt nor beggary to be seen. One is not shocked with those loathsome cripples, so common in London, nor teased with the importunity of idle fellows and wenches, that chuse (sic) to be nasty and lazy. The common servants, and little shop-women, here, are more nicely clean than most of our ladies; and the great variety of neat dresses (every woman dressing her head after her own fashion) is an additional pleasure in seeing the town. You see, hitherto, I make no complaints, dear sister; and if I continue to like travelling as I do at present, I shall not repent my project. It will go a great way in making me satisfied with it, if it affords me an opportunity of entertaining you. But it is not from Holland that you may expect a disinterested offer. I can write enough in the stile (sic) of Rotterdam, to tell you plainly, in one word that I expect returns of all the London news. You see I have already learnt to make a good bargain; and that it is not for nothing I will so much as tell you, I am your affectionate sister.
TO MRS. S——.
Hague, Aug. 5. O. S. 1716.
I MAKE haste to tell you, dear Madam, that, after all the dreadful fatigues you threatened me with, I am hitherto very well pleased with my journey. We take care to make such short stages every day, that I rather fancy myself upon parties of pleasure, than upon the road; and sure nothing can be more agreeable than travelling in Holland. The whole country appears a large garden; the roads are well paved, shaded on each side with rows of trees, and bordered with large canals, full of boats, passing and repassing. Every twenty paces gives you the prospect of some villa, and every four hours that of a large town, so surprisingly neat, I am sure you would be charmed with them. The place I am now at is certainly one of the finest villages in the world. Here are several squares finely built, and (what I think a particular beauty) the whole set with thick large trees. The Vour-hout is, at the same time, the Hyde-Park and Mall of the people of quality; for they take the air in it both on foot and in coaches. There are shops for wafers, cool liquors, &c.—I have been to see several of the most celebrated gardens, but I will not teaze (sic) you with their descriptions. I dare say you think my letter already long enough. But I must not conclude without begging your pardon, for not obeying your commands, in sending the lace you ordered me. Upon my word, I can yet find none, that is not dearer than you may buy it at London. If you want any India goods, here are great variety of penny-worths; and I shall follow your orders with great pleasure and exactness; being, Dear Madam, &c. &c.
TO MRS. S. C.
Nimeguen, Aug.13. O. S. 1716.
I AM extremely sorry, my dear S. that your fears of disobliging your relations, and their fears for your health and safety, have hindered me from enjoying the happiness of your company, and you the pleasure of a diverting journey. I receive some degree of mortification from every agreeable novelty, or pleasing prospect, by the reflection of your having so unluckily missed the delight which I know it would have given you. If you were with me in this town, you would be ready to expect to receive visits from your Nottingham friends. No two places were ever more resembling; one has but to give the Maese the name of the Trent, and there is no distinguishing the prospect. The houses, like those of Nottingham, are built one above another, and are intermixed in the same manner with trees and gardens. The tower they call Julius Caesar's, has the same situation with Nottingham castle; and I cannot help fancying, I see from it the Trentfield, Adboulton, places so well known to us. 'Tis true, the fortifications make a considerable difference. All the learned in the art of war bestow great commendations on them; for my part, that know nothing of the matter, I shall content myself with telling you, 'tis a very pretty walk on the ramparts, on which there is a tower, very deservedly called the Belvidera; where people go to drink coffee, tea, &c. and enjoy one of the finest prospects in the world. The public walks have no great beauty but the thick shade of the trees, which is solemnly delightful. But I must not forget to take notice of the bridge, which appeared very surprising to me. It is large enough to hold hundreds of men, with horses and carriages. They give the value of an English two-pence to get upon it, and then away they go, bridge and all, to the other side of the river, with so slow a motion, one is hardly sensible of any at all. I was yesterday at the French church, and stared very much at their manner of service. The parson clapped on a broad-brimmed hat in the first place, which gave him entirely the air of what d'ye call him, in Bartholomew fair, which he kept up by extraordinary antic gestures, and preaching much such stuff as the other talked to the puppets. However, the congregation seemed to receive it with great devotion; and I was informed by some of his flock, that he is a person of particular fame amongst them. I believe, by this time, you are as much tired with my account of him, as I was with his sermon; but I am sure your brother will excuse a digression in favour of the church of England. You know speaking disrespectfully of the Calvinists, is the same thing as speaking honourably of the church. Adieu, my dear S. always remember me; and be assured I can never forget you, &c. &c.
TO THE LADY ——.
Cologn (sic), Aug, 16. O. S. 1716.
IF my lady —— could have any notion of the fatigues that I have suffered these two last days, I am sure she would own it a great proof of regard, that I now sit down to write to her. We hired horses from Nimeguen hither, not having the conveniency (sic) of the post, and found but very indifferent accommodations at Reinberg, our first stage; but it was nothing to what I suffered yesterday. We were in hopes to reach Cologn; our horses tired at Stamel, three hours from it, where I was forced to pass the night in my clothes, in a room not at all better than a hovel; for though I have my bed with me, I had no mind to undress, where the wind came from a thousand places. We left this wretched lodging at day-break, and about six this morning came safe here, where I got immediately into bed. I slept so well for three hours, that I found myself perfectly recovered, and have had spirits enough to go and see all that is curious in the town, that is to say, the churches, for here is nothing else worth seeing. This is a very large town, but the most part of it is old built. The Jesuits church, which is the neatest, was shewed (sic) me, in a very complaisant manner, by a handsome young Jesuit; who, not knowing who I was, took a liberty in his compliments and railleries, which very much diverted me. Having never before seen any thing of that nature, I could not enough admire the magnificence of the altars, the rich images of the saints (all massy silver) and the enchassures of the relicks (sic); though I could not help murmuring, in my heart, at the profusion of pearls, diamonds, and rubies, bestowed on the adornment of rotten teeth, and dirty rags. I own that I had wickedness enough to covet St Ursula's pearl necklaces; though perhaps this was no wickedness at all, an image not being certainly one's neighbour's; but I went yet farther, and wished the wench herself converted into dressing-plate. I should also gladly see converted into silver, a great St Christopher, which I imagine would look very well in a cistern. These were my pious reflections: though I was very well satisfied to see, piled up to the honour of our nation, the skulls of the eleven thousand virgins. I have seen some hundreds of relicks here of no less, consequence; but I will not imitate the common stile (sic) of travellers so far, as to give you a list of them; being persuaded, that you have no manner of curiosity for the titles given to jaw-bones and bits of worm-eaten wood.—Adieu, I am just going to supper, where I shall drink your health in an admirable sort of Lorrain (sic) wine, which I am sure is the same you call Burgundy in London, &c. &c.
TO THE COUNTESS OF B——.
Nuremberg, Aug. 22. O. S. 1716.
AFTER five days travelling post, I could not sit down to write on any other occasion, than to tell my dear lady, that I have not forgot her obliging command, of sending her some account of my travels. I have already passed a large part of Germany, have seen all that is remarkable in Cologn, Frankfort, Wurtsburg, and this place. 'Tis impossible not to observe the difference between the free towns and those under the government of absolute princes, as all the little sovereigns of Germany are. In the first, there appears an air of commerce and plenty. The streets are well-built, and full of people, neatly and plainly dressed. The shops are loaded with merchandise, and the commonalty are clean and cheerful. In the other you see a sort of shabby finery, a number of dirty people of quality tawdered (sic) out; narrow nasty streets out of repair, wretchedly thin of inhabitants, and above half of the common sort asking alms. I cannot help fancying one under the figure of a clean Dutch citizen's wife, and the other like a poor town lady of pleasure, painted and ribboned out in her head-dress, with tarnished silver-laced shoes, a ragged under-petticoat, a miserable mixture of vice and poverty.—They have sumptuary laws in this town, which distinguish their rank by their dress, prevent the excess which ruins so many other cities, and has a more agreeable effect to the eye of a stranger, than our fashions. I need not be ashamed to own, that I wish these laws were in force in other parts of the world. When one considers impartially, the merit of a rich suit of clothes in most places, the respect and the smiles of favour it procures, not to speak of the envy and the sighs it occasions (which is very often the principal charm to the wearer), one is forced to confess, that there is need of an uncommon understanding to resift the temptation of pleasing friends and mortifying rivals; and that it is natural to young people to fall into a folly, which betrays them to that want of money which is the source of a thousand basenesses (sic). What numbers of men have begun the world with generous inclinations, that have afterwards been the instruments of bringing misery on a whole people, being led by vain expence (sic) into debts that they could clear no other way but by the forfeit of their honour, and which they never could have contracted, if the respect the multitude pays to habits, was fixed by law, only to a particular colour or cut of plain cloth! These reflections draw after them others that are too melancholy. I will make haste to put them out of your head by the farce of relicks, with which I have been entertained in all Romish churches.
THE Lutherans are not quite free from these follies. I have seen here, in the principal church, a large piece of the cross set in jewels, and the point of the spear, which they told me very gravely, was the same that pierced the side of our Saviour. But I was particularly diverted in a little Roman Catholic church which is permitted here, where the professors of that religion are not very rich, and consequently cannot adorn their images in so rich a manner as their neighbour. For, not to be quite destitute of all finery, they have dressed up an image of our Saviour over the altar, in a fair full-bottomed wig very well powdered. I imagine I see your lady ship stare at this article, of which you very much doubt the veracity; but, upon my word, I have not yet made use of the privilege of a traveller; and my whole account is written with the same plain sincerity of heart, with which I assure you that I am, dear Madam, yours, &c. &c.
To MRS P——.
Ratisbon, Aug. 30 O. S. 1716.
I HAD the pleasure of receiving yours, but the day before I left London. I give you a thousand thanks for your good wishes, and have such an opinion of their efficacy that, I am persuaded, I owe in part, to them, the good luck of having proceeded so far on my long journey without any ill accident. For I don't reckon it any, to have been stopped a few days in this town by a cold, since it has not only given me an opportunity of seeing all that is curious in it, but of making some acquaintance with the ladies, who have all been to see me with great civility, particularly Madame ——, the wife of our king's envoy from Hanover. She has carried me to all the assemblies, and I have been magnificently entertained at her house, which is one of the finest here. You know, that all the nobility of this place are envoys from different states. Here are a great number of them, and they might pass their time agreeably enough, if they were less delicate on the point of ceremony. But instead of joining in the design of making the town as pleasant to one another as they can, and improving their little societies, they amuse themselves no other way than with perpetual quarrels, which they take care to eternize (sic), by leaving them to their successors; and an envoy to Ratisbon receives, regularly, half a dozen quarrels, among the perquisites of his employment. You may be sure the ladies are not wanting, on their side, in cherishing and improving these important picques, which divide the town almost into as many parties, as there are families. They chuse rather to suffer the mortification of sitting almost alone on their assembly nights, than to recede one jot from their pretensions. I have not been here above a week, and yet I have heard from almost every one of them the whole history of their wrongs, and dreadful complaint of the injustice of their neighbours, in hopes to draw me to their party. But I think it very prudent to remain neuter, though, if I was to stay amongst them, there would be no possibility of continuing so, their quarrels running so high, that they will not be civil to those that visit their adversaries. The foundation of these everlasting disputes, turns entirely upon rank, place, and the title of Excellency, which they all pretend to; and, what is very hard, will give it to no body. For my part, I could not forbear advising them, (for the public good) to give the title of Excellency to every body; which would include the receiving it from every body; but the very mention of such a dishonourable peace, was received with as much indignation, as Mrs Blackaire did the motion of a reference. And indeed, I began to think myself ill-natured, to offer to take from them, in a town where there are so few diversions, so entertaining an amusement. I know that my peaceable disposition already gives me a very ill figure, and that 'tis publicly whispered as a piece of impertinent pride in me, that I have hitherto been saucily civil to every body, as if I thought nobody good enough to quarrel with. I should be obliged to change my behaviour, if I did not intend to pursue my journey in a few days. I have been to see the churches here, and had the permission of touching the relicks, which was never suffered in places where I was not known. I had, by this privilege, the opportunity of making an observation, which I doubt not might have been made in all the other churches, that the emeralds and rubies which they show round their relicks and images are most of them false; though they tell you that many of the Crosses and Madonas (sic), set round with these stones, have been the gifts of emperors and other great princes. I don't doubt, indeed, but they were at first jewels of value; but the good fathers have found it convenient to apply them to other uses, and the people are just as well satisfied with bits of glass amongst these relicks. They shewed me a prodigious claw set in gold, which they called the claw of a griffin; and I could not forbear asking the reverend priest that shewed it, Whether the griffin was a saint? The question almost put him beside his gravity; but he answered, They only kept it as a curiosity. I was very much scandalised at a large silver image of the Trinity, where the Father is represented under the figure of a decrepit old man, with a beard down to his knees, and triple crown on his head, holding in his arms the Son, fixed on the cross, and the Holy Ghost, in the shape of a dove, hovering over him. Madam —— is come this minute to call me to the assembly, and forces me to tell you, very abruptly, that I am ever your, &c. &c.
TO THE COUNTESS OF ——.
Vienna, Sept. 8. O. S. 1716.
I AM now, my dear sister, safely arrived at Vienna; and, I thank God, have not at all suffered in my health, nor (what is dearer to me) in that of my child, by all our fatigues. We travelled by water from Ratisbon, a journey perfectly agreeable, down the Danube, in one of those little vessels, that they, very properly, call wooden houses, having in them all the conveniences of a palace, stoves in the chambers, kitchens, &c. They are rowed by twelve men each, and move with such incredible swiftness, that in the same day you have the pleasure of a vast variety of prospects; and, within the space of a few hours, you have the pleasure of seeing a populous city adorned with magnificent palaces, and the most romantic solitudes, which appear distant from the commerce of mankind, the banks of the Danube being charmingly diversified with woods, rocks, mountains covered with vines, fields of corn, large cities, and ruins of ancient castles. I saw the great towns of Passau and Lintz, famous for the retreat of the imperial court, when Vienna was besieged. This town, which has the honour of being the emperor's residence, did not at all answer my expectation, nor ideas of it, being much less than I expected to find it; the streets are very close, and so narrow, one cannot observe the fine fronts of the palaces, though many of them very well deserve observation, being truly magnificent. They are built of fine white stone, and are excessive high. For as the town is too little for the number of the people that desire to live in it, the builders seem to have projected to repair that misfortune, by clapping one town on the top of another, most of the houses being of five, and some of them six stories. You may easily imagine, that the streets being so narrow, the rooms are extremely dark; and, what is an inconveniency much more intolerable, in my opinion, there is no house has so few as five or six families in it. The apartments of the greatest ladies, and even of the ministers of state, are divided, but by a partition, from that of a taylor (sic) or shoemaker; and I know no body that has above two floors in any house, one for their own use, and one higher for their servants. Those that have houses of their own, let Out the rest of them to whoever will take them; and thus the great stairs, (which are all of stone) are as common and as dirty as the street. 'Tis true, when you have once travelled through them, nothing can be more surprisingly magnificent than the apartments. They are commonly a suite of eight or ten large rooms, all inlaid, the doors and windows richly carved and gilt, and the furniture, such as is seldom seen in the palaces of sovereign princes in other countries. Their apartments are adorned with hangings of the finest tapestry of Brussels, prodigious large looking glasses in silver frames, fine japan tables, beds, chairs, canopies, and window curtains of the richest Genoa damask or velvet, almost covered with gold lace or embroidery. All this is made gay by pictures, and vast jars of japan china, and large lustres of rock crystal. I have already had the honour of being invited to dinner by several of the first people of quality; and I must do them the justice to say, the good taste and magnificence of their tables, very well answered to that of their furniture. I have been more than once entertained with fifty dishes of meat all served in silver, and well dressed; the desert (sic) proportionable, served in the finest china. But the variety and richness of their wines, is what appears the most surprising. The constant way is, to lay a list of their names upon the plates of the guests, along with the napkins; and I have counted several times to the number of eighteen different sorts, all exquisite in their kinds. I was yesterday at Count Schoonbourn, the vice-chancellor's garden, where I was invited to dinner. I must own, I never saw a place so perfectly delightful as the Fauxburg (sic) of Vienna. It is very large, and almost wholly composed of delicious palaces. If the emperor found it proper to permit the gates of the town to be laid open, that the Fauxburg might be joined to it, he would have one of the largest and best built cities in Europe. Count Schoonbourn's villa is one of the most magnificent; the furniture all rich brocades, so well fancied and fitted up, nothing can look more gay and splendid; not to speak of a gallery, full of rarities of coral, mother of pearl, and, throughout the whole house, a profusion of gilding, carving, fine paintings, the most beautiful porcelain, statues of alabaster and ivory, and vast orange and lemon trees in gilt pots. The dinner was perfectly fine and well ordered, and made still more agreeable by the good humour of the Count. I have not yet been at court, being forced to stay for my gown, without which there is no waiting on the empress; though I am not without great impatience to see a beauty that has been the admiration of so many different nations. When I have had that honour, I will not fail to let you know my real thoughts, always taking a particular pleasure in communicating them to my dear sister.
TO MR. P——.
Vienna, Sept.14. O. S. (sic)
PERHAPS you'll laugh at me for thanking you very gravely for all the obliging concern you express for me. 'Tis certain that I may, if I please, take the fine things you say to me for wit and raillery; and, it may be, it would be taking them right. But I never, in my life, was half so well disposed to take you in earnest as I am at present; and that distance which makes the continuation of your friendship improbable, has very much increased my faith in it. I find that I have, (as well as the rest of my sex) whatever face I set on't, a strong disposition to believe in miracles. Don't fancy, however, that I am infected by the air of these popish countries; I have, indeed, so far wandered from the discipline of the church of England, as to have been last Sunday at the opera, which was performed in the garden of the Favorita; and I was so much pleased with it, I have not yet repented my seeing it. Nothing of that kind ever was more magnificent; and I can easily believe what I am told, that the decorations and habits cost the emperor thirty thousand pounds Sterling. The stage was built over a very large canal, and, at the beginning of the second act, divided into two parts, discovering the water, on which there immediately came, from different parts, two fleets of little gilded vessels, that gave the representation of a naval fight. It is not easy to imagine the beauty of this scene, which I took particular notice of. But all the rest were perfectly fine in their kind. The story of the opera is the enchantment of Alcina, which gives opportunities for great variety of machines, and changes of the scenes, which are performed with a surprising swiftness. The theatre is so large, that it is hard to carry the eye to the end of it, and the habits in the utmost magnificence, to the number of one hundred and eight. No house could hold such large decorations: but the ladies all sitting in the open air, exposes them to great inconveniences; for there is but one canopy for the imperial family; and the first night it was represented, a shower of rain happening, the opera was broke off, and the company crowded away in such confusion, that I was almost squeezed to death.—But if their operas are thus delightful, their comedies are in as high a degree ridiculous. They have but one play-house, where I had the curiosity to go to a German comedy, and was very glad it happened to be the story of Amphitrion (sic). As that subject has been already handled by a Latin, French, and English poet, I was curious to see what an Austrian author would make of it. I understand enough of that language to comprehend the greatest part of it; and besides, I took with me a lady, that had the goodness to explain to me every word. The way is, to take a box, which holds four, for yourself and company. The fixed price is a gold ducat. I thought the house very low and dark; but I confess, the comedy admirably recompensed that defect. I never laughed so much in my life. It began with Jupiter's falling in love out of a peep-hole in the clouds, and ended with the birth of Hercules. But what was most pleasant, was the use Jupiter made of his metamorphosis; for you no sooner saw him under the figure of Amphitrion, but, instead of flying to Alcmena, with the raptures Mr Dryden puts into his mouth, he sends for Amphitrion's taylor, and cheats him of a laced coat, and his banker of a bag of money, a Jew of a diamond ring, and bespeaks a great supper in his name; and the greatest part of the comedy turns upon poor Amphitrion's being tormented by these people for their debts. Mercury uses Sofia in the same manner. But I could not easily pardon the liberty the poet has taken of larding his play with, not only indecent expressions, but such gross words, as I don't think Our mob would suffer from a mountebank. Besides, the two Sofias very fairly let down their breeches in the direct view of the boxes, which were full of people of the first rank, that seemed very well pleased with their entertainment, and assured me, this was a celebrated piece. I shall conclude my letter with this remarkable relation, very well worthy the serious consideration of Mr Collier. I won't trouble you with farewel (sic) compliments, which I think generally as impertinent, as courtesies at leaving the room, when the visit had been too long already.
TO THE COUNTESS OF ——.
Vienna, Sept. 14. O. S.
THOUGH I have so lately troubled you, my dear sister, with a long letter, yet I will keep my promise in giving you an account of my first going to court. In order to that ceremony, I was squeezed up in a gown, and adorned with a gorget and the other implements thereunto belonging; a dress very inconvenient, but which certainly shows the neck and shape to great advantage. I cannot forbear giving you some description of the fashions here, which are more monstrous, and contrary to all common sense and reason, than 'tis possible for you to imagine. They build certain fabrics of gauze on their heads, about a yard high, consisting of three or four stories, fortified with numberless yards of heavy ribbon. The foundation of this structure is a thing they call a Bourle, which is exactly of the same shape and kind, but about four times as big as those rolls our prudent milk-maids make use of to fix their pails upon. This machine they cover With their own hair, which they mix with a great deal of false, it being a particular beauty to have their heads too large to go into a moderate tub. Their hair is prodigiously powdered to conceal the mixture, and set out with three or four rows of bodkins (wonderfully large, that stick out two or three inches from their hair) made of diamonds, pearls, red, green, and yellow stones, that it certainly requires as much art and experience to carry the load upright, as to dance upon May-day with the garland. Their whale-bone petticoats outdo ours by several yards, circumference, and cover some acres of ground. You may easily suppose how this extraordinary dress sets off and improves the natural ugliness, with which God Almighty has been pleased to endow them, generally speaking. Even the lovely empress herself is obliged to comply, in some degree, with these absurd fashions, which they would not quit for all the world. I had a private audience (according to ceremony) of half an hour, and then all the other ladies were permitted to come and make their court. I was perfectly charmed with the empress; I cannot however tell you that her features are regular; her eyes are not large, but have a lively look full of sweetness; her complexion the finest I ever saw; her nose and forehead well made, but her mouth has ten thousand charms, that touch the soul. When she smiles, 'tis with a beauty and sweetness that forces adoration. She has a vast quantity of fine fair hair; but then her person!—one must speak of it poetically to do it rigid justice; all that the poets have said of the mien of Juno, the air of Venus, come not up to the truth. The Graces move with her; the famous statue of Medicis was not formed with more delicate proportions; nothing can be added to the beauty of her neck and hands. Till I saw them, I did not believe there were any in nature so perfect, and I was almost sorry that my rank here did not permit me to kiss them; but they are kissed sufficiently; for every body that waits on her pays that homage at their entrance, and when they take leave. When the ladies were come in, she sat down to Quinze. I could not play at a game I had never seen before, and she ordered me a seat at her right hand, and had the goodness to talk to me very much, with that grace so natural to her. I expected every moment, when the men were to come in to pay their court; but this drawing-room is very different from that of England; no man enters it but the grand-master, who comes in to advertise the empress of the approach of the emperor. His imperial majesty did me the honour of speaking to me in a very obliging manner; but he never speaks to any of the other ladies; and the whole passes with a gravity and air of ceremony that has something very formal in it. The empress Amelia, dowager of the late emperor Joseph, came this evening to wait on the reigning empress, followed by the two arch-duchesses her daughters, who are very agreeable young princesses. Their imperial majesties rose and went to meet her at the door of the room, after which she was seated in an armed (sic) chair, next the empress, and in the same manner at supper, and there the men had the permission of paying their court. The arch-duchesses sat on chairs with backs without arms. The table was entirely served, and all the dishes set on by the empress's maids of honour, which are twelve young ladies of the first quality. They have no salary, but their chamber at court, where they live in a sort of confinement, not being suffered to go to the assemblies or public places in town, except in compliment to the wedding of a sister maid, whom the empress always presents with her picture set in diamonds. The three first of them are called Ladies of the Key, and wear gold keys by their sides; but what I find most pleasant, is the custom, which obliges them, as long as they live, after they have left the empress's service, to make her some present every year on the day of her feast. Her majesty is served by no married women but the grande maitresse, who is generally a widow of the first quality, always very old, and is at the same time groom of the stole, and mother of the maids. The dressers are not, at all, in the figure they pretend to in England, being looked upon no otherwise than as downright chambermaids. I had an audience next day Of the empress mother, a princess of great virtue and goodness, but who picques herself too much on a violent devotion. She is perpetually performing extraordinary acts of penance, without having ever done any thing to deserve them. She has the same number of maids of honour, whom she suffers to go in colours; but she herself never quits her mourning; and sure nothing can be more dismal than the mourning here, even for a brother. There is not the least bit of linen to be seen; all black crape (sic) instead of it. The neck, ears and side of the face are covered with a plaited piece of the same stuff, and the face that peeps out in the midst of it, looks as if it were pilloried. The widows wear over and above, a crape forehead cloth; and, in this solemn weed, go to all the public places of diversion without scruple. The next day I was to wait on the empress Amelia, who is now at her palace of retirement, half a mile from the town. I had there the pleasure of seeing a diversion wholly new to me, but which is the common amusement of this court. The empress herself was seated on a little throne at the end of the fine alley in the garden, and on each side of her were ranged two parties of her ladies of quality, headed by two Young archduchesses, all dressed in their hair, full of jewels, with fine light guns in their hands; and at proper distances were placed three oval pictures, which were the marks to be shot at. The first was that of a CUPID, filling a bumper of Burgundy, and the motto, 'Tis easy to be valiant here. The second a FORTUNE, holding a garland in her hand, the motto, For her whom Fortune favours. The third was a SWORD, with a laurel wreath on the point, the motto, Here is no shame to be vanquished.—Near the empress was a gilded trophy wreathed with flowers, and made of little crooks, on which were hung rich Turkish handkerchiefs, tippets, ribbons, laces, &c. for the small prizes. The empress gave the first with her own hand, which was a fine ruby ring set round with diamonds, in a gold snuff-box. There was for the second, a little Cupid set with brilliants, and besides these a set of fine china for the tea-table, enchased in gold, japan trunks, fans, and many gallantries of the same nature. All the men of quality at Vienna were spectators; but the ladies only had permission to shoot, and the arch-duchess Amelia carried off the first prize. I was very well pleased with having seen this entertainment, and I do not know but it might make as good a figure as the prize-shooting in the Eneid, if I could write as well as Virgil. This is the favourite pleasure of the emperor, and there is rarely a week without some feast of this kind, which makes the young ladies skilful enough to defend a fort. They laughed very much to see me afraid to handle a gun. My dear sister, you will easily pardon an abrupt conclusion. I believe, by this time, you are ready to think I shall never conclude at all.
TO THE LADY R——.
Vienna, Sept. 20. O. S. 1716.
I AM extremely rejoiced, but not at all surprised, at the long, delightful letter, you have had the goodness to send me. I know that you can think of an absent friend even in the midst of a court, and you love to oblige, where you can have no view of a return; and I expect from you that you should love me, and think of me, when you don't see me. I have compassion for the mortifications that you tell me befel (sic) our little old friend, and I pity her much more, since I know, that they are only owing to the barbarous customs of our country. Upon my word, if she were here, she would have no other fault but that of being something too young for the fashion, and she has nothing to do but to transplant herself hither about seven years hence, to be again a young and blooming beauty. I can assure you, that wrinkles, or a small stoop in the shoulders, nay, even gray-hairs (sic), are no objection to the making new conquests. I know you cannot easily figure to yourself, a young fellow of five and twenty, ogling my lady S-ff—k with passion, or pressing to hand the countess of O——d from an opera. But such are the sights I see every day, and I don't perceive any body surprized (sic) at them but myself. A woman, till five and thirty, is only looked upon as a raw girl, and can possibly make no noise in the world, till about forty. I don't know what your ladyship may think of this matter; but 'tis a considerable comfort to me, to know there is upon earth such a paradise for old women; and I am content to be insignificant at present, in the design of returning when I am fit to appear no where else. I cannot help, lamenting, on this occasion, the pitiful case of too many English ladies, long since retired to prudery and ratafia, who, if their stars had luckily conducted hither, would shine in the first rank of beauties. Besides, that perplexing word reputation, has quite another meaning here than what you give it at London; and getting a lover is so far from losing, that 'tis properly getting reputation; ladies being much more respected in regard to the rank of their lovers, than that of their husbands.
BUT what you'll think very odd, the two sects that divide our whole nation of petticoats, are utterly unknown in this place. Here are neither coquettes nor prudes. No woman dares appear coquette enough to encourage two lovers at a time. And I have not seen any such prudes as to pretend fidelity to their husbands, who are certainly the best natured set of people in the world, and look upon their wives' gallants as favourably as men do upon their deputies, that take the troublesome part of their business off their hands. They have not however the less to do on that account; for they are generally deputies in another place themselves; in one word, 'tis the established custom for every lady to have two husbands, one that bears the name, and another that performs the duties. And the engagements are so well known, that it would be a downright affront, and publicly resented, if you invited a woman of quality to dinner, without, at the same time, inviting her two attendants of lover and husband, between whom she sits in state with great gravity. The sub-marriages generally last twenty years together, and the lady often commands the poor lover's estate, even to the utter ruin of his family. These connections, indeed, are as seldom begun by any real passion as other matches; for a man makes but an ill figure that is not in some commerce of this nature; and a woman looks out for a lover as soon as she's married, as part of her equipage, without which she could not be genteel; and the first article of the treaty is establishing the pension, which remains to the lady, in case the gallant should prove inconstant. This chargeable point of honour, I look upon as the real foundation of so many wonderful influences of constancy. I really know some women of the first quality, whose pensions are as well known as their annual rents, and yet nobody esteems them the less; on the contrary, their discretion would be called in question, if they should be suspected to be mistresses for nothing. A great part of their emulation consists in trying who shall get most; and having no intrigue at all, is so far a disgrace, that, I'll assure you, a lady, who is very much my friend here, told me but yesterday, how much I was obliged to her for justifying my conduct in a conversation relating to me, where it was publicly asserted, that I could not possibly have common sense, since I had been in town above a fortnight, and had made no steps towards commencing an amour. My friend pleaded for me, that my stay was uncertain, and she believed that was the cause of my seeming stupidity; and this was all she could find to say in my justification. But one of the pleasantest adventures I ever met with in my life was last night, and it will give you a just idea in what a delicate manner the belles passions are managed in this country. I was at the assembly of the countess of ——-, and the young count of ——- leading me down stairs, asked me how long I was to stay at Vienna? I made answer, that my stay depended on the emperor, and it was not in my power to determine it. Well, madam, (said he) whether your time here is to be longer or shorter, I think you ought to pass it agreeably, and to that end you must engage in a little affair of the heart.—My heart, (answered I gravely enough) does not engage very easily, and I have no design of parting with it. I see, madam, (said he sighing) by the ill nature of that answer, I am not to hope for it, which is a great mortification to me that am charmed with you. But, however, I am still devoted to your service; and since I am not worthy of entertaining you myself, do me the honour of letting me know whom you like best amongst us, and I'll engage to manage the affair entirely to your satisfaction. You may judge in what manner I should have received this compliment in my own country; but I was well enough acquainted with the way of this, to know that he really intended me an obligation, and I thanked him with a very grave courtesy for his zeal to serve me, and only assured him, I had no occasion to make use of it. Thus you see, my dear, that gallantry and good-breeding are as different, in different climates, as morality and religion. Who have the rightest (sic) notions of both, we shall never know till the day of judgment; for which great day of eclaircissement, I own there is very little impatience in your, &c. &c.
L E T. XI.
TO MRS J——.
Vienna, Sept. 26. O. S. 1716.
I WAS never more agreeably surprised than by your obliging letter. 'Tis a peculiar mark of my esteem that I tell you so; and I can assure you, that if I loved you one grain less than I do, I should be very sorry to see it so diverting as it is. The mortal aversion I have to writing, makes me tremble at the thoughts of a new correspondent; and I believe I have disobliged no less than a dozen of my London acquaintance by refusing to hear from them, though I did verily think they intended to send me very entertaining letters. But I had rather lose the pleasure of reading several witty things, than be forced to write many stuped (sic) ones. Yet, in spite of these considerations, I am charmed with the proof of your friendship, and beg a continuation of the same goodness, though I fear the dulness of this will make you immediately repent of it. It is not from Austria that one can write with vivacity, and I am already infected with the phlegm of the country. Even their amours and their quarrels are carried on with a surprising temper, and they are never lively but upon points of ceremony. There, I own, they shew all their passions; and 'tis not long since two coaches, meeting in a narrow street at night, the ladies in them not being able to adjust the ceremonial of which should go back, sat there, with equal gallantry till two in the morning, and were both so fully determined to die upon the spot rather than yield, in a point of that importance, that the street would never have been cleared till their deaths, if the emperor had not sent his guards to part them; and even then they refused to stir, till the expedient could be found out of taking them both out in chairs, exactly in the same moment. After the ladies were agreed, it was with some difficulty that the pass was decided between the two coachmen, no less tenacious of their rank than the ladies. This passion is so omnipotent in the breasts of the women, that even their husbands never die but they are ready to break their hearts, because that fatal hour puts an end to their rank, no widows having any place at Vienna. The men are not much less touched with this point of honour, and they do not only scorn to marry, but even to make love to any woman of a family not as illustrious as their own; and the pedigree is much more considered by them, than either the complexion of features of their mistresses. Happy are the she's (sic) that can number amongst their ancestors, counts of the empire; they have neither occasion for beauty, money, nor good conduct to get them husbands. 'Tis true, as to money, 'tis seldom any advantage to the man they marry; the laws of Austria confine the woman's portion to two thousand florins (about two hundred pounds English), and whatever they have beside, remains in their own possession and disposal. Thus, here are many ladies much richer than their husbands, who are however obliged to allow them pin-money agreeable to their quality; and I attribute to this considerable branch of prerogative, the liberty that they take upon other occasions. I am sure, you, that know my laziness, and extreme indifference on this subject, will pity me, entangled amongst all these ceremonies, which are a wonderful burden to me, though I am the envy of the whole town, having, by their own customs, the pass before them all. They indeed, so revenge, upon the poor envoys, this great respect shewn to ambassadors, that (with all my indifference) I should be very uneasy to suffer it. Upon days of ceremony they have no entrance at court, and on other days must content themselves with walking after every soul, and being the very last taken notice of. But I must write a volume to let you know all the ceremonies, and I have already said too much on so dull a subject, which however employs the whole care of the people here. I need not, after this, tell you how agreeably time slides away with me; you know as well as I do the taste of, Your's, &c. &c.
TO THE LADY X——.
Vienna, Oct. 1. O. S. 1716.
YOU desire me, madam, to send you some accounts of the customs here, and at the same time a description of Vienna. I am always willing to obey your commands; but you must, upon this occasion, take the will for the deed. If I should undertake to tell you all the particulars, in which the manners here differ from ours, I must write a whole quire of the dullest stuff that ever was read, or printed without being read. Their dress agrees with the French or English in no one article, but wearing petticoats. They have many fashions peculiar to themselves; they think it indecent for a widow ever to wear green or rose colour, but all the other gayest colours at her own discretion. The assemblies here are the only regular diversion, the operas being always at court, and commonly on some particular occasion. Madam Rabutin has the assembly constantly every night at her house; and the other ladies, whenever they have a mind to display the magnificence of their apartments, or oblige a friend by complimenting them on the day of their saint, they declare, that on such a day the assembly shall be at their house in honour of the feast of the count or countess—such a one. These days are called days of Gala, and all the friends or relations of the lady, whose saint it is, are obliged to appear in their best clothes, and all their jewels. The mistress of the house takes no particular notice of any body, nor returns any body's visit; and, whoever pleases, may go, without the formality of being presented. The company are entertained with ice in several forms, winter and summer; afterwards they divide into several parties of ombre, piquet, or conversation, all games of hazard being forbid.
I SAW t'other day the Gala for Count Altheim, the emperor's favourite, and never in my life saw so many fine clothes ill-fancied. They embroider the richest gold stuffs; and provided they can make their clothes expensive enough, that is all the taste they shew in them. On other days, the general dress is a scarf, and what you please under it.
BUT now I am speaking of Vienna, I am sure you expect I should say something of the convents; they are of all sorts and sizes, but I am best pleased with that of St Lawrence, where the ease and neatness they seem to live with, appears to be much more edifying than those stricter orders, where perpetual penance and nastiness must breed discontent and wretchedness. The Nuns are all of quality. I think there are to the number of fifty. They have each of them a little cell perfectly clean, the walls of which are covered with pictures more or less fine, according to their quality. A long white stone gallery runs by all of them, furnished With the pictures of exemplary sisters; the chapel is extremely neat and richly adorned. But I could not forbear laughing at their shewing me a wooden head of our Saviour, which, they assured me, spoke during the siege of Vienna; and, as a proof of it, bid me mark his mouth, which had been open ever since. Nothing can be more becoming than the dress of these Nuns. It is a white robe, the sleeves of which are turned up with fine white callico (sic), and their head-dress the same, excepting a small veil of black crape that falls behind. They have a lower sort of serving Nuns, that wait on them as their chambermaids. They receive all visits of women, and play at ombre in their chambers, with permission of their abbess, which is very easy to be obtained. I never saw an old woman so good-natured; she is near fourscore, and yet shews very little sign of decay, being still lively and cheerful. She caressed me as if I had been her daughter, giving me some pretty things of her own work, and sweetmeats in abundance. The grate is not of the most rigid; it is not very hard to put a head through, and I don't doubt but a man, a little more slender than ordinary, might squeeze in his whole person. The young count of Salamis came to the grate, while I was there, and the abbess gave him her hand to kiss. But I was surprised to find here, the only beautiful young woman I have seen at Vienna, and not only beautiful but genteel, witty, and agreeable, of a great family, and who had been the admiration of the town. I could not forbear shewing my surprise at seeing a Nun like her. She made me a thousand obliging compliments, and desired me to come often. It will be an infinite pleasure to me, (said she, sighing) but I avoid, with the greatest care, seeing any of my former acquaintance, and whenever they come to our convent, I lock myself in my cell. I observed tears come into her eyes, which touched me extremely, and I began to talk to her in that strain of tender pity she inspired me with; but she would not own to me, that she is not perfectly happy. I have since endeavoured to learn the real cause of her retirement, without being able to get any other account, but that every body was surprised at it, and no body guessed the reason. I have been several times to see her; but it gives me too much melancholy to see so agreeable a young creature buried alive. I am not surprised that Nuns have so often inspired violent passions; the pity one naturally feels for them, when they seem worthy of another destiny, making an easy way for yet more tender sentiments. I never in my life had so little charity for the Roman Catholick (sic) religion, as since I see the misery it occasions; so many poor unhappy women! and then the gross superstition of the common people, who are some or other of them, day and night, offering bits of candle to the wooden figures that are set up almost in every street. The processions I see very often, are a pageantry, as offensive, and apparently contradictory to common sense, as the pagods (sic) of China. God knows whether it be the womanly spirit of contradiction that works in me; but there never before was such zeal against popery in the heart of, Dear madam, &c. &c.
TO MR ——.
Vienna, Oct. O. S. 1716.
I DESERVE not all the reproaches you make me. If I have some time without answering your letter, it is not, that I don't know how many thanks are due to you for it; or that I am stupid enough to prefer any amusements to the pleasure of hearing from you; but after the professions of esteem you have so obligingly made me, I cannot help delaying, as long as I can, shewing you that you are mistaken. If you are sincere, when you say you expect to be extremely entertained by my letters, I ought to be mortified at the disappointment that I am sure you will receive when you hear from me; though I have done my best endeavours to find out something worth writing to you. I have seen every thing that was to be seen with a very, diligent curiosity. Here are some fine villas, particularly the late prince of Litchtenstein's (sic); but the statues are all modern, and the pictures not of the first hands. 'Tis true, the emperor has some of great value. I was yesterday to see the repository, which they call his Treasure, where they seem to have been more diligent in amassing a great quantity of things, than in the choice of them. I spent above five hours there, and yet there were very few things that stopped me long to consider them. But the number is prodigious, being a very long gallery filled on both sides, and five large rooms. There is a vast quantity of paintings, amongst which are many fine miniatures; but the most valuable pictures, are a few of Corregio (sic), those of Titian being at the Favorita.
THE cabinet of jewels did not appear to me so rich as I expected to see it. They shewed me here a cup, about the size of a tea dish, of one entire emerald, which they had so particular a respect for, that only the emperor has the liberty of touching it. There is a large cabinet full of curiosities of clock-work, only one of which I thought worth observing, that was a craw-fish, with all the motions so natural, that it was hard to distinguish it from the life.
THE next cabinet was a large collection of agates, some of them extremely beautiful, and of an uncommon size, and several vases of Lapis Lazuli. I was surprised to see the cabinet of medals so poorly furnished; I did not remark one of any value, and they are kept in a most ridiculous disorder. As to the antiques, very few of them deserve that name. Upon my saying they were modern, I could not forbear laughing at the answer of the profound antiquary that shewed them, that they were ancient enough; for, to his knowledge, they had been there these forty years. But the next cabinet diverted me yet better, being nothing else but a parcel of wax babies, and toys in ivory, very well worthy to be presented children of five years old. Two of the rooms were wholly filled with these trifles of all kinds, set in jewels, amongst which I was desired to observe a crucifix, that they assured me had spoke very wisely to the emperor Leopold. I won't trouble you with a catalogue of the rest of the lumber; but I must not forget to mention a small piece of loadstone that held up an anchor of steel too heavy for me to lift. This is what I thought most curious in the whole treasure. There are some few heads of ancient statues; but several of them are defaced by modern additions. I foresee that you will be very little satisfied with this letter, and I dare hardly ask you to be good-natured enough to charge the dulness (sic) of it on the barrenness of the subject, and to overlook the stupidity of, Your, &c. &c.
TO THE COUNTESS OF ——.
Prague, Nov. 17. O. S. 1716.
I HOPE my dear sister wants no new proofs of my sincere affection for her: but I am sure, if you do, I could not give you a stronger than writing at this time, after three days, or, more properly speaking, three nights and days, hard post-travelling.—The kingdom of Bohemia is the most desert of any I have seen in Germany. The villages are so poor, and the post-houses so miserable, that clean straw and fair water are blessings not always to be met with, and better accommodation not to be hoped for. Though I carried my own bed with me, I could not sometimes find a place to set it up in; and I rather chose to travel all night, as cold as it is, wrapped up in my furs, than go into the common stoves, which are filled with a mixture of all sorts of ill scents.
THIS town was once the royal seat of the Bohemian king, and is still the capital of the kingdom. There are yet some remains of its former splendour, being one of the largest towns in Germany, but, for the most part, old built, and thinly inhabited, which makes the houses very cheap. Those people of quality, who cannot easily bear the expence of Vienna, chuse to reside here, where they have assemblies, music, and all other diversions, (those of a court excepted) at very moderate rates, all things being here in great abundance, especially the best wild-fowl I ever tasted. I have already been visited by some of the most considerable ladies, whose relations I know at Vienna. They are dressed after the fashions there, after the manner that the people at Exeter imitate those of London; that is, their imitation is more excessive than the original. 'Tis not easy to describe what extraordinary figures they make. The person is so much lost between head-dress and petticoat, that they have as much occasion to write upon their backs, "This is a Woman," for the information of travellers, as ever sign-post painter had to write, "This is a Bear." I will not forget to write to you again from Dresden and Leipzig, being much more solicitous to content your curiosity, than to indulge my own repose. I am, &c.
TO THE COUNTESS OF ——.
Leipzig, Nov. 21. O. S. 1716.
I BELIEVE, dear sister, you will easily forgive my not writing to you from Dresden, as I promised, when I tell you, that I never went out of my chaise from Prague to this place. You may imagine how heartily I was tired with twenty-four hours post-travelling, without sleep or refreshment (for I can never sleep in a coach, however fatigued.) We passed, by moon-shine, the frightful precipices that divide Bohemia from Saxony, at the bottom, of which runs the river Elbe; but I cannot say, that I had reason to fear drowning in it, being perfectly convinced, that in case of a tumble, it was utterly impossible to come alive to the bottom. In many places, the road is so narrow, that I could not discern an inch of space between the wheels and the precipice. Yet I was so good a wife, as not to wake Mr W——y, who was fast asleep by my side, to make him share in my fears, since the danger was unavoidable, till I perceived, by the bright light of the moon, our postilions nodding on horse-back, while the horses were on a full gallop. Then indeed I thought it very convenient to call out to desire them to look where they were going. My calling waked (sic) Mr W——Y, and he was much more surprised than myself at the situation we were in, and assured me, that he passed the Alps five times in different places, without ever having gone a road so dangerous. I have been told since, that 'tis common to find the bodies of travellers in the Elbe; but, thank God, that was not our destiny; and we came safe to Dresden, so much tired with fear and fatigue, it was not possible for me to compose myself to write. After passing these dreadful rocks, Dresden appeared to me a wonderfully agreeable situation, in a fine large plain on the banks of the Elbe. I was very glad to stay there a day to rest myself. The town is the neatest I have seen in Germany; most of the houses are new built; the elector's palace is very handsome, and his repository full of curiosities of different kinds, with a collection of medals very much esteemed. Sir ——, our king's envoy, came to see me here, and Madame de L——, whom I knew in London, when her husband was minister to the king of Poland there. She offered me all things in her power to entertain me, and brought some ladies with her, whom she presented to me. The Saxon ladies resemble the Austrian no more than the Chinese do those of London; they are very genteelly dressed, after the English and French modes, and have generally pretty faces, but they are the most determined minaudieres in the whole world. They would think it a mortal sin against good-breeding, if they either spoke or moved in a natural manner. They all affect a little soft lisp, and a pretty pitty-pat step; which female frailties ought, however, to be forgiven them, in favour of their civility and good nature to strangers, which I have a great deal of reason to praise.
THE countess of Cozelle is kept prisoner in a melancholy castle, some leagues from hence; and I cannot forbear telling you what I have heard of her, because it seems to me very extraordinary, though I foresee I shall swell my letter to the size of a pacquet.—She was mistress to the king of Poland, (elector of Saxony) with so absolute a dominion over him, that never any lady had so much power in that court. They tell a pleasant story of his majesty's first declaration of love, which he made in a visit to her, bringing in one hand a bag of a hundred thousand crowns, and in the other a horse-shoe, which he snapped asunder before her face, leaving her to draw the consequences of such remarkable proofs of strength and liberality. I know not which charmed her most; but she consented to leave her husband, and to give herself up to him entirely, being divorced publicly, in such a manner, as, by their laws, permits either party to marry again. God knows whether it was at this time, or in some other fond fit, but 'tis certain, the king had the weakness to make her a formal contract of marriage; which, though it could signify nothing during the life of the queen, pleased her so well, that she could not be contented, without telling it to all the people she saw, and giving herself the airs of a queen. Men endure every thing while they are in love; but when the excess of passion was cooled by long possession, his majesty began to reflect on the ill consequences of leaving such a paper in her hands, and desired to have it restored to him. But she rather chose to endure all the most violent effects of his anger, than give it up; and though she is one of the richest and most avaricious ladies of her country, she has refused the offer of the continuation of a large pension, and the security of a vast sum of money she has amassed; and has, at last, provoked the king to confine her person to a castle, where she endures all the terrors of a strait imprisonment, and remains still inflexible, either to threats or promises. Her violent passions have brought her indeed into fits, which 'tis supposed, will soon put an end to her life. I cannot forbear having some compassion for a woman that suffers for a point of honour, however mistaken, especially in a country where points of honour are not over scrupulously observed among ladies.
I COULD have wished Mr W——y's business had permitted him a longer stay at Dresden.
PERHAPS I am partial to a town where they profess the protestant religion; but every thing seemed to me with quite another air of politeness than I have found in other places. Leipzig, where I am at present, is a town very considerable for its trade, and I take this opportunity of buying pages liveries, gold stuffs for myself, &c. all things of that kind being at least double the price at Vienna; partly because of the excessive customs, and partly through want of genius and industry in the people, who make no one sort of thing there; so that the ladies are obliged to send, even for their shoes, out of Saxony. The fair here is one of the most considerable in Germany, and the resort of all the people of quality, as well as of the merchants. This is also a fortified town, but I avoid ever mentioning fortifications, being sensible that I know not how to speak of them. I am the more easy Under my ignorance, when I reflect that I am sure you'll willingly forgive the omission; for if I made you the most exact description of all the ravelins and bastions I see in my travels, I dare swear you would ask me, What is a ravelin? and, What is a bastion?
Adieu, my dear sister.
TO THE COUNTESS OF ——.
Brunswick, Nov. 23. O. S. 1716.
I AM just come to Brunswick, a very old town, but which has the advantage of being the capital of the duke of Wolsenbuttle's dominions, a family (not to speak of its ancient honours) illustrious, by having its younger branch on the throne of England, and having given two empresses to Germany. I have not forgot to drink your health here in mum, which I think very well deserves its reputation of being the best in the world. This letter is the third I have writ to you during my journey; and I declare to you, that if you don't send me immediately a full and true account of all the changes and chances among our London acquaintance, I will not write you any description of Hanover (where I hope to be to-night) though I know you have more curiosity to hear of that place than any other.
TO THE COUNTESS OF B——.
Hanover, Nov. 25. O. S. 1716.
I RECEIVED your ladyship's letter, but the day before I left Vienna, though, by the date, I ought to have had it much sooner; but nothing was ever worse regulated than the post in most parts of Germany. I can assure you, the pacquet at Prague was behind my chaise, and in that manner conveyed to Dresden, so that the secrets of half the country were at my mercy, if I had had any curiosity for them. I would not longer delay my thanks for yours, though the number of my acquaintances here, and my duty of attending at court, leave me hardly any time to dispose of. I am extremely pleased that I can tell you, without flattery or partiality, that our young prince [Footnote: The father of his present Majesty.] has all the accomplishments that 'tis possible to have at his age, with an air of sprightliness and understanding, and something so very engaging and easy in his behaviour, that he needs not the advantage of his rank to appear charming. I had the honour of a long conversation with him last night, before the king came in. His governor retired on purpose (as he told me afterwards) that I might make some judgment of his genius, by hearing him speak without constraint; and I was surprised at the quickness and politeness that appeared in every thing he said; joined to a person perfectly agreeable, and the fine fair hair of the princess.
THIS town is neither large nor handsome; but the palace is capable of holding a much greater court than that of St James's. The king has had the goodness to appoint us a lodging in one part of it, without which we should have been very ill accommodated; for the vast number of English, crowds the town so much, 'tis very good luck to get one sorry room in a miserable tavern. I dined to-day with the Portuguese ambassador, who thinks himself very happy to have two wretched parlours in an inn. I have now made the tour of Germany, and cannot help observing a considerable difference between travelling here and in England. One sees none of those fine seats of noblemen, so common amongst us, nor any thing like a country gentleman's house, though they have many situations perfectly fine. But the whole people are divided into absolute sovereignties, where all the riches and magnificence are at Court, or into communities of merchants, such as Nurenburg (sic) and Frankfort, where they live always in town for the convenience of trade. The king's company of French comedians play here every night. They are very well dressed, and some of them not ill actors. His majesty dines and sups constantly in public. The court is very numerous, and his affability and goodness make it one of the most agreeable places in the world.
Dear madam, your, &c. &c.
TO THE LADY R——.
Hanover, Oct. 1. O. S. 1716.
I AM very glad, my dear lady R——, that you have been so well pleased, as you tell me, at the report of my returning to England; though, like other pleasures, I can assure you it has no real foundation. I hope you know me enough to take my word against any report concerning me. 'Tis true, as to distance of place, I am much nearer to London than I was some weeks ago; but, as to the thoughts of a return, I never was farther off in my life. I own, I could with great joy indulge the pleasing hopes of seeing you, and the very few others that share my esteem; but while Mr W—— is determined to proceed in his design, I am determined to follow him. I am running on upon my own affairs, that is to say, I am going to write very dully, as most people do when they write of themselves. I will make haste to change the disagreeable subject, by telling you, that I am now got into the region of beauty. All the women have (literally) rosy cheeks, snowy foreheads and bosoms, jet eye-brows, and scarlet lips, to which they generally add coal-black hair. Those perfections never leave them, till the hour of their deaths, and have a very fine effect by candle light; but I could wish they were handsome with a little more variety. They resemble one another as much as Mrs Salmon's court of Great Britain, and are in as much danger of melting away, by too near approaching the fire, which they for that reason carefully avoid, though 'tis now such excessive cold weather, that I believe they suffer extremely by that piece of self-denial. The snow is already very deep, and the people begin to slide about in their traineaus. This is a favourite diversion all over Germany. They are little machines fixed upon a sledge, that hold a lady and gentleman, and are drawn by one horse. The gentleman has the honour of driving, and they move with a prodigious swiftness. The lady, the horse, and the traineau, are all as fine as they can be made; and when there are many of them together, 'tis a very agreeable show. At Vienna, where all pieces of magnificence are carried to excess, there are sometimes machines of this kind, that cost five or six hundred pounds English. The duke of Wolfenbuttle is now at this court; you know he is nearly related to our king, and uncle to the reigning empress, who is, I believe, the most beautiful princess upon earth. She is now with child, which is all the consolation of the imperial court, for the loss of the archduke. I took my leave of her the day before I left Vienna, and she began to speak to me with so much grief and tenderness, of the death of that young prince, I had much ado to withhold my tears. You know that I am not at all partial to people for their titles; but I own, that I love that charming princess, (if I may use so familiar an expression) and if I had not, I should have been very much moved at the tragical end of an only son, born, after being so long desired, and at length killed by want of good management, weaning him in the beginning of the winter. Adieu, dear lady R——; continue to write to me, and believe none of your goodness is lost upon Your, &c.
TO THE COUNTESS OF ——.
Blankenburg, OCT. 17. O. S. 1716.
I RECEIVED your's, dear sister, the very day I left Hanover. You may easily imagine I was then in too great a hurry to answer it; but you see I take the first opportunity of doing myself that pleasure. I came here the 15th, very late at night, after a terrible journey, in the worst roads and weather that ever poor traveller suffered. I have taken this little fatigue merely to oblige the reigning empress, and carry a message from her imperial majesty to the duchess of Blankenburg, her mother, who is a princess of great address and good-breeding, and may be still called a fine woman. It was so late when I came to this town, I did not think it proper to disturb the duke and duchess with the news of my arrival; so I took up my quarters in a miserable inn: but as soon as I had sent my compliments to their highnesses, they immediately sent me their own coach and six horses, which had however enough to do to draw us up the very high hill on which the castle is situated. The duchess is extremely obliging to me, and this little court is not without its diversions. The duke taillys (sic) at basset every night; and the duchess tells me, she is so well pleased with my company, that it makes her play less than she used to do. I should find it very difficult to steal time to write, if she was not now at church, where I cannot wait on her, not understanding the language enough to pay my devotions in it. You will not forgive me, if I do not say something of Hanover; I cannot tell you that the town is either large or magnificent. The opera house, which was built by the late elector, is much finer than that of Vienna. I was very sorry that the ill weather did not permit me to see Hernhausen in all its beauty; but in spite of the snow, I thought the gardens very fine. I was particularly surprised at the vast number of orange trees, much larger than any I have ever seen in England, though this climate is certainly colder. But I had more reason to wonder that night at the king's table, to see a present from a gentleman of this country, of two large baskets full of ripe oranges and lemons of different sorts, many of which were quite new to me; and what I thought worth all the rest, two ripe ananasses (sic), which, to my taste, are a fruit perfectly delicious. You know they are naturally the growth of Brazil, and I could not imagine how they came here, but by enchantment. Upon inquiry, I learnt that they have brought their stoves to such perfection, they lengthen their summer as long as they please, giving to every plant the degree of heat it would receive from the sun in its native soil. The effect is very near the same; I am surprised we do not practise (sic) in England so useful an invention. This reflection leads me to consider our obstinacy in shaking with cold, five months in the year rather than make use of stoves, which are certainly one of the greatest conveniencies (sic) of life. Besides, they are so far from spoiling the form of a room, that they add very much to the magnificence of it, when they are painted and gilt, as they are at Vienna, or at Dresden, where they are often in the shapes of china jars, statues, or fine cabinets, so naturally represented, that they are not to be distinguished. If ever I return, in defiance to the fashion, you shall certainly see one in the chamber of, Dear sister, your, &c.
I WILL write often, since you desire it: but I must beg you to be a little more particular in your's; you fancy me at forty miles distance, and forget, that, after so long an absence, I can't understand hints.
TO THE LADY ——.
Vienna, Jan. 1. O. S. 1717
I HAVE just received here at Vienna, your ladyship's compliments on my return to England, sent me from Hanover. You see, madam, all things that are asserted with confidence are not absolutely true; and that you have no sort of reason to complain of me for making my designed return a mystery to you, when you say, all the world are informed of it. You may tell all the world in my name, that they are never so well informed of my affairs as I am myself; that I am very positive I am at this time at Vienna, where the carnival is begun, and all sorts of diversions are carried to the greatest height, except that of masquing (sic), which is never permitted during a war with the Turks. The balls are in public places, where the men pay a gold ducat at entrance, but the ladies nothing. I am told, that these houses get sometimes a thousand ducats in a night. They are very magnificently furnished, and the music good, if they had not that detestible (sic) custom of mixing hunting horns with it, that almost deafen the company. But that noise is so agreeable here, they never make a concert without them. The ball always concludes with English country dances, to the number of thirty or forty couple, and so ill danced, that there is very little pleasure in them. They know but half a dozen, and they have danced them over and over these fifty years: I would fain have taught them some new ones, but I found it would be some months labour to make them comprehend them. Last night there was an Italian comedy acted at court. The scenes were pretty, but the comedy itself such intolerable low farce, without either wit or humour, that I was surprised how all the court could sit there attentively for four hours together. No women are suffered to act on the stage, and the men dressed like them, were such awkward figures, they very much added to the ridicule of the spectacle. What completed the diversion, was the excessive cold, which was so great, I thought I should have died there. It is now the very extremity of the winter here; the Danube is entirely frozen, and the weather not to be supported without stoves and furs; but, however, the air so clear, almost every body is well, and colds not half so common as in England. I am persuaded there cannot be a purer air, nor more wholesome, than that of Vienna. The plenty and excellence of all sorts of provisions are greater here than in any place I ever was before, and 'tis not very expensive to keep a splendid table. 'Tis really a pleasure to pass through the markets, and see the abundance of what we should think rarities, of fowls and venison, that are daily brought in from Hungary and Bohemia. They want nothing but shell-fish, and are so fond of oysters, that they have them sent from Venice, and eat them very greedily, stink or not stink. Thus I obey your commands, madam, in giving you an account of Vienna, though I know you will not be satisfied with it. You chide me for my laziness, in not telling you a thousand agreeable and surprising things, that you say you are sure I have seen and heard. Upon my Word, madam, 'tis my regard to truth, and not laziness, that I do not entertain you with as many prodigies as other travellers use to divert their readers with. I might easily pick up wonders in every town I pass through, or tell you a long series of popish miracles; but I cannot fancy, that there is any thing new in letting you know that priests will lie, and the mob believe, all the world over. Then as for news, that you are so inquisitive about, how can it be entertaining to you (that don't know the people) that the prince of —— has forsaken the countess of ——? or that the prince such a one, has an intrigue with the countess such a one? Would you have me write novels like the countess of D'——? and is it not better to tell you a plain truth, That I am, &c.