London was the chief and to some travellers perhaps the only attraction, but there were others who journeyed through the country on pleasure or business, and a few who were interested in agriculture. Some stayed in country houses; De la Rochefoucauld did so, and had a poor opinion of them.
"All the castles" he says, and by castles he doubtless means the seats of the nobility and gentry, "that I have seen in England are great masses of brick, with innumerable windows let into them. From outside they are extremely gloomy and mostly very old. There is no evidence of growth or of the handiwork of a skilful architect; they are impressive but nothing more."
"The cleanliness which pervaded everything was a perpetual source of satisfaction", until on one unlucky day de la Rochefoucauld penetrated into the kitchen of a country house. "The dirt" he declares "is indescribable. Women are usually employed and are as black as coal, their arms bared to the elbow are disgustingly dirty; to save time they handle the portions of food with their hands."
One feels that he must have been unfortunate in the kitchen which he selected, eighteenth-century ladies were usually most particular about the condition of their kitchens, and looked after dirt very carefully. If they were of too exalted a station to superintend everything themselves they employed housekeepers, and it would have been a very careless and incompetent woman who would have allowed the cooking to be carried on under such disgusting conditions.
A Day in the Country
De la Rochefoucauld describes the day as he spent it in country houses. It was the same routine, he said, whether he was staying with the Duke of Grafton at Euston or with a plain country gentleman. Breakfast was at nine o'clock and even the ladies came down to it, fully dressed and with their hair properly done. Breakfast consisted merely of tea and bread and butter, with possibly chocolate or coffee in really opulent establishments. The morning newspapers were on the table, de la Rochefoucauld tells us,
"and those who want to do so, read them during breakfast, so that conversation is not of a lively nature".
Hunting, shooting, fishing and walking occupied the day.
"One of the Englishman's greatest joys" de la Rochefoucauld tells us "is in field sports . . . they are all quite mad about them." He hunted with the Duke of Grafton's pack and he tells us that the Duke had "forty couples of magnificent hounds", which cost about ten or twelve guineas a pair. He says that hunting people thought nothing of riding fifty or sixty miles, and that often at the end of the day their horses were too much exhausted to bring them home, and they were therefore obliged to spend the night at an inn. "That" he says "is what they call a really enjoyable day." He thought fox-hunting very dangerous, and was amazed to see women riding to hounds. "It gives me no pleasure to see it" he declares "but they jump like men and are always the first over." He notices that the farmers joined in the national sport.
"If they are rich " he says, "and many of them are, they keep two or three hunters, which are not used for anything else."
Some who could not afford this expense went out with the harriers, and the country gentlemen hunted with these once or twice a week.
"Shooting" de la Rochefoucauld tells us "is not so widely indulged in . . . there is no great quantity of game even here though Suffolk has more game than other counties."
He noticed that "the dogs were all pointers", there was no retrieving. Game preserving on any large scale had not come in, nor was there any driving of birds or wholesale shooting. De la Rochefoucauld found women joining in this sport, and he tells us that many of them were very good shots. He finds that, contrary to the custom in France, there was a close season when game could not be shot, that walking over sown fields was absolutely forbidden, and that anyone who broke down fences had to pay for them in full. Possibly, though de la Rochefoucauld does not say so, this joining of the different classes in various sports, and the strict enforcement of a tenant's claim for damages, may have contributed to internal peace and to there being no revolution in England as there was in France.
The sport of the day being over the company assembled for the four o'clock dinner. There is no mention of luncheon, which if it were eaten at all was a mere snack.
"At four o'clock precisely" de la Rochefoucauld says "you must present yourself in the drawing room with a great deal more ceremony than we are accustomed to in France. This sudden change of social manners is quite astonishing and I was deeply struck by it. In the morning you come down in riding-boots and a shabby coat, you sit where you like, you behave as if you were by yourself, no one takes any notice of you, and it is all extremely comfortable. But in the evening, unless you have just arrived, you must be well washed and well groomed. The standard of politeness is uncomfortably high — strangers go first into the dining room and sit near the hostess and are served in seniority in accordance with a rigid etiquette. In fact for the first few days I was tempted to think that it was done for a joke."
"Dinner" de la Rochefoucauld found "one of the most wearisome of English experiences".
It lasted for four or five hours, and unlike some of his countrymen who complained that they did not get enough to eat, de la Rochefoucauld was surfeited with food. His host pressed it upon him, inquiring anxiously if he liked it, and "out of pure politeness" he did nothing but eat from the time when he sat down to table until he got up again. The dishes consisted of various meats boiled and roasted, weighing about twenty or thirty pounds. Sauce, de la Rochefoucauld declared, was unknown and ragouts were seldom seen.
"After the sweets" he says "you are given water in small bowls of very clear glass in order to rinse out your mouth — a custom which strikes me as very unfortunate. The more fashionable folk do not rinse out their mouths; but that seems to me worse; for, if you use the water to wash your hands, it becomes dirty and quite disgusting."
Real Enjoyment — Free Conversation
The cloth having been removed the table was covered with all kinds of wine, "for" we are told "even gentlemen of modest means, always keep a large stock of wine". On the middle of the table there was a small quantity of fruit, a few biscuits and some butter — a meagre dessert, it would seem; but probably after such a gargantuan meal, the company could not have faced any more. The ladies retired when they had drunk one or two glasses of wine, "and then" we are told "real enjoyment begins — there is not an Englishman who is not supremely happy at this moment". Everyone had to drink in turn as the bottle went round the table and there were numerous toasts. De la Rochefoucauld liked the conversation which followed, politics were discussed and everyone talked with absolute freedom, sometimes he admits that this freedom became indecent.
"Complete licence" he says "is allowed, and I have come to the conclusion that the English do not associate the same ideas with certain words that we do. Very often I have heard things mentioned in good society which would be in the grossest taste in France."
He much admires the finely polished mahogany tables, seats, doors and hand-rails. He did not see them in such profusion in France.
"I am inclined to think" he says "that the English must be richer than we are; certainly I have observed not only that everything costs twice as much here as in France, but that the English seize every opportunity to use the things which are expensive in themselves. At all events their tables are made of most beautiful wood and always have a brilliant polish like that of the finest glass."
Mme de Bocage also admired our mahogany. She describes how she dined at a country house near Stowe.
"Immediately after the pudding is despatched " she says "they drink warm punch. After the dessert, especially in the country, the cloth is taken away and the women retire. The table is of fine Indian wood and very smooth, little round vessels, called sliders, which are of the same wood, serve to hold the bottles, and the guests can put them round as they think proper. The name of each different sort of wine is graved upon a plate of silver fastened to the neck of the flask: the guests choose the liquor to which they give preference and drink it with as serious an air as if they were doing penance, at the same time drinking the healths of eminent persons and fashionable beauties. This they call toasting."
The Foriegner is Welcome
Many foreigners speak of the kindness they received at the hands of the country gentry. Macky tells us that he was
"unmercifully caressed and entertained by the gentlemen of Dorset after being jeered at in the street and called "Frenchie, Frenchie".
De la Rochefoucauld was astonished at the kindness he received from all the gentlemen around Bury St. Edmunds.
"They invited us to dinner and supper" he says; "we used to stay on at after dinner parties with people who treated us as friends, who would speak very slowly so that we might understand them better, would try, sometimes, to mix a French word or two with their English and would take all possible trouble to give us pleasure."
Of Lord Cornwallis, who commanded the English troops so disastrously in the war with America and who lived at Culford Hall near Bury St. Edmunds, he says,
"His kindness to us was something quite out of the common. He had given orders to his gardener, at the beginning of spring, to bring us fruit from his garden up to the time when, as he said, we should come and eat it in his own house. We had the benefit of this order for quite a long time. He is simple in his manner and has no trace of pomposity. We were always exceedingly well treated by him."
Holkham in Norfolk attracted many who wanted to study English farming. Here Thomas Coke, the great agriculturist, held his annual sheep-shearing, "Coke's Clippings" as they were called locally. Among the crowds of Englishmen who attended these gatherings and who were hospitably entertained by the great landowner, there were usually some foreigners. These meetings were started in 1778 and were an annual event through the century. It was not only to the sheep-shearing that foreigners came. Throughout the year Coke would receive letters from agriculturists from the Continent and even from as far as America, asking for permission to see his estates. Dr. Rigby of Norwich, a friend and admirer of Coke, wrote a book entitled "Holkham and its Agriculture", which was translated into German, French and Italian.
Andrew Jackson, when he was President of America, wrote to Coke, whom he knew well by repute, asking him to receive a fellow countryman, Mr. Bradford, who was himself an agriculturist and speaks of
"the high regard which, in this country, is entertained for your character, sentiments and pursuits. Your name" he continued "has reached us under these circumstances which have rendered it dear to your own countrymen and revered in other countries."
Rufus King, the second minister sent to England after America obtained her independence, wrote a similar letter asking Coke to receive one of his countrymen. Later King himself paid several visits to Holkham.
Another guest was William Caton, a Baltimore merchant. He was followed by his son-in-law, Mr. Patterson. It was the custom at Holkham, as it later became the custom in most English households, to have family prayers. For these the company adjourned, after dinner, to the chapel. They were accommodated in a large gallery, while their numerous servants occupied the main body of the chapel. One or two footmen were, however, kept in attendance in the gallery to assist such gentlemen who had drunk so much of Coke's good port that they found a difficulty in rising from their knees. Whether Patterson thought such behaviour unedifying or whether, unlike most Americans of his time, he disliked family worship, we do not know. He, however, declined to attend:
"I thank you" he said, "I thank you; but I pray devoutly and sincerely once a week."
Caton wrote grateful letters to Holkham, thanking Coke for his hospitality and expressing the wish to serve him in any way possible. Another guest went further and when he returned to America entrusted to Rush, the American minister to St. James's, two cases of "American pure beef" as "a tribute of the high respect" in which he held his former host. Owing, however, to the warm weather and a long voyage, the American "pure beef" became so impure that Rush had to dump it in the sea.
Occasionally foreigners would remain in England to study agriculture. There was a young German who was living near Holkham learning to farm. Dr. Rigby, riding round the country with this youth, had been admiring the wonderfully clean state of the land. Although it was a wet season there was not a weed to be seen. Suddenly he espied a piece of charlock, and he pointed this out to the German. The lad leapt from his horse and dragged out the offending weed by the roots, throwing it from him with much indignation. Such, even in those days, was Teutonic thoroughness. John Brunkner, a Dutchman, who studied agriculture and wrote at least one book on that subject, lived for many years in Norwich and probably visited Coke and attended his famous sheep-shearings.
Foreigners criticized and abused many of our customs and institutions, but they had nothing but praise for our agriculture. Zetzner, travelling from London to Bristol early in the century when farming had not reached the great excellence and prosperity which it afterwards attained, is loud in his praises.
"It was during this journey" he says "that I saw what a splendid and fertile country this kingdom is . . . agriculture could not be in a more flourishing condition. I saw sheep as big as calves in Germany, sleeping out in the fields, for there is not a single wolf in the whole of England."
The last wolf had been killed in the reign of Charles II, and Zetzner was travelling through some of the most fertile districts of England. He was, however, writing at a time when very little land had been enclosed. The plough-land of each village was divided into strips banked into high ridges so that the furrows between them might carry off some of the rain-water. These strips were so narrow that it was difficult to turn the plough and some were worked entirely by hand. The villagers who owned these strips had not the space or the money to experiment with the new crops of turnips and potatoes which a few of the larger land owners were beginning to grow. The meadow lands, "ings" as they were often called, were common to the whole parish. Everyone had the right to graze a certain number of beasts upon them and frequently they were very much over-stocked. The hay which was grown on these meadows was generally a poor, sparse crop, there were no roots or cake for winter feed, and in the autumn most of the bullocks and sheep were killed and salted down for food. The sheep which impressed Zetzner by their size were in reality very poor and small. Later in the century men like Coke of Holkham and the breeder Robert Bakewell did much to improve the strain both of cattle and sheep, and the enclosures, though they deprived the poor man of his land, and drove him to day labour or the workhouse, enabled the country gentleman and the large farmer to effect great improvements. We can only conclude from Zetzner's description of English agriculture that conditions in Germany were far worse. England had been spared the horror of invasion. There had, it is true, been the Civil War, but that had not lasted long nor been attended with the destruction and miseries of continental warfare.
De Saussure, writing of a later period, remarks on the great prosperity of the farmers.
"Some of the farmers of Kent" he says "give their daughters, when they marry, doweries of three or four thousand pounds sterling."
He says that their houses were clean and well furnished and that their food was good and abundant. They never ate black bread like the French farmers, and even possessed silver spoons and mugs. Sophie de la Roche met a young Sussex farmer who had actually travelled as far as Rotterdam to see the Kermis, a lengthy and expensive journey in those days.
Sophie tells us that good agricultural land near Colchester was worth twenty-five guineas an acre and a cow fetched as much as seven guineas. She remarks that the farmer's talk was never servile or cringing.
"You feel" she says "that they live at their ease and in abundance, and that they dwell under the happy English dominion."
Mme de Bocage tells us how she visited farm-houses and labourer's cottages which were well furnished. She noticed that the poorest country girls drank tea, wore chintz bodices, straw hats and scarlet cloaks. She saw sheep and cattle lying comfortably in the fields with no fear of the wolves which still marauded parts of the French countryside.
De la Rochefoucauld was much interested in agriculture and he stayed for a considerable time in Suffolk. Here he met Arthur Young whom he much admired as an agriculturist, though he found his predilection for carrots, both as a dish and a subject for conversation, rather trying. His house was to be avoided as "his table is the worst and dirtiest and his wife looks exactly like a devil". English farmers, de la Rochefoucauld thought, had great advantages, for one thing there were no wolves in the country. From the way in which French travellers harp upon the absence of wolves one concludes that they were a serious menace in eighteenth-century France.
De la Rochefoucauld met two farmers who were returning from a riding tour through some of the best cultivated parts of England. They had been to visit other farmers in order to acquire a greater knowledge of agriculture. He describes them as well mounted, and says that most of them hunted with the harriers three or four times a week.
"Their houses" he tells us "are always clean and well kept; their barns are in excellent condition, and they are always careful to keep one small sitting room spotlessly clean and sometimes even elegant."
At one of these farm-houses he was most hospitably entertained.
"The farmer" he says "received us with the greatest courtesy and later we were served with dinner, and we sat to table as calmly as if we had previously had the farmer's acquaintance. Mr. Case's appearance is that of a country-man pure and simple. He has an affable bearing, his manners are polished in the English sense, that is to say without undue formalities, and all the better for that . . . the farm buildings are well supplied with stables, barns and so forth. The barns are full of corn and, in addition, one sees grouped all round the house stacks of peas and barley larger and taller than the house. The farm covers 1,600 acres of land surrounding the house and all linked up together. Mr. Case employs fourteen servants and twelve labourers the year round, and also eighty team horses, he keeps a thousand sheep and a hundred and fifty pigs, fed principally on peas. The harvest lasts for five weeks, during which he employs sixty-three labourers to whom he gives something between forty-two and forty-five shillings as well as food, which costs a prodigious amount. The harvesters have meat three times a day and strong beer in proportion, as well as all the small beer they desire. They consume so much that Mr. Case told us he is obliged to kill two bullocks a week, and three sheep a day."
De la Rochefoucauld describes most of the English villages which he saw as being clean and having "an appearance of cosiness in which ours in France are lacking". He was, of course, in a part of England where agriculture, under good landlords, had made enormous progress, though even here he admits that there were badly built, dirty villages. He thinks that the wages paid to agricultural labourers in England were enormous and as compared with those in France perhaps they were. The English farm worker earned about five or six shillings a week in the county of Suffolk where de la Rochefoucauld was then staying. He says that they did not do nearly as much work as the French, though he admits that Englishmen who had travelled in France disagreed with him, and he might have added that there were Frenchmen who did not share this view.
"The Annual income of a great many commoners in England" Voltaire says "amounts to two hundred thousand livres, and yet these do not think it beneath them to plough the lands which enrich them, and on which they enjoy their liberty."
He was probably thinking of some large landowner like Coke of Holkham later in the century, who put on a smock frock and worked in his fields beside his own labourers. That any rich man of good family in France should do such a thing would have been thought utterly incredible and preposterous!
Meister tells us that in 1792 the general cultivation of the country had much improved. One year's harvest, he says, was sufficient to last for fourteen months.
"The pasturage is rich, potatoes are superior to any grown in France, and hops are very good; but grapes and all fruits and pulse which owe their perfection to the general influence of a warm sun are not to be had."
He was, of course, speaking generally. Grapes, apricots and peaches were grown by country gentlemen and by market gardeners near London. Meister could have bought what he pleased, in season, at Covent Garden. Though he praises the fertility of the English countryside, he also comments on the prevalence of commons and heaths, producing nothing but poor grass where sheep were pastured. In some parts of the country he finds farm and small manor houses uninhabited and falling into decay. He says that they belonged to rich farmers "who would not put themselves to the expense of keeping up houses which were not their own". In this he shows his ignorance of English country life. No tenant farmer repaired his own house, and few rich landlords in those piping days of English farming suffered their property to fall into decay. The houses which Meister saw probably belonged to small gentry or yeoman farmers, who were being squeezed out by the great rise in prices and the consequent enhanced cost of living.
The beauty of the English countryside was often commented on in an age when natural scenery was not always admired. Pastor Moritz was thrown into "a sort of enthusiastic and pleasing reverie" by the beauty of Windsor Forest and as he travelled, often on foot, he greatly admired "the hedges which in England, more than in any other country, form the boundaries of the green cornfields and give the whole of the distant country the appearance of a large majestic garden". Moritz was in England in 1782, by which date much of the country had been enclosed by hedges. He continues to rhapsodize and declares that "any of the least beautiful of these views, which I have seen in England, would anywhere in Germany be deemed a paradise". Moritz lived before the romantic revival, when undulating country, well-farmed land, and pastures, dotted with sheep and cattle, were more admired than crags and torrents, mountains and forests.
He also speaks with approbation of some labourers' red brick cottages, which he compared favourably with "the mean cottages of our peasants", and Meister noted the tidy appearance of the villages and that the shops were well furnished with goods. To our modern ideas, the cottages of eighteenth-century labourers were very mean indeed. They were generally built of wood, cob or clay, thatched with reed or straw, and seldom had more than two rooms. Often a working man would build his house with his own hands, there were no bye-laws to prevent him. The red brick cottages, which Moritz describes, were to be found on the estates of large landowners who took a pride in their property. It is probable that he had seen some of these, and with the fatal habit, common to many travellers, argued from the particular to the general, ignoring the many thoroughly bad dwellings which dotted the countryside and assuming that the housing of the working classes in England was excellent. It may even be that conditions in Germany were considerably worse. When de la Rochefoucauld reached England he felt himself
"transported into another world. I remarked from the first" he says "that atmosphere of comfort which characterizes the country into which I was entering. I observed that all classes of people-peasants from the neighbouring country, servants even-were well clad and remarkably clean, that the furniture in their houses was all of mahogany even in our inn; that they had plenty of those tables which are so dear in France. I saw many carts drawn by fine horses with good harness, such as would involve an expense which our farmers could not face."
Some travellers visited those English country seats which were shown to tourists; Blenheim was such an attraction that it had been necessary to put up pallisades against the lower windows and station men at every door "to keep people back from crowding in on my Lord Duke". A German traveller who went to see it before it was finished, compared the palace to a theatre and said that the talking and shouting of the eight hundred workmen employed upon it made him think of the Tower of Babel.
In Praise of Gardens
England was celebrated for her gardens even on the Continent, and probably possessed more than many countries which were considerably larger. In the seventeenth century the formal gardens of France were much admired and imitated. The genius of Le Notre had its effect on some of the famous gardens of England. By the eighteenth century, however, fashion had changed. "The regular symmetry introduced into this science is at present totally neglected" Grosley tells us, nor does he admire the formal gardens which William III introduced from Holland. He describes the Dutch Garden at Kensington Palace as "dismal as a churchyard". Other travellers were, however, more appreciative. Von Uffenbach tells us of a garden belonging to
"Herr Cox, a rich dealer in flax, about three miles from London. It was" he says "ornamented with all kinds of figures cut in box, of which I have never seen so large a quantity, and of such uncommon height. There were all kinds of animals and men, all greater than life size, and some excellently fashioned ships. One of these figures was talking through a tube, into the other end of which another concealed man was speaking. If one goes past unawares it is extraordinarily startling."
Von Uffenbach also tells us of a tulip tree of great size, which he saw in Lord Peterborough's garden at Millbank. "It was higher than a house and thicker than a man."
He saw in Lord Ranelagh's garden at Chelsea a "cucumber tree, which resembled a lime tree". He tells us that the bark formed cucumbers, which were used as the stoppers of bottles.
De Saussure also saw a tulip tree at Waltham Abbey, which he describes as being forty feet high, and declared that two men with arms outstretched could hardly clasp the trunk. He comments on the well-kept state of English gardens, though he says that there were few flower beds. It may be that he had only visited those great estates whose gardens are described by Count Kielmansegg and where the flowers were a secondary consideration.
"The principal features of all English gardens" he says "are gravel or grass walks between irregular high trees or through wild growth, consisting of all kinds of trees, shrubs and flowers, native and foreign, summer houses, seats and benches of all shapes and forms, placed in high or otherwise convenient places, and heathen temples, ruins, colonnades, hermitages, mosques, etc. An effort is frequently made to bring in a natural water course or, failing that, to dig one out artificially with many windings and turnings, waterfalls and bridges so as to please the eye. Pretty views are the principal aim in a garden here, and an Englishman thinks nothing of a garden without water."
This was no doubt one of the romantic gardens of what was known as landscape scenery, which Bridgman, Kent and. Capability Brown imposed on the English country magnate. Foreign visitors were much impressed with them. Meister is enthusiastic about the beauties of Stowe, "the noblest and the best planned" of all the gardens he had seen in England. Meister describes the triumphal arches, temples, obelisks and Palladian bridges of various seats, and speaks of "the glory and greatness of Blenheim".
"The longest, largest and highest hedge of holly I ever saw" Macky tells us "is in this garden" (Sir Charles Hedge's at Richmond) "with several other hedges of evergreens, vistas cut through woods, grottoes with fountains, a fine canal running up from the river. His decoy, which is an oval pond, bricked round and his pretty summer house by it to drink a bottle, his stove houses which are always kept at an equal heat for his citrons and other Indian plants, with a gardener brought from foreign countries to manage them, are very curious and entertaining."
Meister mentions "the subterraneous hot bed which he saw at Nuneham." It appeared to him "a contrivance capable of producing charming effects" and it did produce orange trees and other exotic plants. It would be interesting if he had described it in more detail.
Mme de Bocage speaks of the King's estate at Richmond, which had been laid out "to imitate nature". Trees had been planted, some growing naturally, others were crooked, or what was even more admired entirely withered away. Even the park had artificial hills surrounded by canals which ran into the Thames or watered a grotto which was adorned with sculpture.
"Queen Caroline" Madame de Bocage tells us, "who was a lover of subterraneous caverns, caused one to be constructed in the form of a labyrinth in which narrow, dark and winding alleys conduct the feet of the curious. We there meet with the figures of travellers, who seem to walk trembling all the way towards the entrance to the cavern. A low and Gothic door, filled with hieroglyphics, leads to this awful place, to which you descend by a walk, covered with pebbles, overgrown with moss. The enchanter sits upon a tripod loaded with books of magic and armillary spheres. Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth consult him, accompanied by their nurses, persons very proper to assist at these puerile mysteries."
Mme de Bocage comments on the fashionable gardening craze of the moment when she speaks of crooked and withered trees, paths that twisted and meandered and artificial streams in serpentine form. De la Rochefoucauld, with the Frenchman's concern for good food, notices the kitchen gardens.
"The English" he says "do not eat half as many vegetables as we do. Consequently their kitchen gardens are quite small in comparison with ours; even those belonging to the largest houses cover only four or five acres . . . generally speaking whatever knowledge they have of the cultivation of kitchen and fruit gardens comes from France."
There were, of course, some travellers who found themselves, for one reason or another, living in the country and were intolerably bored by it. Baretti was one of these, when he was staying at Stansted with Barwell, a rich nabob who had made a great fortune in India by very doubtful means. Men of his sort would often buy a place and set up as country gentlemen to the mingled wrath and amusement of their neighbours. Baretti writes as follows:
"I get up at regular hours, am shaved, combed and powdered. Then comes breakfast, followed by a short walk and a little reading to prevent myself from being bored, then dinner and the usual long drinking; then another walk, then tea, then picquet or whist, then supper, after which we go to bed. A very dull life you will say and so do I, and I would gladly change it for another if I could do as I liked; but who can do as he likes in this world? Personally I never could, because I have never found myself rich enough."
Baretti was unfortunate in his host. There were men in the country who lived a reasonable and cultivated life. This nabob does not seem to have even cared about sport or concerned himself with parish affairs, or been on the bench.
The weather both in town and country is the subject of much blame and some praise. The fogs both in London and the provinces were more than many foreigners could stand. In the chapter on London we have mentioned the black fogs. Lichtenberg complains of having to light a candle at 10.30 a.m.
"One certainly could not endure it" he says "were it not for the other consolations which far outweigh all that. In a word if it were not for the inconceivably lovely naive creatures ready to be helpful on all occasions, who warm their beds I would wager that all Englishmen would quit England at least for the winter."
He would have lost his wager. Setting aside the "lovely naive creatures", how many Englishmen would have left the homes of their fathers, draughty and cold though they might have been, the hunting and shooting, justices' meetings, county society, the conviviality of the tavern, club or coffee-house, for the doubtful advantages of foreign travel? Very few.
The east wind was another trial to foreigners. Voltaire tells us of a young girl, beautiful and rich, who was driven to suicide by the east wind. He also declared that it cast a gloom over the English court and that no one asked a favour of the sovereign except when the wind was in the south or west.
"I have never felt such cold" says de la Rochefoucauld, speaking of the hard winter of 1784. "It lasted for nearly four months, during the whole of which the ground was covered with snow about two feet deep and the frost made it as hard as the ground itself. Many of the evergreen trees were completely frozen and the snow which settled on the branches of the fir trees, of which there are large numbers, caused the trees to split in half. . . .My own experience leads me to conclude that the climate of England is very rainy and that it is both colder and windier than that of France. This, however, is contrary to the opinion of a large number of people who hold that, generally speaking, there is little or no difference between the two."