Letters from Turkey, by Mary Wortley Montagu

Letter l.

Paris. — General remarks on the palace of Versailles — Trianon — Marli — St Cloud — paintings at the house of the Duke d’Antin — the Thuilleries — the Louvre — behaviour of Mr Law at Paris — Paris compared with London.

To Mr T——.

Paris, Oct. 16. O. S. 1718.

YOU see I’m just to my word, in writing to you from Paris, where I was very much surprised to meet my sister; I need not add, very much pleased. She as little expected to see me as I her (having not received my late letters); and this meeting would shine under the hand of de Seuderie; but I shall not imitate his style so far, as to tell you how often we embraced, how she inquired, by what odd chance I returned from Constantinople? And I answered her by asking, what adventure brought her to Paris? To shorten the story, all questions, and answers, and exclamations, and compliments being over, we agreed upon running about together, and have seen Versailles, Trianon, Marli, and St Cloud. We had an order for the water to play for our diversion, and I was followed thither by all the English at Paris. I own, Versailles appeared to me rather vast than beautiful; and after having seen the exact proportions of the Italian buildings, I thought the irregularity of it shocking.

THE king’s cabinet of antiques and medals, is, indeed, very richly furnished. Amongst that collection, none pleased so well, as the apotheosis of Germanicus, on a large agate, which is one of the most delicate pieces of the kind that I remember to have seen. I observed some ancient statues of great value. But the nauseous flattery, and tawdry pencil of Le Brun, are equally disgusting in the gallery. I will not pretend to describe to you the great apartment, the vast variety of fountains, the theatre, the grove of Esop’s fables, &c. all which you may read very amply particularized in some of the French authors, that have been paid for these descriptions. Trianon, in its littleness, pleased me better than Versailles; Marli, better than either of them; and St Cloud best of all; having the advantage of the Seine running at the bottom of the gardens, the great cascade, &c. You may find information in the aforesaid books, if you have any curiosity to know the exact number of the statues, and how many feet they cast up the water.

WE saw the king’s pictures in the magnificent house of the duke D’Antin, who has the care of preserving them till his majesty is of age. There are not many but of the best hands. I looked, with great pleasure on the arch-angel of Raphael, where the sentiments of superior beings are as well expressed as in Milton. You won’t forgive me, if I say nothing of the Thuilleries, much finer than our Mall; and the Cour, more agreeable than our Hyde-park, the high trees giving shade in the hottest season. At the Louvre, I had the opportunity of seeing the king, accompanied by the Duke regent. He is tall, and well shaped but has not the air of holding the crown so many years as his grandfather. And now I am speaking of the Court, I must say, I saw nothing in France that delighted me so much, as to see an Englishman (at least a Briton) absolute at Paris, I mean Mr Law, who treats their dukes and peers extremely de haut en bas, and is treated by them with the utmost submission and respect. — Poor souls! — This reflection on their abject slavery, puts me in mind of the place des victoires; but I will not take up your time, and my own, with such descriptions, which are too numerous.

IN general, I think Paris has the advantage of London, in the neat pavement of the streets, and the regular lighting of them at nights, in the proportion of the streets, the houses being all built of stone, and most of those belonging to people of quality being beautified by gardens. But we certainly may boast of a town very near twice as large; and when I have said that, I know nothing else we surpass it in. I shall not continue here long; if you have any thing to command me during my short stay, write soon, and I shall take pleasure in obeying you.

I am, &c. &c.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:09