Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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CHARACTER.

VERSAILLES.

AND how do you find the
French? said the Count de
B****, after he had given me the
Passport.

   The reader may suppose that after
so obliging a proof of courtesy, I
could not be at a loss to say some-
thing handsome to the enquiry.

   —Mais passe, pour cela—Speak
frankly, said he: do you find all the
urbanity in the French which the

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world give us the honour of?—I had
found everything, I said, which con-
firmed it—Vraiment, said the count.
Les Francois sont poli.s—To an ex-
cess, replied I.

   The count took notice of the word
excesse ; and would have it meant
more than I said. I defended myself
a long time as well as I could
against it—he insisted I had a reserve,
and that I would speak my opinion
frankly.

   I believe, Mons. Le Compte, said
I, that man has a certain compass, as
well as an instrument ; and that the
social and other calls have occasion
by turns for every key in him ; so

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that if you begin a note too high
or too low, there must be a want
either in the upper or under part,
to fill up the system of harmony.—
The Count de B**** did not understand music, so desired me to ex-
plain it some other way. A polish'd
nation, my dear Count, said I, makes
every one its debtor; and besides
urbanity itself, like the fair sex, has
so many charms, it goes against the
the heart to say it can do ill; and
yet, I believe, there is but a certain
line of perfection, that man, take him
altogether, is impower'd to arrive at
—if he gets beyond, he rather ex-
changes qualities, than gets them.
I must not presume'to say, how far this
has affected the French in the sub-

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ject we are speaking of—but should
it ever be the case of the English, in
the progress of their refentments, to
arrive at the same polish which dis-
tinguishes the French, if we did not
lose the

politesse du coeur, which in-
clines men more to humane actions,
than courteous ones—we should at
least lose that distinct variety and
originality of character, which dis-
tinguishes them, not only from each
other, but from all the world be-
sides.

   I had a few of king Williams's shil-
lings as smooth as glass in my pocket ;
and forseeing they would be of use
in the illustration of my hypothesis,

                    I had

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I had got them into my hand, when
I had proceeded so far—

   See, Mons. Le Compte, said I,
rising up, and laying them before
him upon the table—by jingling and
rubbing one against another for seventy
years together in one body's pocket
or another's, they are become so
much alike, you can scarce distin-
guish one shilling from another.

   The English, like ancient medals,
kept more apart, and passing but few
peoples hands, preserve the first
sharpnesses which the fine hand of na-
ture has given them—they are not
so pleasant to feel—but, in return,

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the legend is so visible, that at the
first look you see whose image and
superscription they bear. —But the French,
Mons. Le Compte, added I,
wishing to soften what I had said, have
so many excellencies, they can the
better spare this—they are a loyal, a
gallant, a generous, an ingenious,
and good temper'd people as is
under heaven— if they have a fault
—they are too serious.

   Mon Dieu ! cried the Count, rising out of his chair.

   Mais vous plaisantez, said he, cor-recting his exclamation.—I laid my
hand upon my breast, and with ear-

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nest gravity assured him, it was my most settled opinion.

   The Count said he was mortified,
he could not stay to hear my rea-
sons, being engaged to go that mo-
ment to dine with the Duc de
C****.

   But if it is not too far to come to
Versailles to eat your soup with me,
I beg, before you leave France, I may
have the pleasure of knowing you
retract your opinion—or, in what
manner you support it.—But if you
do support it, Mons. Anglois, said
he, you must do it with all your
powers, because you have the whole

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world against you.—I promised the
Count I would do myself the honour
of dining with him before I set out
for Italy— so took my leave.


                     THE


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