Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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PARIS

WE get forwards in the world, not so much by doing services, as receiving them: you take a withering twig, and put it in the ground; and then you water it because you have planted it.

Mons.le Count de B****, merely because he had done me one kindness in the affair of my passport, would go on and do me another, the few days he was at Paris, in making me known to a few people of rank; and they were to present me to others, and so on.

      6            I had

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I had got master of my secret just in time to turn these honours to some little account; otherwise, as is commonly the case, I should have din'd or supp'd a single time or two round, and then by translating French looks and attitudes into plain English, I should presently have seen, that I had gold out of the couvert* of some more entertaining guest; and in course should have resigned all my places one after another, merely upon the principle that I could not keep them.—As it was, things did not go much amiss.

I had the honour of being introduced to the old Marquis de B****:

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*Plate, napkin, knife, fork, and spoon.

      in

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in days of yore he had signaliz'd himself by some small feats of chivalry in the Cour d'amour, and had dress'd himself out to the idea of tilts and tournaments ever since—the Marquis de B**** wish'd to have it thought the affair was somewhere else than in his brain. 'He could like to take a trip to England,' and ask'd much of the English ladies. Stay where you are, I beseech you, Mons.le Marquis, said I—Les Messrs. Anglois can scarce get a kind look from them as it is—The Marquis invited me to supper.

Mons. P**** the farmer-general was just as inquisitive about our taxes—They were very considerable,

      he

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he heard— If we knew but how to collect them, said I, making him a low bow.

I could never have been invited to Mons. P****'s concerts upon any other terms.

I had been misrepresented to Madame de Q*** as an esprit— Madame de Q*** was an esprit herself: she burnt with impatience to see me, and hear me talk. I had not taken my seat, before I saw she did not care a sous whether I had any wit or no—I was let in, to be convinced she had.— I call Heaven to witness I never once open'd the door of my lips.

     Madame

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Madame de [Q]*** vow'd to every creature she met, 'She had never had a more improving conversation with a man in her life.'

There are three epochas in the empire of a French woman— She is coquette—then deist—then dévote: the empire during these is never lost— she only changes her subjects: when thirty-five years and more have unpeopled her dominions of the slaves of love, she repeoples it with slaves of infidelity—and then with the slaves of the church.

Madame de V*** was vibrating betwixt the first of these epochas: the colour of the rose was fading

Vol. II.      M            fast

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fast way—she ought to have been a deist five years before the time I had the honour to pay my first visit.

I told Madame de V*** it might be her principle; but I was sure it could not be in her interest to level the outworks, without which I could not conceive how such a citadel as her's could be defended—that there was not a more dangerous thing in the world than for a beauty to be a deist—that it was a debt I owed my

      creed,

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creed, not to conceal it from her—that I had not been five minutes sat upon the sopha beside her, but I had begun to form designs—and what is it, but the sentiments of religion, and the persuasion they had excited in her breast, which could have check'd them as they rose up?

We are not adamant, said I, taking hold of her hand—and there is need of all restraints, till age in her own time steals in and lays them on us—but, my dear lady, said I, kissing her hand—'tis too—too soon—

I declare I had the credit all over Paris of unperverting Madame de V***—She affirmed to Mons.

      M2            D***

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D*** and the Abbé M***, that in one half-hour I had said more for revealed religion, than all their Encyclopedia had said against it—I was lifted directly into Madame de V***'s Coterie—and she put off the epocha of deism for two years.

I remember it was in thisCoterie, in the middle of a discourse, in which I was shewing the necessity of a first cause, that the young Count de Faineant took me by the hand to the farthest corner of the room, to tell me my solitaire was pinn'd too strait about my neck—It should be plus badinant, said the Count, looking down upon his own—but a word, Mons. Yorick, to the wise

      2            And

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—And from the wise, Mons. le Count, replied I, making him a bow—is enough.

The Count de Faineant embraced me with more ardour than ever I was embraced by mortal man.

For three weeks together, I was of every man's opinion I met.— Pardi! ce Mons.Yorick a autant d'esprit que nous autresIl raisonne bien, said another— C'est un bon enfant, said a third.—And at this price I could have eaten and drank and been merry all the days of my life at Paris: but 'twas a dishonest reckoning— I grew ashamed of it.—It was the gain of a slave—

      M3            every

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every sentiment of honour revolted against it—the higher I got, the more I was forced upon my beggarly system—the better the Coterie—the more children of Art—I languish'd for those of Nature: and one night, after a most vile prostitution of myself to half a dozen different people, I grew sick—went to bed—order'd La Fleur to get me horses in the morning to set out for Italy.

      MARIA

 



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