You already exclaim, why, in the year 1793, you are characterizing a nation in the style of Salmon! and implying a panegyric on the moral of the School for Scandal! I plead to the first part of the charge, and shall hereafter defend my opinion against the more polished writers who have succeeded Salmon. For the moral of the School for Scandal, I have always considered it as the seal of humanity on a comedy which would otherwise be perfection.
It is not the oeconomy of the French that I am censuring, but their vanity, which, engrossing all their means of expence, prefers show to accommodation, and the parade of a sumptuous repast three or four times a year to a plainer but more frequent hospitality.—I am far from being the advocate of extravagance, or the enemy of domestic order; and the liberality which is circumscribed only by prudence shall not find in me a censurer.
My ideas on the French character and manner of living may not be unuseful to such of my countrymen as come to France with the project of retrieving their affairs; for it is very necessary they should be informed, that it is not so much the difference in the price of things, which makes a residence here oeconomical, as a conformity to the habits of the country; and if they were not deterred by a false shame from a temporary adoption of the same system in England, their object might often be obtained without leaving it. For this reason it may be remarked, that the English who bring English servants, and persist in their English mode of living, do not often derive very solid advantages from their exile, and their abode in France is rather a retreat from their creditors than the means of paying their debts.
Adieu.—You will not be sorry that I have been able for a moment to forget our personal sufferings, and the miserable politics of the country. The details of the former are not pleasant, and the latter grow every day more inexplicable.
A RESIDENCE IN FRANCE
January 6, 1794.