The conversation of the Marquis Trotti and the Abate Bucchetti is likewise particularly pleasing; especially to me, who am naturally desirous to live as much as possible among Italians of general knowledge, good taste, and polished manners, before I enter their country, where the language will be so very indispensable. Mean time I have stolen a day to visit my old acquaintance the English Austin Nuns at the Fossee, and found the whole community alive and cheerful; they are many of them agreeable women, and having seen Dr. Johnson with me when I was last abroad, enquired much for him: Mrs. Fermor, the Prioress, niece to Belinda in the Rape of the Lock, taking occasion to tell me, comically enough, “That she believed there was but little comfort to be found in a house that harboured poets; for that she remembered Mr. Pope’s praise made her aunt very troublesome and conceited, while his numberless caprices would have employed ten servants to wait on him; and he gave one” (said she) “no amends by his talk neither, for he only sate dozing all day, when the sweet wine was out, and made his verses chiefly in the night; during which season he kept himself awake by drinking coffee, which it was one of the maids business to make for him, and they took it by turns.”
These ladies really live here as comfortably for aught I see as peace, quietness, and the certainty of a good dinner every day can make them. Just so much happier than as many old maids who inhabit Milman Street and Chapel Row, as they are sure not to be robbed by a treacherous, or insulted by a favoured, servant in the decline of life, when protection is grown hopeless and resistance vain; and as they enjoy at least a moral certainty of never living worse than they do to-day: while the little knot of unmarried females turned fifty round Red Lion Square may always be ruined by a runaway agent, a bankrupted banker, or a roguish steward; and even the petty pleasures of six-penny quadrille may become by that misfortune too costly for their income.—Aureste, as the French say, the difference is small: both coteries sit separate in the morning, go to prayers at noon, and read the chapters for the day: change their neat dress, eat their little dinner, and play at small games for small sums in the evening; when recollection tires, and chat runs low.
But more adventurous characters claim my present attention. All Paris I think, myself among the rest, assembled to see the valiant brothers, Robert and Charles, mount yesterday into the air, in company with a certain Pilatre de Rosier, who conducted them in the new-invented flying chariot fastened to an air-balloon. It was from the middle of the Tuilleries that they set out, a place very favourable and well-contrived for such public purposes. But all was so nicely managed, so cleverly carried on somehow, that the order and decorum of us who remained on firm ground, struck me more than even the very strange sight of human creatures floating in the wind: but I have really been witness to ten times as much bustle and confusion at a crowded theatre in London, than what these peaceable Parisians made when the whole city was gathered together. Nobody was hurt, nobody was frighted, nobody could even pretend to feel themselves incommoded. Such are among the few comforts that result from a despotic government.