Talking of Taste leads one to speak of gardening; and having passed yesterday between two villas belonging to some of the most opulent merchants of Lyons, I gained an opportunity of observing the disposal of those grounds that are appropriated to pleasure; where the shade of straight long-drawn alleys, formed by a close junction of ancient elm trees, kept a dazzling sun from incommoding our sight, and rendering the turf so mossy and comfortable to one’s tread, that my heart never felt one longing wish for the beauties of a lawn and shrubbery—though I should certainly think such a manner of laying out a Lancashire gentleman’s seat in the north of England a mad one, where the heat of the sun ought to be invited in, not shut out; and where a large lake of water is wanted for his beams to sparkle upon, instead of a fountain to trickle and to murmur, and to refresh one with the idea of coolness which it excites. Here, however, where the Rhone is navigable up to the very house, I see not but it is rational enough to form jet d’eaux of the superfluous water, and to content one’s self with a Bird Cage Walk, when we are sure at the end of it to find ourselves surrounded by an horizon, of extent enough to give the eye full employment, and of a bright colouring which affords it but little relief. That among the gems of Europe our island holds the rank of an emerald, was once suggested to me, and I could never part with the idea; surely France must in the same scale be rated as the ruby; for here is no grass, no verdure to repose the sight upon, except that of high forest trees, the vineyards being short cut, and supported by white sticks, the size of those which in our flower gardens support a favourite carnation; and these placed close together by thousands on a hill rather perplex than please a spectator of the country, who must wait till he recollects the superiority of their produce, before he prefers them to a Herefordshire orchard or a Kentish hop-ground.
Well! well! it is better to waste no more words on places however, where the people have done so much to engage and to deserve our attention.
Such was the hospitality I have here been witness to, and such the luxuries of the Lyonnois at table, that I counted six and thirty dishes where we dined, and twenty-four where we supped. Every thing was served up in silver at both places, and all was uniformly magnificent, except the linen, which might have been finer. We were not a very numerous company—from eighteen to twenty-two, as I remember, morning and evening; but the ladies played upon the pedal harp, the gentlemen sung gaily, if not sweetly after supper: I never received more kindness for my own part in any fortnight of my life, nor ever heard that kindness more pleasingly or less coarsely expressed. These are merchants, I am told, with whom I have been living; and perhaps my heart more readily receives and repays their caresses for having heard so. Let princes dispute, and soldiers reciprocally support their quarrels; but let the wealthy traders of every nation unite to pour the oil of commerce over the too agitated ocean of human life, and smooth down those asperities which obstruct fraternal concord.