The women spinning at their doors here, or making lace, or employing themselves in some manner, is particularly consolatory to a British eye; yet I do not recollect it struck me last time I was over: industry without bustle, and some appearance of gain without fraud, comfort one’s heart; while all the profits of commerce scarcely can be said to make immediate compensation to a delicate mind, for the noise and brutality observed in an English port. I looked again for the chapel, where the model of a ship, elegantly constructed, hung from the top, and found it in good preservation: some scrupulous man had made the ship, it seems, and thought, perhaps justly too, that he had spent a greater portion of time and care on the workmanship than he ought to have done; so resolving no longer to indulge his vanity or fondness, fairly hung it up in the convent chapel, and made a solemn vow to look on it no more. I remember a much stronger instance of self-denial practised by a pretty young lady of Paris once, who was enjoined by her confessor to wring off the neck of her favourite bullfinch, as a penance for having passed too much time in teaching him to pipe tunes, peck from her hand, &c.—She obeyed; but never could be prevailed on to see the priest again.
We are going now to leave Calais, where the women in long white camblet clokes, soldiers with whiskers, girls in neat slippers, and short petticoats contrived to show them, who wait upon you at the inn;—postillions with greasy night-caps, and vast jack-boots, driving your carriage harnessed with ropes, and adorned with sheep-skins, can never fail to strike an Englishman at his first going abroad:—But what is our difference of manners, compared to that prodigious effect produced by the much shorter passage from Spain to Africa; where an hour’s time, and sixteen miles space only, carries you from Europe, from civilization, from Christianity. A gentleman’s description of his feelings on that occasion rushes now on my mind, and makes me half ashamed to sit here, in Dessein’s parlour, writing remarks, in good time!—upon places as well known as Westminster-bridge to almost all those who cross it at this moment; while the custom-house officers intrusion puts me the less out of humour, from the consciousness that, if I am disturbed, I am disturbed from doing nothing.
Our way to this place lay through Boulogne; the situation of which is pleasing, and the fish there excellent. I was glad to see Boulogne, though I can scarcely tell why; but one is always glad to see something new, and talk of something old: for example, the story I once heard of Miss Ashe, speaking of poor Dr. James, who loved profligate conversation dearly,—“That man should set up his quarters across the water,” said she; “why Boulogne would be a seraglio to him.”