A French gentleman, who travelled some years since into Spain, had letters of recommendation to a Spanish Bishop, who received him with every mark of politeness, and treated him with much hospitality: soon after he retired to his bedchamber, a priest entered it,[A] holding a vessel in his hand, which was covered with a clean napkin; he said something; but the Frenchman understanding but little Spanish, intimated by signs his thanks, and desired him to put it down, believing, that his friend, the Bishop, had sent him a plate of sweetmeats, fruit, iced cream, or some kind of refreshment to eat before he went to bed, or to refresh his exhausted spirits in the night; but his astonishment was great indeed, when he found the priest put the present under the side of the bed; and more so, when he perceived that it was only a pot de chambre;—for, says the Frenchman, “in Spain, they do not use the chaise percee!” The Frenchman is surprized at the Spaniard, for not using so convenient a vehicle; the Englishman is equally surprized, that the Frenchman does;—the Frenchman is always attentive to his own person, and scarce ever appears but clean and well dressed; while his house and private apartments are perhaps covered with litter and dirt, and in the utmost confusion;—the Englishman, on the other hand, often neglects his external dress; but his house is always exquisitely clean, and every thing in it kept in the nicest order; and who shall say, which of the two judge the best for their own ease and happiness? I am sure the Frenchman will not give up his powdered hair, and laced coat, for a clean house; nor do I believe those fineries would sit quietly upon the back of an Englishman, in a dirty one. In short, my dear sir, we must take the world, and the things in it, as they are; it is a dirty world, but like France, has a vast number of good things in it, and such as I meet with, in this my third tour, which shall be a long one, if I am not stopped by the way, you shall have such an account of as I am able to convey to you: I will not attempt to top the traveller upon you, nor raise monuments of wonder, where none are to be seen; there is real matter enough to be found upon this great continent, to amuse a man who travels slowly over it, to see what is to be seen, and who wishes not to be seen himself. My style of travelling is such, that I can never be disturbed in mind for want of respect, but rather be surprised when I meet with even common civility. And, after all, what does it signify, whether Monsieur ou Tel travels in a laced coat et tres bien mis, attended by half a dozen servants, or, as Pope says,
The Lord knows whither in a chaise and one.”
I am, your’s &c.
[A] The Bishops in Spain are attended and waited upon by inferior clergy.
June 25th, 1766.