No gentleman, priest, or servant, male or female, ever gives any notice by knocking before they enter the bed-chamber, or apartment of ladies or gentlemen.—The post-man opens it, to bring your letters; the capuchin, to ask alms; and the gentleman to make his visit. There is no privacy, but by securing your door by a key or a bolt; and when any of the middling class of people have got possession of your apartment, particularly of a stranger, it is very difficult to get them out.
There is not on earth, perhaps, so curious and inquisitive a people as the lower class of French: noise seems to be one of their greatest delights. If a ragged boy does but beat a drum or sound a trumpet, he brings all who hear it about him, with the utmost speed, and most impatient curiosity.—As my monkey rode postillion, in a red jacket laced with silver, I was obliged to make him dismount, when I passed thro’ a town of any size: the people gathered so rapidly about me at Moret, three leagues from Fontainbleau, while I stopped only to buy a loaf, that I verily believe every man, woman, and child, except the sick and aged, were paying their respects to my little groom; all infinitely delighted; for none offered the least degree of rudeness.
The French never give coffee, tea, or any refreshment, except upon particular occasions, to their morning or evening visitors.
When the weather is cold, the fire small, and a large company, some young Frenchman shuts the whole circle from receiving any benefit from it, by placing himself just before it, laying his sword genteely over his left knee, and flattering himself, while all the company wish him at the devil, that the ladies are admiring his legs: when he has gratified his vanity, or is thoroughly warm, he sits down, or goes, and another takes his place. I have seen this abominable ill-breeding kept up by a set of accomplished young fops for two hours together, in exceeding cold weather. This custom has been transplanted lately into England.
Jealousy is scarce known in France; by the time the first child is born, an indifference generally takes place: the husband and wife have their separate acquaintance, and pursue their separate amusements, undisturbed by domestic squabbles: when they meet in the evening, it is with perfect good humour, and in general, perfect good breeding.—When an English wife plays truant, she soon becomes abandoned: it is not so with the French; they preserve appearances and proper decorum, because they are seldom attached to any particular man. While they are at their toilet, they receive the visits of their male acquaintance, and he must be a man of uncommon discernment, who finds out whom it is she prefers at that time.—In the southern parts of France, the women are in general very free and easy indeed.