Abbe Guasco, a friend of mine, will come to you as soon as he knows of your arrival at Paris; he is well received in the best companies there, and will introduce you to them. He will be desirous to do you any service he can; he is active and curious, and can give you information upon most things. He is a sort of ‘complaisant’ of the President Montesquieu, to whom you have a letter.
I imagine that this letter will not wait for you very long at Paris, where I reckon you will be in about a fortnight. Adieu.
London, December 24, 1750
Dear friend: At length you are become a Parisian, and consequently must be addressed in French; you will also answer me in the same language, that I may be able to judge of the degree in which you possess the elegance, the delicacy, and the orthography of that language which is, in a manner, become the universal one of Europe. I am assured that you speak it well, but in that well there are gradations. He, who in the provinces might be reckoned to speak correctly, would at Paris be looked upon as an ancient Gaul. In that country of mode, even language is subservient to fashion, which varies almost as often as their clothes.
The affected, the refined, the neological, or new fashionable style are at present too much in vogue at Paris. Know, observe, and occasionally converse (if you please) according to those different styles; but do not let your taste be infected by them. Wit, too, is there subservient to fashion; and actually, at Paris, one must have wit, even in despite of Minerva. Everybody runs after it; although if it does not come naturally and of itself; it never can be overtaken. But, unfortunately for those who pursue, they seize upon what they take for wit, and endeavor to pass it for such upon others. This is, at best, the lot of Ixion, who embraced a cloud instead of the goddess he pursued. Fine sentiments, which never existed, false and unnatural thoughts, obscure and far-sought expressions, not only unintelligible, but which it is even impossible to decipher, or to guess at, are all the consequences of this error; and two-thirds of the new French books which now appear are made up of those ingredients. It is the new cookery of Parnassus, in which the still is employed instead of the pot and the spit, and where quintessences and extracts ate chiefly used. N. B. The Attic salt is proscribed.
You will now and then be obliged to eat of this new cookery, but do not suffer your taste to be corrupted by it. And when you, in your turn, are desirous of treating others, take the good old cookery of Lewis XIV.’s reign for your rule. There were at that time admirable head cooks, such as Corneille, Boileau, Racine, and La Fontaine. Whatever they prepared was simple, wholesome, and solid. But laying aside all metaphors, do not suffer yourself