Thursday, July 07, 2011

They Only Think They're English

...a British aristocracy that, however attached to economic foundations unknown to its French counterpart, was only the more disposed to employ its riches in the enjoyment of a noble leisure housed in Palladian castles, embellished with Italian paintings, refreshed by parks inspired by the landscapes of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, and entertained by gallant  manners that, without too openly competing with the elegant libertinage whose secret belonged to Catholic France, were ardently practiced intra muros; and there was no destination more favored by English aristocracy in the eighteenth century, in the intervals of peace between the two realms, than Paris or the fair provinces of France, to which this nobility escaped for long sojourns wherever possible.
 Mark Fumaroli on the 18th-Century English country gentlemen  in When the World Spoke French 36 (NYRB 2011).  Fumaroli likes the saucy bits: a page later he remarks on how "Samuel Pepys' Diary bears witness to the extraordinary mixture, in the London of Charles II, of a puritanical repugnance in principle to the debauchery of French and Catholic origin and a greedy appetite for whatever crumbs could be snatched from the revels."

2 comments:

New York Crank said...

You quote: "Samuel Pepys' Diary bears witness to the extraordinary mixture, in the London of Charles II, of a puritanical repugnance in principle to the debauchery of French and Catholic origin and a greedy appetite for whatever crumbs could be snatched from the revels."

Yeah, and it didn't go away when the Eighteenth (or even Nineteenth) Century turned.

In 1959 I was a student at the University of Leeds in England. From time to time, I'd take the train down to London and then the Ferry to LeHavre and then another train to Paris.

The object was not sex. That awful year, alas, I had no girl in any port on the planet. The object was to see a few American college friends and avoid the nauseating English food. For example, our dormitory's Scottish cook would often serve us cold spaghetti with cold tomato sauce on toast for breakfast.

"Where are you going this weekend?" my fellow red brick students would ask.

"Paris again," I'd say.

"Oh ho," they'd say knowingly, jabbing one another in the ribs, "Another dirty week end, eh?"

Yeah, right.

Yours crankily
The New York Crnak

Buce said...

Did not the poet say:

"To London, to London, to buy a fat pig..."