To MR. M -
LYONS, October 19, 1763.
DEAR SIR, - I was favoured with yours at Paris, and look upon your reproaches as the proof of your friendship. The truth is, I considered all the letters I have hitherto written on the subject of my travels, as written to your society in general, though they have been addressed to one individual of it; and if they contain any thing that can either amuse or inform, I desire that henceforth all I send may be freely perused by all the members.
With respect to my health, about which you so kindly enquire, I have nothing new to communicate. I had reason to think that my bathing in the sea at Boulogne produced a good effect, in strengthening my relaxed fibres. You know how subject I was to colds in England; that I could not stir abroad after sun-set, nor expose myself to the smallest damp, nor walk till the least moisture appeared on my skin, without being laid up for ten days or a fortnight. At Paris, however, I went out every day, with my hat under my arm, though the weather was wet and cold: I walked in the garden at Versailles even after it was dark, with my head uncovered, on a cold evening, when the ground was far from being dry: nay, at Marli, I sauntered above a mile through damp alleys, and wet grass: and from none of these risques did I feel the least inconvenience.
In one of our excursions we visited the manufacture for porcelain, which the king of France has established at the village of St. Cloud, on the road to Versailles, and which is, indeed, a noble monument of his munificence. It is a very large building, both commodious and magnificent, where a great number of artists are employed, and where this elegant superfluity is carried to as great perfection as it ever was at Dresden. Yet, after all, I know not whether the porcelain made at Chelsea may not vie with the productions either of Dresden, or St. Cloud. If it falls short of either, it is not in the design, painting, enamel, or other ornaments, but only in the composition of the metal, and the method of managing it in the furnace. Our porcelain seems to be a partial vitrification of levigated flint and fine pipe clay, mixed together in a certain proportion; and if the pieces are not removed from the fire in the very critical moment, they will be either too little, or too much vitrified. In the first case, I apprehend they will not acquire a proper degree of cohesion; they will be apt to be corroded, discoloured, and to crumble, like the first essays that were made at Chelsea; in the second case, they will be little better than imperfect glass.
There are three methods of travelling from Paris to Lyons, which, by the shortest road is a journey of about three hundred and sixty miles. One is by the diligence, or stagecoach, which performs it in five days; and every passenger pays one hundred livres, in consideration of which, he not only has a seat in the carriage, but is maintained on the road. The inconveniences attending this way of travelling are these. You are crouded into the carriage, to the number of eight persons, so as to sit very uneasy, and sometimes run the risque of being stifled among very indifferent company. You are hurried out of bed, at four, three, nay often at two o'clock in the morning. You are obliged to eat in the French way, which is very disagreeable to an English palate; and, at Chalons, you must embark upon the Saone in a boat, which conveys you to Lyons, so that the two last days of your journey are by water. All these were insurmountable objections to me, who am in such a bad state of health, troubled with an asthmatic cough, spitting, slow fever, and restlessness, which demands a continual change of place, as well as free air, and room for motion. I was this day visited by two young gentlemen, sons of Mr. Guastaldi, late minister from Genoa at London. I had seen them at Paris, at the house of the dutchess of Douglas. They came hither, with their conductor, in the diligence, and assured me, that nothing could be more disagreeable than their situation in that carriage.
Another way of travelling in this country is to hire a coach and four horses; and this method I was inclined to take: but when I went to the bureau, where alone these voitures are to be had, I was given to understand, that it would cost me six-and-twenty guineas, and travel so slow that I should be ten days upon the road. These carriages are let by the same persons who farm the diligence; and for this they have an exclusive privilege, which makes them very saucy and insolent. When I mentioned my servant, they gave me to understand, that I must pay two loui'dores more for his seat upon the coach box. As I could not relish these terms, nor brook the thoughts of being so long upon the road, I had recourse to the third method, which is going post.
In England you know I should have had nothing to do, but to hire a couple of post-chaises from stage to stage, with two horses in each; but here the case is quite otherwise. The post is farmed from the king, who lays travellers under contribution for his own benefit, and has published a set of oppressive ordonnances, which no stranger nor native dares transgress. The postmaster finds nothing but horses and guides: the carriage you yourself must provide. If there are four persons within the carriage, you are obliged to have six horses, and two postillions; and if your servant sits on the outside, either before or behind, you must pay for a seventh. You pay double for the first stage from Paris, and twice double for passing through Fontainbleau when the court is there, as well as at coming to Lyons, and at leaving this city. These are called royal posts, and are undoubtedly a scandalous imposition.