César-François de Saussure

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César-François de Saussure (bap. 24 June 1705 – 8 March 1783) was a Swiss travel writer.

A Foreign View of England in the Reigns of George I and George II[edit]

A Foreign View of England in the Reigns of George I. & George II. The Letters of Monsieur César de Saussure to His Family (1902). Full text online
  • You can imagine nothing more beautiful than the banks of the Thames; on either side are charming country houses and many pretty towns and villages, the principal being Sheerness, Gravesend, and Greenwich; in the latter place is a magnificent hospital for seamen.
    • p. 33
  • I was surprised at seeing everyone making a profound reverence or bow as the King went by, which he in his turn acknowledged by a slight inclination of the head. The English do not consider their King to be so very much above them that they dare not salute him, as in France; they respect him and are faithful to him, and often sincerely attached to him. I speak, of course, of those who favour the reigning family, for there are in England many different political parties. There is a custom which shows the fidelity of those who are attached to the King: at dessert or after a meal the first glass of wine that is tasted is always drunk to the King's health.
    • pp. 40–41
  • ...we were shown the chapel where the kings of England are crowned, and called on that account the Royal Chapel. In this part of the Abbey there are also the tombs of some former kings without any ornament or statues, but with Latin epitaphs. On that of Edward I there is a sword more than seven or eight feet in length, and a shield of enormous size. We were told they were the weapons used by that king, but they looked like the weapons of Goliath. In this same chapel we saw a very ancient chair made of wood and gilt, on which the kings of England are crowned. On the day of the great ceremony this chair is covered with crimson velvet. A large stone is firmly set under the seat of this venerable chair, and we are assured that it is the same stone the patriarch Jacob slept on when he dreamed his famous dream. You must own you did not expect me to find such a relic as this in a Protestant church. However, nothing is truer, and this stone is kept with the greatest care, having been taken from the Scots by the English several centuries ago.
    • pp. 50–51
  • All these seats [in the House of Lords] are upholstered and covered with red cloth, as are also the bales of wool, which are placed in this hall according to an ancient custom, intended to remind Parliament of the great wealth England has derived from woollen merchandise, and in order to encourage the development of this branch of her industry. The hall is hung with tapestries formerly belonging to Mary Queen of Scots, and which she is supposed to have embroidered, with the help of her ladies, during her long captivity. These tapestries are all of silk, and represent the history of the famous Spanish Armada which Philip II of Spain sent against Queen Elizabeth. This is an immense piece of work; you see the fleet sailing from the ports of Spain, its dispersal by storm, and its final destruction by the English fleet.
    • pp. 55–56
  • At the end of the Strand is a fine large gate called Temple Bar, having four statues in niches. This gate is the first of the City, and when any proclamation has to be made of peace or of war, of the death of a king or of the accession of his successor to the throne, the Herald-at-Arms and his officers find the gate closed; they knock at it thrice, and my Lord Mayor, who is on the other side with his aldermen, inquires, "Who is there?" The officers of the King make answer that they are ordered to proclaim such and such a thing, my lord permitting. The Lord Mayor then consults his aldermen as to whether they can consent or not, and as you may believe, the answer is never in the negative.
    • pp. 72–73
  • Let us visit the Monument, which is not far off. This is a pyramid, or more properly a column, raised by order of Parliament at the exact spot where the terrible fire of 1666 broke out, by which about two-thirds of the City was destroyed. This column of Portland stone is fluted in the Doric style, and is two hundred feet high. ... On one side of the pedestal is a fine bas-relief representing the Fire of London; on the other three sides are inscriptions. The first, in Latin, relates the history of the fire; the second, also in Latin, gives an account of what has been done to rebuild the city; and the third, in English, accuses the Roman Catholics of being the authors of this terrible conflagration in the hope of destroying the Protestant religion together with liberty, and of introducing Popery and slavery in its stead. When James II, who was a zealous Roman Catholic, ascended the throne he caused this inscription to be erased; but shortly afterwards William III, his son-in-law, who succeeded him, ordered this inscription to be engraved deeper than before.
    • pp. 81–83
  • The Lord Mayor's Day is a great holiday in the City. The populace on that day is particularly insolent and rowdy, turning into lawless freedom the great liberty it enjoys. At these times it is almost dangerous for an honest man, and more particularly for a foreigner, if at all well dressed, to walk in the streets, for he runs a great risk of being insulted by the vulgar populace, which is the most cursed brood in existence. He is sure of not only being jeered at and being bespattered with mud, but as likely as not dead dogs and cats will be thrown at him, for the mob makes a provision beforehand of these playthings, so that they may amuse themselves with them on the great day. If the stranger were to get angry, his treatment would be all the worse. The best thing to be done on these occasions is not to run the risk of mixing with the crowd; but, should you desire to do so from curiosity, you had better dress yourself as simply as possible in the English fashion, and trust to pass unnoticed.
    • pp. 111–112
  • I daresay it would interest you to hear of the style and the way Englishmen usually dress. They do not trouble themselves about dress, but leave that to their womenfolk. When the people see a well-dressed person in the streets, especially if he is wearing a braided coat, a plume in his hat, or his hair tied in a bow, he will, without doubt, be called "French dog" twenty times perhaps before he reaches his destination. This name is the most common, and evidently, according to popular idea, the greatest and most forcible insult that can be given to any man, and it is applied indifferently to all foreigners, French or otherwise. Englishmen are usually very plainly dressed, they scarcely ever wear gold on their clothes; they wear little coats called "frocks," without facings and without pleats, with a short cape above. Almost all wear small, round wigs, plain hats, and carry canes in their hands, but no swords. Their cloth and linen are of the best and finest. You will see rich merchants and gentlemen thus dressed, and sometimes even noblemen of high rank, especially in the morning, walking through the filthy and muddy streets.
    • pp. 112–113
  • Englishmen are, however, very lavish in other ways. They have splendid equipages and costly apparel when required. Peers and other persons of rank are richly dressed when they go to Court, especially on gala days, when their grand coaches, with their magnificent accoutrements, are used. The lower classes are usually well dressed, wearing good cloth and linen. You never see wooden shoes in England, and the poorest individuals never go with naked feet.
    • p. 113
  • Englishmen say that it is better that twelve culprits should escape human justice rather than that one innocent man should perish.
  • Peers of the realm are executed by beheading; their heads are placed on the block and severed with a hatchet. Women who have murdered their husbands are put to death in what I consider to be an unjust way: they are condemned to be burned alive. Men who murder their wives are only hanged, but the English say that any person guilty of treason, that is to say of murdering those to whom they owe faith and allegiance, must be punished in an exemplary and terrible fashion. Such would be the case of a woman murdering her husband, a slave or servant his master, a clerk his bishop, and, in short, any person who is guilty of the death of his lord and superior.
    • p. 127
  • Would you believe it, though water is to be had in abundance in London, and of fairly good quality, absolutely none is drunk? The lower classes, even the paupers, do not know what it is to quench their thirst with water. In this country nothing but beer is drunk, and it is made in several quantities. Small beer is what everyone drinks when thirsty. ... It is said that more grain is consumed in England for making beer than for making bread.
    • pp. 157–158
  • What attracts enormously in these coffee-houses are the gazettes and other public papers. All Englishmen are great newsmongers. Workmen habitually begin the day by going to coffee-rooms in order to read the latest news. I have often seen shoeblacks and other persons of that class club together to purchase a farthing paper. Nothing is more entertaining than hearing men of this class discussing politics and topics of interest concerning royalty. You often see an Englishman taking a treaty of peace more to heart than he does his own affairs.
    • p. 162
  • I do not think there is a people more prejudiced in its own favour than the British people, and they allow this to appear in their talk and manners. They look on foreigners in general with contempt, and think nothing is as well done elsewhere as in their own country, and certainly many things contribute to keep up this good opinion of themselves, their love for their nation, its wealth, plenty, and liberty, and the comforts that are enjoyed.
    • p. 177
  • Englishmen are said to be very proud; certainly many are so, but in general they are more cold and reserved than really proud, and they are taciturn by nature, especially when compared to the French. Though twenty men will be sitting smoking and reading newspapers in a tavern, they talk so little that you will hear a fly buzz; their conversation is interrupted by long pauses, and an isolated "How do you do?" will alone prove to you that they are aware you are there, and have nothing more to say to you. They are not anxious to welcome foreigners, but rarely make any demonstrations of friendship that are not sincere. You can count upon an Englishman's offer of service, for he will never offer this lightly, and it is a proof he knows he can trust you.
    • pp. 177–178
  • The greater number of educated Englishmen have much solid good sense, and in many cases rare genius, and I am certain that the liberty they enjoy, allowing them to say and write their ideas and opinions freely, contributes immensely to make science popular; but you rarely meet with that bright, petulant, and lively wit you meet with in France. Few Englishmen would amuse themselves inventing and writing love stories after the manner and style of the French, but they write scientific and sound works like those of Newton, Tillotson, Radcliffe, Addison, and others. The writings most in fashion at the present period are pamphlets for and against the government, on politics and different subjects of interest relating to England and her allies. Almost every day some of these works appear and are eagerly sought after, for politics in this country seem to interest everyone. I suppose this taste is cultivated by the liberty which the government affords, and in which Englishmen take great pride, for they value this gift more than all the joys of life, and would sacrifice everything to retain it. Even the populace will make proof of this, and will give you to understand that there is no country in the world where such perfect freedom may be enjoyed as in England.
    • pp. 178–179
  • It may be said with entire justice that Englishmen are very brave; they give a convincing proof of this in seeming to fear neither death nor danger. Their soldiers fight with the greatest valour. This has been sufficiently proved in the latest wars. However, few Englishmen seek service out of England, and very few are partisans of duelling, so that you do not often hear of this mode of settling quarrels, but should duels occur, the combatants will always come out of the fight with honour.
    • p. 179
  • The lower populace is of a brutal and insolent nature, and is very quarrelsome. Should two men of this class have a disagreement which they cannot end up amicably, they retire into some quiet place and strip from their waists upwards. Everyone who sees them preparing for a fight surrounds them, not in order to separate them, but on the contrary to enjoy the fight, for it is a great sport to the lookers-on, and they judge the blows and also help to enforce certain rules in use for this mode of warfare. The spectators sometimes get so interested that they lay bets on the combatants and form a big circle around them. The two champions shake hands before commencing, and then attack each other courageously with their fists, and sometimes also with their heads, which they use like rams. Should one of the men fall, his opponent may, according to the rules, give him a blow with his fist, but those who have laid their bets on the fallen man generally encourage him to continue till one of the combatants is quite knocked up and says he has had enough.
    • p. 180
  • Would you believe it, I have actually seen women—belonging, it is true, to the scum of the people—fighting in this same manner. The insolence of the populace is so great that as soon as an honest man has any disagreement with one of their kind, he is at once invited to strip and fight. It would be dangerous to retaliate with a cane or sword; the lookers-on would at once be against him, and things might end badly for him. Noblemen of rank, almost beside themselves with anger at the arrogance of a carter or person of that sort, have been seen to throw off their coats, wigs, and swords, in order to use their fists. This sort of adventure often befell the Duke of Leeds, and he even made it into an amusement. My Lord Herbert, who is a very strong and robust man, recently fought a porter, and punished him well; the man was so surprised that he exclaimed, "D— sure you are the son of a porter, not of a lord; you know how to use your fists too well."
    • pp. 180–181
  • They are most kind-hearted and compassionate, but they think they are more so than any other nation, hence the term "good-natured," which is not found outside England. Generally speaking, English people are not servile, and are not capable of baseness to obtain notoriety. ... The Englishman in general is not made for court; he is too fond of his liberty and is too sincere and artless, and he is not a flatterer. He detests trouble and restraints to such a degree that he lives according to his own taste and ideas, and does not consider that fashion is to be followed with servility. There are some people who keep so apart from fashion that in any other country they would be considered singularly odd and perhaps something more; but in this country people are above caring what is thought of them, and do not trouble themselves about other people's opinions.
    • pp. 190–191
  • They cherish their liberty to such an extent that they often let both their religious opinions and their morals degenerate into licentiousness. This is the reason why so many different sects are to be found in England, and also so great a number of persons with deistical opinions, and who, taking advantage of the leniency of the government, occasionally publish pamphlets against the established religion, that in any other country would, together with their authors, pass through the hands of the executioner. A man of the name of Woolston was profane and godless enough to write and publish a treatise against our Saviour's miracles.
    • p. 191
  • An innumerable quantity of Englishmen are still more corrupt in their morals than in their religion. Debauch runs riot with an unblushing countenance. It is not the lower populace alone that is addicted to drunkenness; numbers of persons of high rank and even of distinction are over fond of liquor. This vice is said to be less widely spread than formerly; but all men, even churchmen, have a particular club or tavern, where they meet at least twice in the week to drink together in company. Though no wines are grown in England, it is no hindrance to drunkenness, for in the daytime the lower classes get intoxicated with liquor and beer, and the higher classes in the evening with Portuguese wines and punch.
    • pp. 191–192
  • Englishmen look on death in quite a different light to what other nations do, and are not afraid of it. As I have mentioned elsewhere, most criminals may be seen going with wonderful courage and fortitude to the gallows. I have also remarked that the passions of this nation are extremely strong and violent; they cannot bear failure, and customs and example are, I think, a great incitement to them.
    • p. 198
  • The term gentleman is usually given to any well-dressed person wearing a sword.
    • p. 212
  • London is assuredly the greatest commercial city in the world.
    • p. 216
  • English workmen are everywhere renowned, and that justly. They work to perfection, and though not inventive, are capable of improving and of finishing most admirably what the French and Germans have invented.
    • p. 218
  • As far as I can judge, English peasants are comfortably off. ... I have visited several farmers' homes in the country; their houses are clean and well furnished with all necessaries, and most of them possess silver spoons and mugs. They are all well fed and well dressed, and the coarse black bread our peasants eat is unknown to them. On Sundays they always have a good piece of beef before the fire, and all the year round a cask of ale in the cellar; in a word, there is plenty everywhere.
    • pp. 219–220
  • I consider that cock-fights are much more diverting. The animals used are of a particular breed; they are large but short-legged birds, their feathers are scarce, they have no crests to speak of, and are very ugly to look at. Some of these fighting-cocks are celebrated, and have pedigrees like gentlemen of good family, some of them being worth five or six guineas. I am told that when transported to France they degenerate—their strength and courage disappear, and they become like ordinary cocks.
    • pp. 280–281
  • One may say that there is cruelty and even ferocity in some of the pastimes of the people. Occasionally dogs are made to fight, and sometimes men belabour each other with wicker staves, or kill cocks with blows from a club.
    • pp. 293–294
  • The populace has other amusements and very rude ones, such as throwing dead dogs and cats and mud at passers-by on certain festival days. Another amusement which is very inconvenient to passers-by is football. For this game a leather ball filled with air is used, and is kicked about with the feet. In cold weather you sometimes see a score of rascals in the streets kicking at a ball, and they will break panes of glass and smash the windows of coaches, and also knock you down without the slightest compunction; on the contrary, they will roar with laughter.
    • pp. 294–295
  • The English are very fond of a game they call cricket. For this purpose they go into a large open field, and knock a small ball about with a piece of wood. I will not attempt to describe this game to you, it is too complicated; but it requires agility and skill, and everyone plays it, the common people and also men of rank.
    • p. 295
  • England has not always been a land of liberty. Everyone has heard of the cruel and barbarous persecutions Protestants had to endure under the reigns of Henry VIII and of his daughter Mary. At the present time people have become more humane, and everyone may enjoy peace and tranquillity, maintained by just and wise laws.
    • pp. 317–318
  • Only persons professing the Anglican religion may fill civil and military posts. King George I abandoned the Lutheran religion and embraced the Anglican before ascending the throne, and the present reigning King followed his father's example. A member of Parliament must, before sitting, take the Communion according to the Anglican rite in his parish church, and then swear fealty before a magistrate.
    • pp. 319–320
  • In England the Low Church is composed of Presbyterians, in Scotland it becomes the High Church. The churches of this sect are chapels and have no bells; neither have those of the Nonconformists, as all Protestants who do not conform to the ceremonials of the Anglican Church are termed. ... The dogmas of the English-Scottish Presbyterians are very much the same as those of Calvin, differing, however, from those of Geneva, there being no printed prayers or liturgy. Presbyterian ministers are obliged, and I believe even forced, to take the oath that they will always make extempore prayers, and never repeat those they have recited before. ... These ministers are not permitted either to learn their sermons by heart, or even to write them out or prepare them, and you can imagine how uninteresting their sermons must be. They contain nothing but repetitions or citations, taken out of a Bible which they hold before them; and they preach through their noses in the peculiar manner that the English people call "cant," that is to say, a scientific jargon derived from a Presbyterian minister so enthusiastic and full of his own importance as to render his words and meaning impossible to understand.
    • pp. 320–321
  • Presbyterian ministers never study in universities, and they are generally not only ignorant, but also pedantic, rigid, and severe; they scarcely ever smile, they cannot tolerate a jest or a joke, and they are so easily scandalised, and altogether so very "saintly," that you cannot refrain from wondering whether it is entirely sincere. Some of these ministers have been known to write good and useful books, but their number, when compared with their Anglican brethren who have studied deeply at the universities, is very limited.
    • pp. 321–322
  • I think that it is principally owing to this sect that Sunday is solemnised as it is in England. During the Commonwealth Cromwell, who was a Presbyterian, severely forbade shows or amusements of any kind, as well as concerts and games. All these are still forbidden, and on Sundays you never hear the sound of music. There is no opera, no comedy, no sounds in the streets. Card-playing on this day is also strictly forbidden, at least for the citizens and common people, for persons of rank, I believe, do not scruple to play. Unfortunately a great number of the people divert themselves in the taverns, and there indulge in debauch.
    • p. 322
  • The curious sect of Quakers, or Shakers, arose in the troubled times when England was torn by revolutions, anarchy, and fanaticism, that is to say in the time of Cromwell. A rather crazy shoemaker's apprentice, George Fox, was the founder of this sect. It can almost be said that the Quakers form a particular nation of people, quite different from ordinary English citizens, by their language, manner of dressing, and religion. Amongst their other customs, one of which is the use of the pronoun "thou," is that of never giving any man his titles, whatever his position or worth may be, for everyone to them is but a vile earthworm inhabiting this planet for a few years. Quakers make use of a sort of Bible talk, which strikes you more particularly, as it appears to date two hundred years back, no Bible having been printed in England in the fine modern language, the earliest edition of the Holy Book being still in use.
    • pp. 322–323
  • I should like to tell you something of the Roman Catholics, who are very numerous in England, where they live in perfect peace and security, with every facility for celebrating their religion publicly. On every Sunday and Saint's Day services are held in the chapels belonging to the ministers of Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, and Sardinia. These chapels are always crowded. Many peers, such as the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Dumbarton, Lord Petre, and others, have their own chapels and chaplain. This, to tell the truth, is contrary to the law, but the present minister is tolerant, and wisely pretends to ignore these facts. Jesuits, however, are looked upon as disturbers of the peace and of public welfare.
    • pp. 327–328
  • No Roman Catholic may occupy a post of any sort whatever. When soldiers are enrolled—and this is the case more especially with the Guards—they are made to take the oath that they are Protestants. If after enrolment any one of them should be discovered to be a Roman Catholic attending Mass he would be condemned to death.
    • p. 328
  • Commerce is considered to be England's strength, and care has been taken not to drive away anyone who contributes to build it up. Jews therefore are protected by laws, and are even granted certain privileges. They are not forced to bear a distinctive mark, as is the case in many countries.
    • p. 328
  • England undoubtedly is, in my opinion, the most happily governed country in the world. She is governed by a King whose power is limited by wise and prudent laws, and by Parliament, this being composed of lords spiritual and temporal in one house and of the people's deputies in the other. The King cannot levy any new taxes, neither can he abolish privileges or make new laws without the consent of Parliament. He cannot order the imprisonment or execution of any individual, neither can he confiscate lands or property—all this according to the laws of the kingdom. The King may, on the other hand, and without consulting Parliament, declare war and make peace, send ambassadors to foreign courts, and call together meetings of Parliament.
    • pp. 336–337
  • The Tories uphold all the prerogatives of the Sovereign, and declare that his or her subjects must submit without resistance, even though his or her power be arbitrary. The opposite party, or Whigs, accuse their opponents of wishing to upset the recognised form of government and the liberties of the nation by endeavouring to establish despotism, thus making the King a tyrant and his subjects slaves, and they, moreover, consider that respect and obedience are owed to the King only so long as the latter maintains the conditions under which supreme power has been given him, but were he to attempt to govern the consciences, lives, and possessions of his subjects, and thus violate the fundamental laws of the State, the latter should not only refuse him obedience, but also take the necessary measures to be governed according to the established laws of the country. The Tories reproach the Whigs with these principles, and declare that they are real republicans, desirous of taking all authority and power from the Sovereign, leaving him no more rights than are allowed to a Doge of Venice.
    • pp. 347–348
  • These two parties are so opposed to each other that nothing but a real miracle could cause them to become united. Many causes contribute to this animosity, and none more than the antipathy that exists between the Anglicans and the Presbyterians, together with other Nonconformists. The latter are Whigs, and so great is their fear lest a Roman Catholic monarch powerful enough to annihilate the tolerance recognised by the laws should ascend the throne, that they uphold the Whigs with all their might. Zealous Anglicans, on the other hand, are Tories, and look upon the laws of toleration as a means by which the Presbyterians are so strengthened as possibly at some future date to place the established religion and rites in danger.
    • pp. 348–349
  • The numerous pamphlets that appear every day for and against these two political parties is certainly a means of maintaining and augmenting animosity between them, and another is the interests of certain individuals who become either zealous Tories or ardent Whigs, according to whether their hopes of power lie in the one or the other of these parties. The Anglican clergy of inferior rank are accused of being exaggerated Tories, and of writing the greater number of violent pamphlets in the hope of attracting the favour of the King, who disposes of the bishoprics and of many important benefices. All Anglicans are not Tories; many of them, on the contrary, are Whigs, and they try to please the people in order to strengthen their own power. You would naturally suppose that the party at Court always upholds the Tories, but it is not so; this party sometimes has reasons for raising the Whigs to power. King William III owed his throne to this party, and always upheld and favoured its politics.
    • pp. 349–350
  • Though many people look on these different parties which divide England as a misfortune, others, on the contrary, think that they contribute to the maintenance of the liberties and privileges of the people. For, say they, were there in the country neither Whigs nor Tories, the tendencies of the Court would be blindly followed, and the fundamental laws of the State would suffer seriously by this state of things. Despotism would soon be established in England as it is in France. On the other hand, if the Tories did not uphold the King's authority and power, and if everyone followed the principles of the Whigs, the country would very soon be in a state of anarchy, as was the case in the time of Charles I and of Cromwell. Numbers of prudent politicians, who are not blinded by foolish prejudices or by their own particular interests, are convinced that this form of government is the happiest in the world, and they sometimes side purposely with the weakest party, so as to preserve to the country a wholesome equilibrium.
    • p. 351

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