FEW Journal 33 11/9-12/25/1869
Book No. 9 of European Observations
November 9, 1869
We are studying English character as revealed in the blustering "chaplain to the Knights of St. John," his eccentric wife & the enigmatical invalid lady who accompanies them. This evening the first named personage made us all uncomfortable at table d'hote by his loud-voiced demurrer against the invalid's being seated one degree lower down than usual. He called attention to the circumstance repeatedly & finally rose in his place & made a "set" though violent speech upon the subject. Undoubtedly he had the right of the case, but certainly he might have chosen a more suitable time & place for entering upon "proceedings." A new & most interesting figure appeared upon the scene this evening-viz- "Monsieur l'Abb"-a French priest, for thirty-three years in the same parish & now taking his well-earned vacation. He is a man who looks forty-five but is sixty years of age;-of shrewd, wise & kindly face-which reminded me indeed, most strongly of Mr. Jackson's;-polished manners and boundless learning, this gentleman crowns all the interesting attributes herein enumerated by one still rarer & more pleasing- genial communicativeness & conversational powers that I have never seen excelled. From his lips the elegant French tongue wherein he was born asserts its rightto become the universal language. The only exception to be added to the rule here enunciated; the only shadow on the sketch that I have drawn, is a certain condescension of manner in speaking with ladies, which, indeed, seems characteristic of the gentlemen I have met here. At every third word they pause to ask: "Do you understand me, mademoiselle"? or to explain the meaning of some paltry word or insignificant allusion. But, after all, one can readily pardon this feeble vanity when one remembers that Italian ladies are pitifully ignorant;-when one hears a person like Madame S. who has been a teacher for thirteen years "in the first families" ask such a question as "are not you Americansdescended from the inhabitants that our Columbus found when he went there?"
-By the ingenious ruse of Monsieur l'avocat, (who professed to have heard frightful stories of brigands on the road to Tivoli-& who had really been told of the robbery of a Capuchin friar) we were enabled to withdraw our acceptance-too easily given-of an urgent invitation from these aggressive "Anglais" to visit Tivoli in their company.
-We had some whimsical scenes in the parlor as usual-with the old lady, who has the unfortunate habit of speaking her mind with perfect freedom upon all occasions, & insists on our translating her revolutionary utterances into French, which fall like bomb