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A Residence in France During the Years 1792, 1793,

The number of divorces in France


We

are, I think, on the whole, authorized to conclude, that, in determining the claims to national superiority, the boasted and unvarying controul which the French exercise over their features and accents, is not a merit; nor those indications of what passes within, to which the English are subject, an imperfection. If the French sometimes supply their want of kindness, or render disappointment less acute at the moment, by a sterile complacency, the English harshness is often only the alloy to an efficient benevolence, and a sympathizing mind. In France they have no humourists who seem impelled by their nature to do good, in spite of their temperament--nor have we in England many people who are cold and unfeeling, yet systematically aimable: but I must still persist in not thinking it a defect that we are too impetuous, or perhaps too ingenuous, to unite contradictions.

There is a cause, that doubtless has its effects in representing the English disadvantageously, and which I have never heard properly allowed for. The liberty of the press, and the great interest taken by all ranks of people in public affairs, have occasioned a more numerous circulation of periodical prints of every kind in England, than in any other country in Europe. Now, as it is impossible to fill them constantly with politics, and as the taste of different readers must be consulted, every barbarous adventure, suicide, murder, robbery, domestic fracas, assaults, and batteries

of the lower orders, with the duels and divorces of the higher, are all chronicled in various publications, disseminated over Europe, and convey an idea that we are a very miserable, ferocious, and dissolute nation. The foreign gazettes being chiefly appropriated to public affairs, seldom record either the vices, the crimes, or misfortunes of individuals; so that they are thereby at least prevented from fixing an unfavourable judgement on the national character.

Mercier observes, that the number of suicides committed in Paris was supposed to exceed greatly that of similar disasters in London; and that murders in France were always accompanied by circumstances of peculiar horror, though policy and custom had rendered the publication of such events less general than with us.--Our divorces, at which the Gallic purity of manners used to be so much scandalized, are, no doubt, to be regretted; but that such separations were not then allowed, or desired in France, may perhaps be attributed, at least as justly, to the complaisance of husbands, as to the discretion of wives, or the national morality.*

* At present, in the monthly statement, the number of divorces in France, is often nearly equal to that of the marriages.

I should reproach myself if I could feel impartial when I contemplate the English character; yet I certainly endeavour to write as though I were so. If I have erred, it has been rather in allowing too much to received opinions on the subject of this country, than in suffering my affections to make me unjust; for though I am far from affecting the fashion of the day, which censures all prejudices as illiberal, except those in disfavour of our own country, yet I am warranted, I hope, in saying, that however partial I may appear to England, I have not been so at the expence of truth.--Yours, &c.


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