Mary Wortley Montagu.

Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M—y W—y M—e Written during Her Travels in Europe, Asia and Africa to Persons of Distinction, Men of Letters, &c. in Different Parts of Europe online

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Online LibraryMary Wortley MontaguLetters of the Right Honourable Lady M—y W—y M—e Written during Her Travels in Europe, Asia and Africa to Persons of Distinction, Men of Letters, &c. in Different Parts of Europe → online text (page 1 of 18)
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Lady M - - y W - - y M - - e;



Persons of Distinction, Men of Letters, &c.
in different PARTS of EUROPE.

Which contain, among other curious Relations,
of the TURKS.

Drawn from Sources that have been inaccessible to
other Travellers.







I WAS going, like common editors, to advertise the reader of the
beauties and excellencies of the work laid before him: To tell him,
that the illustrious author had opportunities that other travellers,
whatever their quality or curiosity may have been, cannot obtain; and
a genius capable of making the best improvement of every opportunity.
But if the reader, after perusing _one_ letter only has not
discernment to distinguish that natural elegance, that delicacy of
sentiment and observation, that easy gracefulness, and lovely
simplicity, (which is the perfection of writing) and in which these
_Letters_ exceed all that has appeared in this kind, or almost in
any other, let him lay the book down, and leave it to those who have.

THE noble author had the goodness to lend me her MS. to satisfy my
curiosity in some inquiries I had made concerning her travels; and
when I had it in my hands, how was it possible to part with it? I
once had the vanity to hope I might acquaint the public, that it
owed this invaluable treasure to my importunities. But, alas! the
most ingenious author has condemned it to obscurity during her life;
and conviction, as well as deference, obliges me to yield to her
reasons. However, if these _Letters_ appear hereafter, when I am in
my grave, let this attend them, in testimony to posterity, that among
her contemporaries, _one_ woman, at least, was just to her merit.

THERE is not any thing so excellent, but some will carp at it; and
the (sic) rather, because of its excellency. But to such hypercritics I
shall not say ************.

I CONFESS, I am malicious enough to desire, that the world should see
to how much better purpose the _LADIES_ travel than their _LORDS_;
and that, whilst it is surfeited with _Male travels_, all in the same
tone, and stuffed with the same trifles; a lady has the skill to
strike out a new path, and to embellish a worn-out subject with
variety of fresh and elegant entertainment. For, besides the
vivacity and spirit which enliven every part, and that inimitable
beauty which spreads through the whole; besides the purity of the
style, for which it may justly, be accounted the standard of the
English tongue; the reader will find a more true and accurate account
of the customs and manners of the several nations with whom this lady
conversed, than he can in any other author. But, as her ladyship's
penetration discovers the inmost follies of the heart, so the candour
of her temper passed over them with an air of pity, rather than
reproach; treating with the politeness of a court, and the gentleness
of a lady, what the severity of her judgment could not but condemn.

IN short, let her own sex at least, do her justice; lay aside
diabolical Envy, and its _brother_ Malice [Footnote: This fair and
elegant prefacer (sic) has resolved that Malice should be of the
masculine gender: I believe it is both masculine and feminine, and I
heartily wish it were neuter.] with all their accursed company, sly
whispering, cruel back-biting, spiteful detraction, and the rest of
that hideous crew, which, I hope, are very falsely said to attend the
_Tea-table_, being more apt to think, they frequent those public
places, where virtuous women never come. Let the men malign one
another, if they think fit, and strive to pull down merit, when they
cannot equal it. Let us be better natured, than to give way to any
unkind or disrespectful thought of so bright an ornament of our sex,
merely because she has better sense; for I doubt not but our hearts
will tell us, that this is the real and unpardonable offence,
whatever may be pretended. Let us be better Christians, than to look
upon her with an evil eye, only because the giver of all good gifts
has entrusted and adorned her with the most excellent talents.
Rather let us freely own the superiority, of this sublime genius, as
I do, in the sincerity of my soul; pleased that a _woman_ triumphs,
and proud to follow in her train. Let us offer her the palm which is
so justly her due; and if we pretend to any laurels, lay them
willingly at her feet.

December 18.. 1724. M. A.

Charm'd into love of what obscures my fame,
If I had wit, I'd celebrate her name,
And all the beauties of her mind proclaim.
Till Malice, deafen'd with the mighty sound,
Its ill-concerted calumnies confound;
Let fall the mask, and with pale envy meet,
To ask and find, their pardon at her feet.

You see, Madam, how I lay every thing at your feet. As the tautology
shews (sic) the poverty of my genius, it likewise shews the extent of
your empire over my imagination.

_May_ 31. 1725.


THE editor of these letters, who, during his residence at Venice, was
honoured with the esteem and friendship of their ingenious and
elegant author, presents them to the public, for the two following

_First_, Because it was the manifest intention of the late Lady
M - - y W - - Y M - - e; that this SELECT COLLECTION of her letters
should be communicated to the public: an intention declared, not only
to the editor, but to a few more chosen friends, to whom she gave,
copies of the incomparable letters.

The _second_, and principal reason, that has engaged the editor to
let this Collection see the light, is, that the publication of these
letters will be an immortal monument to the memory of Lady M - - y
W - - y M - - e; and will shew, as long as the English language
endures, the sprightliness of her wit, the solidity of her judgment,
the extent of her knowledge, the elegance of her taste, and the
excellence of her _real_ character.

The SELECT COLLECTION, here published, was faithfully transcribed
from the original manuscript of her ladyship at Venice.

The letters from Ratisbon, Vienna, Dresden, Peterwaradin,
Belgrade, Adrianople, Constantinople, Pera, Tunis, Genoa, Lyons, and
Paris, are certainly, the most curious and interesting part of this
publication; and, both in point of _matter_ and _form_, are, to say
no more of them, singularly worthy of the curiosity and attention of
all _men of taste_, and even of all _women of fashion_. As to those
female readers, who read for improvement, and think their beauty an
insipid thing, if it is not seasoned by intellectual charms, they
will find in these letters what they seek for; and will behold in
their author, an ornament and model to their sex.



_Rotterdam, Aug_. 3. O. S. 1716.

I FLATTER, myself, dear sister, that I shall give you some pleasure
in letting you know that I have safely passed the sea, though we had
the ill fortune of a storm. We were persuaded by the captain of the
yacht to set out in a calm, and he pretended there was nothing so
easy as to tide it over; but, after two days slowly moving, the wind
blew so hard, that none of the sailors could keep their feet, and we
were all Sunday night tossed very handsomely. I never saw a man more
frighted (sic) than the captain. For my part, I have been so lucky,
neither to suffer from fear nor seasickness; though, I confess, I was
so impatient to see myself once more upon dry land, that I would not
stay till the yacht could get to Rotterdam, but went in the long-boat
to Helvoetsluys, where we had voitures to carry us to the Briel. I
was charmed with the neatness of that little town; but my arrival at
Rotterdam presented me a new scene of pleasure. All the streets are
paved with broad stones, and before many of the meanest artificers
doors are placed seats of various coloured marbles, so neatly kept,
that, I assure you, I walked almost all over the town yesterday,
_incognito_, in my slippers without receiving one spot of dirt; and
you may see the Dutch maids washing the pavement of the street, with
more application than ours do our bed-chambers. The town seems so
full of people, with such busy faces, all in motion, that I can
hardly fancy it is not some celebrated fair; but I see it is every
day the same. 'Tis certain no town can be more advantageously
situated for commerce. Here are seven large canals, on which the
merchants ships come up to the very doors of their houses. The shops
and warehouses are of a surprising neatness and magnificence, filled
with an incredible quantity of fine merchandise, and so much cheaper
than what we see in England, that I have much ado to persuade myself
I am still so near it. Here is neither dirt nor beggary to be seen.
One is not shocked with those loathsome cripples, so common in
London, nor teased with the importunity of idle fellows and wenches,
that chuse (sic) to be nasty and lazy. The common servants, and
little shop-women, here, are more nicely clean than most of our
ladies; and the great variety of neat dresses (every woman dressing
her head after her own fashion) is an additional pleasure in seeing
the town. You see, hitherto, I make no complaints, dear sister; and
if I continue to like travelling as I do at present, I shall not
repent my project. It will go a great way in making me satisfied
with it, if it affords me an opportunity of entertaining you. But it
is not from Holland that you may expect a _disinterested_ offer. I
can write enough in the stile (sic) of Rotterdam, to tell you
plainly, in one word that I expect returns of all the London news.
You see I have already learnt to make a good bargain; and that it is
not for nothing I will so much as tell you, I am your affectionate


TO MRS. S - - .

_Hague, Aug. 5_. O. S. 1716.

I MAKE haste to tell you, dear Madam, that, after all the dreadful
fatigues you threatened me with, I am hitherto very well pleased with
my journey. We take care to make such short stages every day, that I
rather fancy myself upon parties of pleasure, than upon the road; and
sure nothing can be more agreeable than travelling in Holland. The
whole country appears a large garden; the roads are well paved,
shaded on each side with rows of trees, and bordered with large
canals, full of boats, passing and repassing. Every twenty paces
gives you the prospect of some villa, and every four hours that of a
large town, so surprisingly neat, I am sure you would be charmed with
them. The place I am now at is certainly one of the finest villages
in the world. Here are several squares finely built, and (what I
think a particular beauty) the whole set with thick large trees. The
_Vour-hout_ is, at the same time, the Hyde-Park and Mall of the
people of quality; for they take the air in it both on foot and in
coaches. There are shops for wafers, cool liquors, &c. - I have been
to see several of the most celebrated gardens, but I will not teaze
(sic) you with their descriptions. I dare say you think my letter
already long enough. But I must not conclude without begging your
pardon, for not obeying your commands, in sending the lace you
ordered me. Upon my word, I can yet find none, that is not dearer
than you may buy it at London. If you want any India goods, here are
great variety of penny-worths; and I shall follow your orders with
great pleasure and exactness; being, Dear Madam, &c. &c.



_Nimeguen, Aug_.13. O. S. 1716.

I AM extremely sorry, my dear S. that your fears of disobliging your
relations, and their fears for your health and safety, have hindered
me from enjoying the happiness of your company, and you the pleasure
of a diverting journey. I receive some degree of mortification from
every agreeable novelty, or pleasing prospect, by the reflection of
your having so unluckily missed the delight which I know it would
have given you. If you were with me in this town, you would be ready
to expect to receive visits from your Nottingham friends. No two
places were ever more resembling; one has but to give the Maese the
name of the Trent, and there is no distinguishing the prospect. The
houses, like those of Nottingham, are built one above another, and
are intermixed in the same manner with trees and gardens. The tower
they call Julius Caesar's, has the same situation with Nottingham
castle; and I cannot help fancying, I see from it the Trentfield,
Adboulton, places so well known to us. 'Tis true, the fortifications
make a considerable difference. All the learned in the art of war
bestow great commendations on them; for my part, that know nothing of
the matter, I shall content myself with telling you, 'tis a very
pretty walk on the ramparts, on which there is a tower, very
deservedly called the Belvidera; where people go to drink coffee,
tea, &c. and enjoy one of the finest prospects in the world. The
public walks have no great beauty but the thick shade of the trees,
which is solemnly delightful. But I must not forget to take notice
of the bridge, which appeared very surprising to me. It is large
enough to hold hundreds of men, with horses and carriages. They give
the value of an English two-pence to get upon it, and then away they
go, bridge and all, to the other side of the river, with so slow a
motion, one is hardly sensible of any at all. I was yesterday at the
French church, and stared very much at their manner of service. The
parson clapped on a broad-brimmed hat in the first place, which gave
him entirely the air of _what d'ye call him_, in Bartholomew fair,
which he kept up by extraordinary antic gestures, and preaching much
such stuff as the other talked to the puppets. However, the
congregation seemed to receive it with great devotion; and I was
informed by some of his flock, that he is a person of particular fame
amongst them. I believe, by this time, you are as much tired with my
account of him, as I was with his sermon; but I am sure your brother
will excuse a digression in favour of the church of England. You
know speaking disrespectfully of the Calvinists, is the same thing as
speaking honourably of the church. Adieu, my dear S. always remember
me; and be assured I can never forget you, &c. &c.



_Cologn (sic), Aug_, 16. O. S. 1716.

IF my lady - - could have any notion of the fatigues that I have
suffered these two last days, I am sure she would own it a great
proof of regard, that I now sit down to write to her. We hired
horses from Nimeguen hither, not having the conveniency (sic) of the
post, and found but very indifferent accommodations at Reinberg, our
first stage; but it was nothing to what I suffered yesterday. We
were in hopes to reach Cologn; our horses tired at Stamel, three
hours from it, where I was forced to pass the night in my clothes, in
a room not at all better than a hovel; for though I have my bed with
me, I had no mind to undress, where the wind came from a thousand
places. We left this wretched lodging at day-break, and about six
this morning came safe here, where I got immediately into bed. I
slept so well for three hours, that I found myself perfectly
recovered, and have had spirits enough to go and see all that is
curious in the town, that is to say, the churches, for here is
nothing else worth seeing. This is a very large town, but the most
part of it is old built. The Jesuits church, which is the neatest,
was shewed (sic) me, in a very complaisant manner, by a handsome
young Jesuit; who, not knowing who I was, took a liberty in his
compliments and railleries, which very much diverted me. Having
never before seen any thing of that nature, I could not enough admire
the magnificence of the altars, the rich images of the saints (all
massy silver) and the _enchassures_ of the relicks (sic); though I
could not help murmuring, in my heart, at the profusion of pearls,
diamonds, and rubies, bestowed on the adornment of rotten teeth, and
dirty rags. I own that I had wickedness enough to covet St Ursula's
pearl necklaces; though perhaps this was no wickedness at all, an
image not being certainly one's neighbour's; but I went yet farther,
and wished the wench herself converted into dressing-plate. I should
also gladly see converted into silver, a great St Christopher, which
I imagine would look very well in a cistern. These were my pious
reflections: though I was very well satisfied to see, piled up to the
honour of our nation, the skulls of the eleven thousand virgins. I
have seen some hundreds of relicks here of no less, consequence; but
I will not imitate the common stile (sic) of travellers so far, as to
give you a list of them; being persuaded, that you have no manner of
curiosity for the titles given to jaw-bones and bits of worm-eaten
wood. - Adieu, I am just going to supper, where I shall drink your
health in an admirable sort of Lorrain (sic) wine, which I am sure is
the same you call Burgundy in London, &c. &c.



_Nuremberg, Aug_. 22. O. S. 1716.

AFTER five days travelling post, I could not sit down to write on any
other occasion, than to tell my dear lady, that I have not forgot her
obliging command, of sending her some account of my travels. I have
already passed a large part of Germany, have seen all that is
remarkable in Cologn, Frankfort, Wurtsburg, and this place. 'Tis
impossible not to observe the difference between the free towns and
those under the government of absolute princes, as all the little
sovereigns of Germany are. In the first, there appears an air of
commerce and plenty. The streets are well-built, and full of people,
neatly and plainly dressed. The shops are loaded with merchandise,
and the commonalty are clean and cheerful. In the other you see a
sort of shabby finery, a number of dirty people of quality tawdered
(sic) out; narrow nasty streets out of repair, wretchedly thin of
inhabitants, and above half of the common sort asking alms. I cannot
help fancying one under the figure of a clean Dutch citizen's wife,
and the other like a poor town lady of pleasure, painted and ribboned
out in her head-dress, with tarnished silver-laced shoes, a ragged
under-petticoat, a miserable mixture of vice and poverty. - They have
sumptuary laws in this town, which distinguish their rank by their
dress, prevent the excess which ruins so many other cities, and has a
more agreeable effect to the eye of a stranger, than our fashions. I
need not be ashamed to own, that I wish these laws were in force in
other parts of the world. When one considers impartially, the merit
of a rich suit of clothes in most places, the respect and the smiles
of favour it procures, not to speak of the envy and the sighs it
occasions (which is very often the principal charm to the wearer),
one is forced to confess, that there is need of an uncommon
understanding to resift the temptation of pleasing friends and
mortifying rivals; and that it is natural to young people to fall
into a folly, which betrays them to that want of money which is the
source of a thousand basenesses (sic). What numbers of men have
begun the world with generous inclinations, that have afterwards been
the instruments of bringing misery on a whole people, being led by
vain expence (sic) into debts that they could clear no other way but
by the forfeit of their honour, and which they never could have
contracted, if the respect the multitude pays to habits, was fixed by
law, only to a particular colour or cut of plain cloth! These
reflections draw after them others that are too melancholy. I will
make haste to put them out of your head by the farce of relicks, with
which I have been entertained in all Romish churches.

THE Lutherans are not quite free from these follies. I have seen
here, in the principal church, a large piece of the cross set in
jewels, and the point of the spear, which they told me very gravely,
was the same that pierced the side of our Saviour. But I was
particularly diverted in a little Roman Catholic church which is
permitted here, where the professors of that religion are not very
rich, and consequently cannot adorn their images in so rich a manner
as their neighbour. For, not to be quite destitute of all finery,
they have dressed up an image of our Saviour over the altar, in a
fair full-bottomed wig very well powdered. I imagine I see your lady
ship stare at this article, of which you very much doubt the
veracity; but, upon my word, I have not yet made use of the privilege
of a traveller; and my whole account is written with the same plain
sincerity of heart, with which I assure you that I am, dear Madam,
yours, &c. &c.


To MRS P - - .

_Ratisbon, Aug_. 30 O. S. 1716.

I HAD the pleasure of receiving yours, but the day before I left
London. I give you a thousand thanks for your good wishes, and have
such an opinion of their efficacy that, I am persuaded, I owe in
part, to them, the good luck of having proceeded so far on my long
journey without any ill accident. For I don't reckon it any, to have
been stopped a few days in this town by a cold, since it has not only
given me an opportunity of seeing all that is curious in it, but of
making some acquaintance with the ladies, who have all been to see me
with great civility, particularly _Madame_ - - , the wife of our
king's envoy from Hanover. She has carried me to all the assemblies,
and I have been magnificently entertained at her house, which is one
of the finest here. You know, that all the nobility of this place
are envoys from different states. Here are a great number of them,
and they might pass their time agreeably enough, if they were less
delicate on the point of ceremony. But instead of joining in the
design of making the town as pleasant to one another as they can, and
improving their little societies, they amuse themselves no other way
than with perpetual quarrels, which they take care to eternize (sic),
by leaving them to their successors; and an envoy to Ratisbon
receives, regularly, half a dozen quarrels, among the perquisites of
his employment. You may be sure the ladies are not wanting, on their
side, in cherishing and improving these important _picques_, which
divide the town almost into as many parties, as there are families.
They chuse rather to suffer the mortification of sitting almost alone
on their assembly nights, than to recede one jot from their
pretensions. I have not been here above a week, and yet I have heard
from almost every one of them the whole history of their wrongs, and
dreadful complaint of the injustice of their neighbours, in hopes to
draw me to their party. But I think it very prudent to remain
neuter, though, if I was to stay amongst them, there would be no
possibility of continuing so, their quarrels running so high, that
they will not be civil to those that visit their adversaries. The
foundation of these everlasting disputes, turns entirely upon rank,
place, and the title of Excellency, which they all pretend to; and,
what is very hard, will give it to no body. For my part, I could not
forbear advising them, (for the public good) to give the title of
Excellency to every body; which would include the receiving it from
every body; but the very mention of such a dishonourable peace, was
received with as much indignation, as Mrs Blackaire did the motion of
a reference. And indeed, I began to think myself ill-natured, to
offer to take from them, in a town where there are so few diversions,
so entertaining an amusement. I know that my peaceable disposition
already gives me a very ill figure, and that 'tis _publicly_
whispered as a piece of impertinent pride in me, that I have hitherto
been saucily civil to every body, as if I thought nobody good enough
to quarrel with. I should be obliged to change my behaviour, if I
did not intend to pursue my journey in a few days. I have been to
see the churches here, and had the permission of touching the
relicks, which was never suffered in places where I was not known. I
had, by this privilege, the opportunity of making an observation,
which I doubt not might have been made in all the other churches,

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Online LibraryMary Wortley MontaguLetters of the Right Honourable Lady M—y W—y M—e Written during Her Travels in Europe, Asia and Africa to Persons of Distinction, Men of Letters, &c. in Different Parts of Europe → online text (page 1 of 18)