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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 4

Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0060

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-04-27

[Monday April 27. 1778.]

Monday April 27. 1778. Dined with Mr. Boulainvilliers, at his house in Passi, with Generals and Bishops and Ladies. In the Evening I went to the French Comedy, and happened to be placed in the Front Box very near to Voltaire, who was then upon his last Visit to Paris, and now attended the representation of his own Alzire. The Audience between the several Acts, called Out, Voltaire! Voltaire! Voltaire! and { 78 } clapped and applauded him during all the intervals. The Aged Poet on Occasion of some extraordinary Applause arose and bowed respectfully to the Spectators. Although he was very far advanced in Age, had the Paleness of death and deep lines and Wrinkles in his face, he had at some times an eager piercing Stare, and at others a sparkling vivacity in his Eyes. They were still the Poets Eyes with a fine frenzy rolling. And there was yet much vigour in his Countenance. After the Tragedy, they acted the Tuteur, a Comedy or a Farce in one Act. This Theatre did not exceed that at Bourdeaux.
I had not been a month, as yet, in France, nor three Weeks in Passi, but I had seized every moment that I could save, from Business, company or Sleep to acquire the language. I took with me the Book to the Theatre, and compared it line for Line and word for Word, with the pronunciation of the Actors and Actresses, and in this Way I found I could understand them very well. Thinking this to be the best course I could take, to become familiar with the language and its correct pronunciation, I determined to frequent the Theatres as often as possible. Accordingly I went as often as I could and found a great Advantage in it as well as an agreable Entertainment. But as Dr. Franklin had almost daily Occasion for the Carriage and I was determined the public should not be put to the Expence of another for me, I could not go so often as I wished. Another project occurred to me to familiarise the language, which was to keep a Journal in French. This was accordingly attempted and continued for a few days,1 but I found it took up too much of my time, and what was more decisive I was afraid to keep any Journal at all: For I had reason to believe, that the house was full of Spies, some of whom were among my own Servants, and if my Journal should fall into the hands of the Police, full of free remarks as it must be, to be of any value, it might do more Injury to my Country than mischief to me.
1. See Diary entries of 27 April 1778 and following.

Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0061

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-04-28

[April 28. Tuesday. 1778.]

April 28. Tuesday. 1778. Breakfasted at home with Mr. C[h]aumont, Mr. Dubourg, Mr. Chaumont the Son, Mr. Franklin and his grandson.
Mr. Dubourg was a Physician, a Batcheller, a Man of Letters and of good Character but of little Consequence in the French World. Franklin had been introduced to him, in his first Visit to Paris, and Dubourg had translated his Works into French. He must have been in Years for he told me he had been acquainted with Lord Bolinbroke when he was in France. He told Us a Story of Cardinal Mazarine. An officer petitioned him, to make him a Captain of his Life Guard. The { 79 } Cardinal answered that he had no Occasion for any other Guard than his Tutelary Angell. Ah! Sir said the Officer your Ennemies will put him to flight with a few drops of holy Water. The Cardinal only replied that he was not afraid of that holy Water.—It was a wonder that some thing worse had not happened to the Officer, for his insinuation was nothing less than that the Devil was the Cardinals only tutelary Angell. Dubourg was a jolly Companion and very fond of Anecdotes. He told a great number, whenever I was in Company which were said to be excellent: but his Speech was so rapid that I could not fully understand them. One I remember, he told as an instance of the great presence of Mind, Self command and good nature of the Marshall De Turenne. He had chosen for his Valet, the stoutest Grenadier in his Army who frequently plaid at Hot Cockles with another of his Domesticks who was named Stephen. The Marshall one day stooped down to look out of a Window with one of his hands upon his back. The Grenadier, coming suddenly into the Chamber, raised his Gigantic Arm and with his brawny palm gave his master a furious blow upon his hand upon his back. The Marshall drew himself in and looked at the Grenadier, who the moment he saw it was his Master fell upon his Knees in despair, begging for Mercy “for he thought it was Stephen.” Well, said the Marshall, rubbing his hand which was tingling with the Smart, “if it had been Stephen, you ought not to have struck so hard” and said no more upon the Subject.—This Story I understood, because I had read something like it in Rousseau.
Dined at home this day with Mr. Lee, who spent the day with me upon the public business. In the Evening We went to the Italian Comedy, where I saw a Harlequin for the first time.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.