Laurence Sterne. (1713–1768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

The Rose. Paris

IT was now my turn to ask the old French officer, “what was the matter?” for a cry of “Haussez les mains, Monsieur l’Abbé,” reëchoed from a dozen different parts of the parterre, was as unintelligible to me, as my apostrophe to the monk had been to him.

He told me, it was some poor Abbé in one of the upper loges, who he supposed had got planted perdu behind a couple of grissets, in order to see the opera, and that the parterre espying him were insisting upon his holding up both his hands during the representation.—And can it be supposed, said I, that an ecclesiastic would pick the grisset’s pockets? The old French officer smiled, and whispering in my ear, open’d a door of knowledge which I had no idea of.—

Good God! said I, turning pale with astonishment—is it possible, that a people so smit with sentiment should at the same time be so unclean, and so unlike themselves.—Quelle grossierté! added I.

The French officer told me it was an illiberal sarcasm at the church, which had begun in the theater about the time the Tartuffe was given in it, by Molière—but, like other remains of Gothic manners, was declining.—Every nation, continued he, have their refinements and grossiertés, in which they take the lead, and lose it of one another by turns—that he had been in most countries, but never in one where he found not some delicacies, which others seemed to want. Le POUR et le CONTRE se trovent en chaque nation; there is a balance, said he, of good and bad everywhere; and nothing but the knowing it is so, can emancipate one half of the world from the prepossessions which it holds against the other—that the advantage of travel, as it regarded the sçavoir vivre, was by seeing a great deal both of men and manners; it taught us mutual toleration; and mutual toleration, concluded he, making me a bow, taught us mutual love.

The old French officer delivered this with an air of such candor and good sense, as coincided with my first favorable impressions of his character.—I thought I loved the man; but I fear I mistook the object—’t was my own way of thinking—the difference was, I could not have expressed it half so well.

It is alike troublesome to both the rider and his beast—if the latter goes pricking up his ears, and starting all the way at every object which he never saw before.—I have as little torment of this kind as any creature alive; and yet I honestly confess, that many a thing gave me pain, and that I blush’d at many a word the first month—which I found inconsequent and perfectly innocent the second.

Madame de Rambouliet, after an acquaintance of about six weeks with her, had done me the honor to take me in her coach about two leagues out of town.—Of all women, Madame de Rambouliet is the most correct; and I never wish to see one of more virtues and purity of heart.—In our return back, Madame de Rambouliet desired me to pull the cord.—I ask’d her if she wanted anything.—Rien que pisser, said Madame de Rambouliet.

Grieve not, gentle traveler, to let Madame de Rambouliet p—ss on.—And, ye fair mystic nymphs! go each one pluck your rose, and scatter them in your path—for Madame de Rambouliet did no more.—I handed Madame de Rambouliet out of the coach; and had I been the priest of the chaste CASTALIA, I could not have served at her fountain with a more respectful decorum.