Posted by sherry on August 06, 1997 at 10:34:54:
Francois de la Rochefoucauld visited England with his brother and a friend and lived in Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. This is what he had to say about a visit to an English country house.( this is really long so I'll just do excerpts)
Throughout England it is the custom to breakfast together, the meal resembling a dinner or supper in France. The commonest hour is 9 o'clock and by that time the Ladies are fully dressed with their hair properly done for the day. Breakfast consists of tea ,breads and butters and in the houses of the rich you have coffee, chocolate and so on.
The morning newespapers are on the table and those who want to, read them during breakfast, so converstion is not of a lively nature. At 10 o'clock every one follows their own pursuits until precisely at 4 o'clock when you must present yourself in the drawing-room with a great deal more ceremony then we are accustomed to in France. The sudden change in social manners is quite astonishing. In the morning you come down in boots and a shabby coat, sit where you like and behave exactly as if you were alone. No one taking any notice of you,but in the evening you must be well washed and well groomed. the standard of politeness is uncomfortably high. Strangers go in first to the dining-room and sit near the hostess. They are served according to seniority in the strictest ettiquette .... in fact the first few days I thought it was a joke.
After the sweets you are given water in small bowls with which to rinse out your mouth a custom which strikes me as extremely unfortunate. That ceremony over...the cloth is removed and the table set with all kinds of wine. At this point the servants disappear. The ladies have one or two glasses of wine and at the end of a half hour all go out together. There is not one Englishmen who is not supremely happy at this moment. One proceeds to drink in an alarming measure and conversation is extremely free on the most indecent topics. Very often I have heard things mentioned in good society that would be in the grossest taste in France.
This is from a book of journals and letters of travelers that was given to me 5 or so years ago. I just now recalled that there is a whole chapter of first hand accounts on England and Ireland. The book is called ' A Book of Travelers Tales edited by Eric Newby.
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