Item of the Day: History of a French Louse, Chapter II (1779)

[For the first chapter of this text, see:]

Full Title: History of a French Louse, or The Spy of a New Species, in France and England: Containing a Description of the most remarkable Personages in those Kingdoms. Giving A Key to the Chief Events of the Year 1779, and those which are to happen in 1780. Translated from the Fourth Edition of the revised and corrected Paris Copy. London: T. Becket, Adelphi, Strand. MDCCLXXIX.


He takes shelter in the head of a clerk to the parliament of Paris. A description of this new habitation. He removes to the countess of L.A.B.

As for us, pierced as we were with fear, and perishing with hunger, we knew not which way to turn, when it was our happiness to see a companion of my mistress, and one of her lovers, enter the room. They had just been celebrating a new marriage.

As I was afraid that this new comer would reduce us to the same state where we were entertained before, I resolved to make my retreat to the head of her gallant; but only two of my daughters entered it with me, my other children being so weak and exhausted that they could not follow me. I recommended them to their good fortune; and being able to give them no further help, let them slip wholly out of my mind, having my own much business to do, and much danger to escape.

The forest in which we made our abode was very different from that from which we had been driven; it was not an immense plantation of lofty trees, like that which decorated my former mistress; it was a forest laid waste, where nothing could be seen but a few shrubs, which, though not half grown, wanted juice and nutriment. In this barren and ungrateful soil they were short and few, and those few had withered till they were white and dry. These shrubs had likewise a form very different from that which trees of the same kind would have had; for those which grew on the outside of this poor forest had undergone some violent impression which made them twist into a round. In the middle of this region there was a smooth vacancy of circular form, on which, for reasons I cannot tell, unless it were to preserve the vegetation of the part from too great heat or cold, my new landlord put every morning a cover, black and shining, through which neither sun nor rain could find their way.  

It was a little higher than this spot where I and my two daughters took refuge; here we lived as in a desart [sic], finding none of our own species, and being at a loss for proper nourishment, we were obliged to content ourselves with a thick and greasy substance, which I found afterwards to be bear’s fat, and which would have been neither disagreeable nor unwholesome, had it not been mixed with musk and amber, of which the scent was so strong, that it seized our heads, and made us sickly.

My poor wife being dead of the plague, which had made such havoc in our community, I was obliged in this wild country to divide my bed and my heart between my two daughters.

We began already to form a new establishment and an infant colony, when my landlord, who was considered as the favourite of the first president, and whose denomination was the Abbe Appletree, consellor to the parliament of Paris, being invited to dinner with the president, was set at table near the mistress of the house and a pretty delicate girl, who played off many airs, and to whom he seemed to pay much attention; as his various modes of expressing tenderness and respect kept my landlord in a state of constant gesticulation, I had all the difficulty in the world to keep upon his head. I clung as fast as I could to one of his hairs; but by an accident, not to be foreseen, the hair itself quitted its root, and fell, with me upon it, upon the gown of my pretty neighbor. Out of this vexatious state how was I to get? Finding nothing else within my power, I thought it most prudent to go into concealment, by quitting the bough on which I hung, and which had been the occasion of my fall. For this determination I had the more reason, as the lady’s gown was of a mouse colour, and the hair was white, so that it would have been no hard matter to have discovered me. I hid myself, therefore, in one of the folds of her tippet, and was not long before I had reason to think well of my own contrivance. The hair fell down upon the carpet, and servant set his foot upon it, a foot so bulky and heavy as would have crushed me over and over. In this retreat I was forced to wait, and see what accident would happen to my advantage, when in the evening my new mistress went in her carriage to court, and she was presented next day to the king, queen, and royal family. 


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Filed under 1770's, France, Posted by Matthew Williams

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