Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXIX, 11

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XXIX, 10 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXIX, 12

Mémoires d'Outre-tombe

Book XXIX, chapter 11
A letter to Madame Récamier

‘Rome, Saturday the 8th of November 1828.
Monsieur de La Ferronays tells me of the surrender of Varna which I already knew. I think I have said to you before that the whole question rested on the fall of that place, and that the Grand Turk would not have considered making peace unless the Russians did what they had failed to do in their previous wars. Our newspapers have been quite wretchedly pro-Turkish in recent days. How could they ever forget Greece’s noble cause, and bow in admiration before barbarians who spread slavery and pestilence in that country of great men, and in the best part of Europe? Behold what we are, we French; a little personal discomfort makes us forget our principles and most generous feelings. The Turks in defeat might arouse a little of my pity; the Turks as conquerors fill me with horror.
So my friend Monsieur de La Ferronays remains in power. I flatter myself that my determination to support him has deterred the candidates for his portfolio. But I must leave here at last; I only aspire to re-enter my solitude and leave the political life. I thirst for freedom in my later years. New generations have arisen: they will find the public freedoms established that I fought so hard for; let them grasp them then, but let them not misuse my bequest, and let me die in peace beside you.
The day before yesterday I went for a walk to the Villa Panfili: the lovely solitude!’
‘Rome, Saturday the 15th of November 1828.
The first ball has been given at Torlonia’s. There I met all the English in the world. I thought I was Ambassador in London. The English appear like extras engaged to dance the winter away in Paris, Milan, Rome and Naples, who will return to London when their engagement expires in the spring. This skipping about in the ruins of the Capitol, and the uniform way of life that high society adopts everywhere, are very strange things: if I only had the resource to save myself in the wastes of Rome!
What is truly deplorable here, what jars with the nature of the place, is this multitude of insipid English, frivolous dandies who, linking arms with one another as bats do their wings, promenade their oddity, their boredom, their insolence, at your festivities, and establish themselves in your residence as if it were an inn. This swaggering, vagabond Britain, usurps your place, and spars with you to drive you off, during public solemnities: every day it gulps in haste pictures and ruins, while doing full honours to the cakes and ices at your soirées. I do not know how an Ambassador can endure these gross guests and not show them the door.’