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Henry Beste
Four Years in France

Four Years in France
Henry Beste

Henry Digby Beste

Four Years in France / or, Narrative of an English Family's Residence there during that Period; Preceded by some Account of the Conversion of the Author to the Catholic Faith

SOME ACCOUNT, &c. &c

Eight and twenty years ago, when I became a catholic, I was told that I owed it, both to those whom I had joined, and to those whom I had quitted, to publish something in defence of the step I had taken. I answered, that the former had better apologists, and the latter better instructors than myself. My advisers were protestants, who, having thus defied any arguments I might by possibility adduce against them, were contented with my refusal of the challenge.

Even at this day I consider as utterly superfluous a serious refutation of protestantism, or a laboured vindication of the catholic faith, and, by consequence, of my conversion to it. Some account of this change in my opinions is prefixed to the book now offered to the public, in the hope of removing the prejudices with which the book may be read, or, what would be still worse, through which it may not be read at all. It is not my intention to enter into controversy, but merely to state how the thing happened that I turned papist at the moment when the pope was a prisoner at Valence, when Rome was in possession of the French armies, and all around me cried out "Babylon is fallen."

I must first ask pardon of the Anglican clergy, for having engaged in the service of their church so lightly and unadvisedly. If I am blamed only by those who have taken, on this matter, better pains than myself to be well informed, I shall not be overwhelmed by the number of my censurers; for the solidity of the ground of the Reformation is usually taken for granted: popery is exploded.

Indeed, I have found the clergy of the establishment to be the most tolerant and moderate of my opponents. Some of them expressed their regret, some smiled, but most of them respected my motives, and none were angry. The Bishop, now of Winchester, approved of my acting according to the dictates of my conscience; said that my conduct was evidently disinterested; expressing only his surprise, that a man of sense, as he was pleased to say he understood me to be, should be so convinced. Such was the purport of his lordship's observations, which was, as probably it was intended, repeated to me. His brother, Precentor of Lincoln, continued still to be my very good friend and neighbour.

A few years later, the ex-governor of – said, in speaking of me, – "I knew his father well; a very worthy man: but this young man, they tell me, has taken an odd turn; but I will return his visit when I get out again." He did not, however, get out again: he had been ill for some days; feeling himself dying, he called for a glass of wine and water, drank it off, returned the glass to his servant, shook the man by the hand, and saying kindly, "Good b'ye, John!" threw himself back in his bed and expired, at the age of more than fourscore years. Here was no odd turn; the coolness with which his excellency met the grim king, was generally admired. But I am making a long Preface to a short Work; I must begin with my infancy, for reasons which the story of that infancy will explain.

I was born on the 21st October, 1768. My father was prebendary of the cathedral church of Lincoln, as his father had been before him. My grandfather's prebend was a very good, or, as they say, a very fat one; my father's prebend was but a lean one, but he had sense enough to be a doctor in divinity, whereas my grandfather had sense enough not to be a doctor in divinity. They both rest behind the high altar of the cathedral with their wives.

So accustomed are we to a married clergy, that we are not at all surprised to see them, during life, with their wives and children; and in death it is perfectly decent that the husband and wife should repose together. All this is natural and in order, to those who are used to it. But the feeling of catholics on this subject is very different. The story of the poor seminarist of Douay, in the 17th century, is an instance: he went to England on a visit to his friends; on his return to the seminary, he was asked "Quid vidisti?" He mentioned what had most excited his astonishment: "Vidi episcopos, et episcopas, et episcopatulos." A French emigrant priest entered my house one day, bursting with laughter: "Why do you laugh, M. l'Abbé?" said I. – "I have just met the Rev. Mr. – with the first volume of his theological works in his arms." – "What is there to laugh at in that?" – "He was carrying the eldest of his children," – "La coutume fait tout," said I: "you see the Rev. Mr. – is not ashamed." Marriage is allowed to the priests, though not to the bishops of the Greek church. I think the catholic discipline is the best. The merriment of M. l'Abbé was excited, I am inclined to believe, not so much by a sense of the incongruous and ridiculous in the very natural scene he had just before witnessed, as by his own joke – "le premier tome de ses œuvres théologiques."

My father's house, in which I was born, was so near the cathedral, that my grandmother, good woman! when confined to her chamber by illness, was wont, with her Anglican translation of the Bible, and Book of Common Prayer on the table, before her, to go through the service along with the choir, by the help of the chant and of the organ, which she heard very plainly. From my earliest years, my mother took me regularly every Sunday to the cathedral service, in which there is some degree of pomp and solemnity. The table at the east end of the church is covered with a cloth of red velvet: on it are placed two large candlesticks, the candles in which are lighted at even-song from Martinmas to Candlemas, and the choir is illumined by a sufficient number of wax tapers. The litanies are not said by the minister in his desk, but chanted in the middle of the choir, from what I have since learned to call a prie-Dieu. The prebendary in residence walks from his seat, preceded by beadles, and followed by a vicar or minor canon, and proceeds to the altar; the choir, during this sort of processional march, chanting the Sanctus. This being finished, and the prebendary arrived at the altar, he reads the first part of the Communion Service, including the Ten Commandments, with the humble responses of the choir; he then intones the Nicene Creed, during the music of which he returns to his seat with the same state as before. Here are disjectœ membra ecclesiœ: no wonder that the puritans of Charles the First's time called for a "godly, thorough reformation." At even-song, instead of the Antiphon to the Blessed Virgin, which is, of course, rejected, though the Magnificat is retained, with its astonishingly-fulfilled prophecy of the carpenter's wife, "all generations shall call me blessed;" at vespers was sung an anthem, generally of the composition of Purcell, Aldrich, Arne, or of some of the composers of the best school of English music.

Removed afterwards to St. Mary Magdalen College, Oxford, I found, in a smaller space, the same ceremonial; nay, the president even bowed to the altar on leaving the chapel, without any dread lest the picture of Christ bearing the Cross, by Ludovico Caracci, should convict him of idolatry. Here we all turned towards the altar during the recital of the Creed; at Lincoln this point of etiquette was rather disputed among the congregation: my mother always insisted on my complying with it; I learned to have a great respect for the altar. Whence this tendency of my mother's religious opinions or feelings was derived, is now to be told.

She was daughter of Kenelm Digby, Esq. of North Luffenham, in the county of Rutland. A younger brother of this ancient family, in the reign of Edward IV. became the progenitor of this branch, which, illustrated by the names and the fame of Sir Everard and Sir Kenelm Digby, adhered to the religion of our forefathers down to the time of my maternal grandfather: he was the first protestant of his family: he had married a protestant: he died while my mother was very young, but she was able to remember his leading her one day to the private burial vault, which had been, at the Reformation, consecrated for the use of the family in a retired part of the garden, and in which he was soon after deposited himself. His abjuration does not seem to have carried with it that of all his relations, at least not immediately or notoriously; for, on the approach of Prince Charles Edward, in 1745, when my mother was about twelve years old, the horses and arms of the family were provisionally taken from them, as being suspected papists: a precaution not unreasonable if their wishes were considered; for the children, as my mother told me, ran about the house, singing Jacobite songs, among which the following may vie, in poetical merit, though not in political effect, with the memorable Lilleburlero:

As I was a walking through James's Park,
I met an old man in a turnip cart;
I took up a turnip, and knocked him down,
And bid him surrender King James's crown.

It is eighty years since: twenty years since the publication of Waverly. The cultivation of turnips, by which our agriculture has been so much improved, was introduced from Hanover.

I am much inclined to doubt the fact of my grandfather's having renounced the errors of popery: his interment in the sepulchre of his ancestors, the suspicion attached to his family, as above stated, the advantage from the supposition of the fact to those who wished to educate his children in protestantism, – these are my reasons for doubting its truth. However this be, many catholic families fell away from their religion after the battle of Culloden: at this time the whole Digby family was decidedly protestant, excepting three respectable virgins, aunts of my grandfather; and my mother, under the care of an uncle, became, at the age of twenty-two, the meet and willing bride of a young Anglican divine.

Nevertheless, some "rags of popery" hung about her; she was very devout, and made long prayers: she had not her breviary indeed, but the psalms and chapters of the day served equally well: she doubted whether the gunpowder treason was a popish or a ministerial plot: the R. R. Dr. Milner had not yet written the dissertation, in his "Letters to a Prebendary," which proves that it was the latter. For want of this well-argued and convincing statement, I was called on to read, on the 5th of November, while squibs and crackers sounded in my ears, and Guy Faux, suspended over the Castle Hill, was waiting his fate, – to read, I say, the life of Sir Everard Digby in the Biographia Britannica, where his character is treated with some kindness and respect. Sir Kenelm Digby is, of course, the next article in the "Biography: " all this while I was detained from the dangerous explosions of the fire-works, which was in part my mother's purpose, though she had, no doubt, her gratification in the lecture.

The youth of the present day are quite indifferent to the celebration of the 5th of November; they have not the grace to thank God for delivering them from "the hellish malice of popish conspirators;" few of them even know that this delicate phrase is to be found in their Book of Common Prayer. But five and forty or fifty years ago, before the repeal of the penal laws against catholics, when not a chapel was permitted to them, but by connivance, those of catholic ambassadors alone excepted; before the French Revolution had driven a catholic priest into almost every town in England, – the case was widely different: let the riots of 1780 bespeak the popular feeling of the people towards the religion of their forefathers. Here then, while they sung,

O then the wicked papishes ungodly did conspire
To blow up king and parliament with gun-pow-dire, —

I was taking a febrifuge draught, prepared by maternal caution and family pride.

I went every day to learn Greek and Latin at the school founded for the use of the city out of the spoils of some monastery abolished at the time of Henry the Eighth's schism. The sons of citizens are here taught gratis; others give a small honorarium to the master. The school was held in the very chapel of the old religious house; the windows looked into a place called the Friars or Freres, and over the east window stood, and still stands, the cross, "la trionfante croie." But this was not all. Opposite to the door of the school-yard lived three elderly ladies, catholics, of small fortunes, who had united their incomes and dwelt here, not far from their chapel, in peace and piety. One of these ladies was Miss, or, as she chose to call herself, Mrs. Ravenscroft. Now my great grandfather, James Digby had married a lady of that family: it followed therefore that my mother and Mrs. Ravenscroft were cousins. My father's house was about a third of a mile from the school: Mrs. Ravenscroft obtained leave for me, whenever it should rain between nine and ten in the morning, the hour at which the school-boys went to breakfast, that I might call and take my bread and milk at her house. Some condition, I suppose, was made, that I should not be allowed to have tea: but they put sugar in my milk, and all the old ladies and their servants were very kind, and, as I observed, very cheerful; so that I was well pleased when it rained at nine o'clock.

One day it chanced to rain all the morning, an occurrence so common in England, that I wonder it only happened once. I staid to dine with Mrs. Ravenscroft and the other ladies. It was a day of abstinence. My father, to do him justice as a true protestant, "an honest man who eat no fish," had not accustomed me to days of abstinence; but, as I had had no play all the morning, I found the boiled eggs and hot cockles very satisfactory, as well as amusing by their novelty. The priest came in after dinner, and Mrs. Ravenscroft telling him that I was her little cousin, Master – , he spoke to me with great civility. At that time catholic priests did not dare to risk making themselves known as such, by wearing black coats. Mr. Knight was dressed in a grave suit of snuff-colour, with a close neat wig of dark brown hair, a cocked hat, almost an equilateral triangle, worsted stockings, and little silver buckles. By this detail may be inferred the impression that was made on my mind and fancy. I believe I was the only protestant lad in England, of my age, at that time, who had made an abstinence dinner, and shaken hands with a jesuit.

When the rain gave over, I returned home, and related to my father all the history of the day. This I did with so much apparent pleasure, that he said, in great good-nature, "These old women will make a papist of you, Harry." He sent them occasionally presents of game in return for their attentions to me.

The wife of the Earl of Traquair was also of the family of Ravenscroft, and Lord and Lady Traquair, in coming from or returning to Scotland, passed part of a day with my father and mother. Dr. Geddes, since so well known, accompanied his patron. I remember going with the party to see the ruins of the bishop's palace. Dr. Geddes's conversation was lively and pleasing. He was sure, he said, that my sister, some years older than myself, was a judge of poetry, since she read it so well: and he requested her acceptance of a copy of a satire of Horace which he had lately translated and printed. I know not if he ever pursued this work.

Catholic gentry, every now and then, made visits to my mother; I suppose, for the sake of "auld lang-syne." Amongst these, Mr. and Mrs. Arundel, afterwards Lord and Lady Arundel, called on her so soon after the death of my father, that she could not go with them to the cathedral where he had been but lately interred. I accompanied them, and, on entering the south door, pointed out the pedestal on which, and the canopy under which stood, in catholic times, an image of the Blessed Virgin, under whose invocation the church is dedicated.

Comparing the behaviour of these gentry to my mother with the conduct of all of the same class, with three or four exceptions only, towards me, – I infer that the best way to be treated by them with common civility is, to be, not a convert, but a renegado.

My father died while I was yet in the fourteenth year of my age: in less than three years after this event, when I was not quite sixteen years and a half old, I became a commoner of University College, Oxford; and, having kept there three terms, was nominated, at the election held immediately after the feast of the Patroness Saint; a Demy of St. Mary Magdalen College. I passed the long or summer vacations at my mother's house. During the second of these vacations, when rummaging among my father's books, I found, thrown aside among waste papers in a neglected closet, an old copy of the Rheims or Douay translation of the New Testament. The preface to this work is admirable, and might be read by managers of Bible Societies, if not to their advantage, at least to their confusion.

By what chance the book came there, how long it had lain there, whether my father had even ever known of its existence, I cannot tell. The notes are equal in bulk to the text: they attracted my attention, and I read them greedily.

It will be observed, from the account given of my infancy, that I had been from the first familiarized with popery; that I had been brought up without any horror of it. This was much: but this was all. I knew nothing of the doctrines of the catholic church, but what I had learned from the lies in Guthrie's Geographical Grammar, and from the witticisms in the "Tale of a Tub," – a book, the whole argument of which may be refuted by a few dates added in the margin. My English reading had filled my head with the usual prejudices on these topics. Of popes I had conceived an idea that they were a succession of ferocious, insolent, and ambitious despots, always foaming with rage, and bellowing forth anathemas.

I now perceived that there was some ground in Scripture for believing that St. Peter was superior to the other apostles, ("Simon Peter, lovest thou me more than these?" "A greater charge required a greater love," argues one of the Fathers;) and that, by the consent of all antiquity, the Bishops of Rome were the successors of St. Peter. Of other doctrines I found rational, and what appeared to me plausible explanations. Transubstantiation was still a stumbling-block.

I talked without reserve to my mother of my book, and of the impression it had made on me. She had no theological knowledge, but she had a great deal of religious feeling, and this feeling was all on the side of catholicism. Had she consulted an able catholic priest, perhaps had she consulted no one, I had at this time become a catholic: she would have been well pleased with my conversion, and her own would have followed. For her sake, as well as for many other reasons, I most sincerely regret that it did not at this time take place. Not that I doubt of the mercy of God towards innocent, involuntary error, but because, when we want to go to a place, it is better to be in the right road.

She consulted my old schoolmaster, a wise and prudent man, as well acquainted with the question as the Anglican clergy in general are. As my mother was perfectly free from poperyphobia, she proposed the matter at once: "Henry has been reading this book, and has a great mind to be a catholic: you know all my family were catholics." My counsellor, without looking even at the outside of the book, put on a grave face, – a tremendously grave face: "I had rather give five hundred pounds than that such a thing should come to pass." I well knew the value he set on five hundred pounds, and conceived an analogous idea of his repugnance. Nevertheless, I pressed the book on his notice. "All this has been said a thousand times over;" meaning, and I so understood him, that it ought to have no more weight with me than with others; though the argument proved nothing but the usual obstinacy of those to whom arguments are addressed.

My old master was too wise a man to argue even with a woman and a boy. "What would the world think of such a step? What would your father say if he could come to life again? What will become of your education and future prospects?" My mother was alarmed at her own responsibility in the passive encouragement she had given. I was but seventeen years old. I did not, however, quite give up the point. "These people have a great deal to say for themselves." – "You think so? There's Christianity enough in the church of England." A few years later I found he thought there was too much.

I had subsequent conversations with him: I indirectly consulted others: I still read my book; but a book of notes has not the effect of a dissertation, well followed up, and leading to a conclusion. I found some insurmountable difficulties, and for the rest I said, "Le roi s'avisera." I had no other catholic work, and no catholic adviser. I went back to my college, where other studies occupied me; yet I may say, I never lost sight of the subject.

Gibbon, who was a gentleman-commoner of Magdalen College, a few years before my time, declared himself a catholic before his twentieth year. He was still remembered in college as a young man who seldom or never associated with other young men, who always dressed in black, and always came into the hall or refectory too late at dinner time. He found catholics to help him in the work of his conversion. His father put him en pension with a Calvinist minister, to be re-made a protestant, no matter of what sort. He saw, and throughout his great work shows that he continued to see, that the truth of the Christian religion rests on the authority of the catholic church. "The predictions of the catholics are accomplished: the web of mystery has been unravelled by Arminians, Arians, and Socinians, whose numbers must be no longer counted from their separate congregations; and the pillars of revelation are shaken by men who profess the name without the substance of religion, who assume the licence without the temper of philosophy." Pity that such a man should have been led away by the spirit of the age, so as not to perceive that true philosophy is the good and natural ally of the catholic faith.

If any grave doctor of the Anglican church had, at this time, attempted to lay the foundations of my belief in his own form of religion, he would probably have failed in his work; partly, because the respect due to such a personage from a youth like me would have hindered that freedom of question, reply, and rejoinder, by which satisfactory conviction is at length produced; partly, because I should have considered him as bound in honour and interest to maintain his own opinions, and require implicit submission; and because also I should probably have found, as I have since found, the arguments, which such an one would have adduced, to proceed on misrepresentation, and to be logically absurd.

There are two methods of defending the reformed church of England; one is, by asserting the right of private judgment; but this method is inconsistent with the authority of Scripture, and with the truth of the promises of Christ; – with the authority of Scripture, because it is absurd to allow to any body of men the right or power to say, "this book is Scripture, and this book is not Scripture," and to refuse to the same body the right of deciding on its sense in case of dispute. Had this body the privilege of infallibility while deciding on the canon, and were they immediately deprived of it? Infallibility – I dispute not about words: were they providentially preserved from error during this important operation, and ever afterwards abandoned to error? Common sense and the rules of criticism may enable us to decide on the historical credit due to any work laid before us; but Scripture, the word of God, – something more is necessary to men who are thus to arbitrate between mankind and their faith; and it is absurd to suppose that this something more was taken from them when called on to determine matters of faith, by the help of this same Scripture, united to the tradition of the church. I might make my argument stronger, by remarking on the length of time which elapsed before the canon of Scripture was settled: was the church infallible during all that time, or only at intervals, by fits and starts? I will quote the words of St. Augustin, a Father often cited by the Anglican church: "Thou believest Scripture; thou doest well: ego vero Scripturæ non crederem nisi me ecclesiæ catholicæ urgeret auctoritas."

Indeed, so difficult is it to reconcile the more than human authority of the Bible with the right of private judgment, that I believe the historical Christians, as they may be called, to be very numerous, and daily increasing in number.

This right of private judgment is also inconsistent with the truth of the promises of Christ. He sent his apostles to teach all nations, promising to be with them, – it must be presumed, in their teaching, – to the consummation of the age. In the exercise then of that private judgment, which the reformers of the sixteenth century asserted, all the Christian world fell into error: yes, all of them; for Luther says, "in principio solus eram." The clergy, it may be said, pretended to authority, and even persecuted to the death those who differed from them. Persecution is no theological argument, though it is one which Calvin and Cranmer and other reformers did not object to resort to. But the clergy merely pretended to authority: by the supposed case, each man's particular opinion is his rule of faith, and therefore the Church of England is justified in its reformation. But, by following this rule, all the Christian world, according to the reformers, had fallen into error. Jesus Christ therefore, though he promised to be with his disciples to the end of the world, was unable or unwilling to keep his promise.

The other method of defending the reformation of the Church of England, is by admitting, that the Church of Rome, as the Anglicans call it, has been, and is, a true church, teaching with authority all doctrines necessary to salvation; that the Church of England, having purified itself from errors and abuses, is also a true church, an integral portion of the catholic or universal church, with all the authority to such a body ecclesiastical, of due right, appertaining.

This statement compels the Church of England to assert for itself something like infallibility; for, as Voltaire expresses it, "L'église catholique est infaillible, et l'église Anglicane n'a jamais tort." This must be so; for the authority of a church which may be in the wrong, must be always questioned.

This statement also deprives the Church of England of all advantage in arms (theological arms I mean,) against the dissenters and other reformers: they turn upon her, and ask how she is more infallible, or even more in the right, than the Church of Rome. The Kirk of Scotland will no more allow itself to be in the wrong than the Church of England. Thus disputes are endless; appeals to remote antiquity, instead of uninterrupted tradition, involve the matter in hopeless intricacy; and the private judgment of nations has no more weight than the private judgment of individuals.

Such are the two modes of defending England's reformation adopted by the low and the high church parties, which once declaredly and still insensibly divide its clergy. I have explained both methods, as they are better understood by being contrasted: I have noted the vice of each, that I may give in part my reasons for rejecting both in due time. Till this due time arrived, I was induced to embrace, and, for the time, conscientiously embraced, the opinions of a high churchman; and I was induced to this by the arguments and example of my friend Richard Paget.

At the time when I became a member of Magdalen College, he had just taken the degree of Bachelor of Arts. A young under-graduate cannot help regarding with some deference one already in possession of the first of those academical honours to which himself aspires. Paget was besides three or four years older than me. This advantage of degree and age was not so great as to cause any subjection on my part; I looked up to him, but, if the pun may be allowed, did not suspect him. He, on his part, treated me with the greatest kindness and familiarity. He was, as he said, the second son of a second son of a second son of a younger branch of a noble family. He had not much given himself to classical studies, but he was well skilled in antiquities, including heraldry; witness the exactitude of his own pedigree: he was well read in English history, particularly that of the time of Charles I. with every personage of which he might be said to be intimately acquainted. He had a great love and good taste for the fine arts and for music. His conversation was, in the highest degree, pleasing; it was lively, allusive, full of anecdote: his manner of expressing himself was at once forcible and easy; his judgment was discriminating, his temper gentle and equal. I never think of him without regretting his loss; and he is often recalled to my memory by the benefit and instruction which I have derived from his friendship.

We used to sit together hour after hour, cozing: I believe I must thus spell the word we have derived from the French causer; no other word has the same meaning. He would take up scraps of paper, and draw admirable caricature likenesses of the members of the college, not sparing the person before him; then a stroll round the walks; and then, as we passed by the door of my rooms on our return, "come in again," and so, another hour's coze. Soon after the commencement of our acquaintance, he began the studies which he thought requisite as a preparation for being ordained a minister of the Church of England. I had the result of these studies, which he pursued according to his own taste, for there is or was no rule in this matter: great admiration of the character of Archbishop Laud; lamentation of the want of splendor and ceremonial in the Anglican service; blame of those clergy who allowed church authority to slip from their hands, lowering themselves into teachers of mere morality. He gave himself very little trouble about the opinions of the dissenters, condemning them all in a lump by a sort of ecclesiastical and political anathema; but he took great pains to convince himself that the Church of England was in the right in its polemical dispute with the Church of Rome. He was willing to allow to the bishop of that city a préséance above all other bishops, not merely on account of the former imperial dignity of the city, but also on account of his succession to St. Peter, who had the same precedence among the apostles, though the privileges of the apostles were equal, as those of bishops ought to be. He saved the indefectibility of the church, by declaring that the Church of Rome was a true church, though not a pure church; that papists might be saved, since what they believed amiss did not destroy the effect of what they believed aright. He affirmed, that the separation of the Church of England from the Church of Rome was the pope's fault; that England had not separated from Rome, but had exercised its right of reforming errors in faith, and abuses in discipline, and approached nearer to the primitive model; that the pope, in excommunicating England for having done thus, had in fact, excommunicated himself. On several points he showed the practice of Rome to be right; on others, to regard things indifferent.

Many other matters relating to this subject were discussed in our conversations, occasionally resumed during the continuance of my friend's residence in college. He was ordained deacon, and some two years after died.

In the year 1791 I took my Master of Arts' degree in Act term, that is, in the beginning of summer, and went to Lincoln to pass some time with my mother, before I should put into execution a project which I had long meditated of a journey to France and Italy. Between my Bachelor's and Master's degrees, as I had no excuse for non-residence in college, I had been obliged to reside: indeed I was sufficiently fond of the literary leisure which this mode of life secured to me. I had always considered myself as destined to Anglican orders; it was the profession which my father had chosen for me, and I had, in some sort, prepared for it: I had confirmed myself in high church principles, and read a little Hebrew; but I had also studied the French and Italian languages for the use and service of my foreign travels, as also because it was rather my wish and ambition to enter on the diplomatic career, if I should find occasion and protection. But how could any one propose to himself to pass any length of time on the continent, agitated, as it now was, by the beginnings of the French revolution? Many ventured to go abroad; but I was alarmed: the unsuccessful attempt of the king and queen of France to escape to Montmedi had thrown France into confusion: it was evident that a crisis was at hand.