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From, The Life and Letters of James Wolfe, by Beckles Wilson, London: William Heinemann, 1909; pp. 192-194.




Paris, 4th December, 1752.

DEAR SIR , — The post comes in almost as regularly as if there was no water-carriage, so that when you do me the honour to 193 write I get your letter very soon. That of the 27th November came to me on the 2nd instant.

It is, as you say, Sir, some sort of advantage to me to have admittance to the Ambassador, and an honour to be under his protection; but it does not include all the advantages that one would be apt to imagine. His Lordship does not see so much company as Ambassadors commonly do; and though he is vastly liked and generally esteemed in France, his way of living and that of the people of the country is somewhat different.

The Duke of Richmond is in Paris. I have met him sometimes at Lord Albemarle's, and by that means have the honour to know him. As far as my discernment goes, he promises to make a considerable figure in our way, to which his genius seems to lead him, and what is uncommon at eighteen he is not entirely taken up with the outward appearances and gildings of soldiership, but aims at the higher and more solid branches of military knowledge.1

Mr. Haren’s nephew is lately returned from his country house. He and a very civil old lady, his mother, have endeavoured to convince me that a recommendation from Mr. Haren has all imaginable regard paid to it. They have received me in a very polite manner, and sufficiently proved their affection for their relation and difference [Q. deference? Elf.Ed] for strangers by that reception. Lady Archibald Hamilton died last night of a fever, after an illness of a few days. She had left her little family in the utmost grief and distress. Lord Archibald is extremely old and infirm; his son and daughter are both very young, and nobody to direct or assist them — I mean no relation, for I believe Lord Albemarle will do everything that is right and proper. The son is an ensign in the Third Regiment, and my friend and companion. You may believe that if I can be of the least use to him I sha’n’t neglect the opportunity.

I have inquired after the Pretender, and can’t hear where he hides himself. There are people that believe him to be secreted in Poland with some of his mother's relations. My friend Colonel D—— has got a regiment of Dragoons. There is a sort of interest that man has crept into, better and of more efficiency than service, worth, or honour. It would almost make one forswear open, fair behaviour as lumber, and the impediment 194 to success and a marischal's staff; but, on the other hand, a man sleeps well that uses moderate exercise, and never dabbles in a dirty pool. There are multitudes of extravagant customs that divert, but there is one that makes me laugh every day. The coachmen here drive with enormous black bear-skin muffs, tied round their waists, and that, when their horses go on are turned behind. The people here use umbrellas in hot weather to defend them from the sun, and something of the same kind to secure them from the snow and rain.

I wonder a practice so useful is not introduced into England, where there are such frequent showers, and especially in the country, where they can be expanded without any inconveniency.2

I am, dear Sir, etc.,                   



1  He succeeded to the Dukedom in 1750. His future was distinguished, and he died a Field-Marshal. Entering political life he became in 1765 Principal Secretary of State in the Rockingham administration.

2  It was not until some years later that Jonas Hanway, defying the jeers of the populace, strolled through London carrying an umbrella, derided, it is true, but dry.


Elf.Ed. Notes

This letter is only the second report of the use of umbrellas to England. The first was by Thomas Coryat, who saw them in Italy in the 1700's. This is one of those great trivia questions, as shown in this book from the 19th century: Question 151, Quizzisum and Its Key, Quirks And Quibbles From Queer Quarters, by Albert Southwick, on this site. The link will open in a new window. As noted by the editor above, the umbrella was introduced to England by Jonas Hanway.

Wolfe was a famous General, who attained hero status, after he defeated General Montcalm at the Battle of Quebec, thus kicking the French out of Canada. Both generals were killed during the fight. There was an eyewitness, James Johnstone, a Scotsmen who was an aide-de-camp to Montcalm, who wrote a scathing attack about the politics of French corruption and the battle itself, in A Dialogue in Hades, which is on this site.

General James Wolfe was a popular hero to the British for years. In Canada stories were told about him for generations, as Fredric S. Cozzens witnessed on his vacation from 19th century New York to Canada: see the popular stories still told about these famous generals in Chapter VI, Acadia; or a Month with the Blue Noses, by Frederic S. Cozzens, on this site.

Wolfe was so popular in England, that witty anecdotes about him made it into Joe Miller’s Jest Book, in two spots: Jest LXXXIX, Hero-Phobia, and Jest DCCLXIII, General Wolfe.


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