Classic History Books


William Wood - The Winning of Canada: A Chronicle of Wolfe

officer. Perhaps, too, his friends were just a little afraid that he might join the Prussians or the Austrians;
for it was not, in those days, a very strange thing to join the army of a friendly foreign country. Whatever

the reason, the long leave was refused and he went no farther than Paris.

Louis XV was then at the height of his apparent greatness; and France was a great country, as it is still.
But king and government were both corrupt. Wolfe saw this well enough and remembered it when the

next war broke out. There was a brilliant society in 'the capital of civilization,' as the people of Paris

proudly called their city; and there was a great deal to see. Nor was all of it bad. He wrote home two days

after his arrival.

The packet [ferry] did not sail that night, but we
embarked at half-an-hour after six in the morning and

got into Calais at ten. I never suffered so much in

so short a time at sea. The people [in Paris] seem to

be very sprightly. The buildings are very magnificent,

far surpassing any we have in London. Mr Selwin has

recommended a French master to me, and in a few days

I begin to ride in the Academy, but must dance and

fence in my own lodgings. Lord Albemarle [the British

ambassador] is come from Fontainebleau. I have very

good reason to be pleased with the reception I met

with. The best amusement for strangers in Paris is

the Opera, and the next is the playhouse. The theatre

is a school to acquire the French language, for which

reason I frequent it more than the other.

In Paris he met young Philip Stanhope, the boy to whom the Earl of Chesterfield wrote his celebrated
letters; 'but,' says Wolfe, 'I fancy he is infinitely inferior to his father.' Keeping fit, as we call it

nowadays, seems to have been Wolfe's first object. He took the same care of himself as the Japanese

officers did in the Russo-Japanese War; and for the same reason, that he might be the better able to serve

his country well the next time she needed him. Writing to his mother he says:

I am up every morning at or before seven and fully
employed till twelve. Then I dress and visit, and dine

at two. At five most people go to the public

entertainments, which keep you till nine; and at eleven

I am always in bed. This way of living is directly

opposite to the practice of the place. But no

constitution could go through all. Four or five days

in the week I am up six hours before any other fine

gentleman in Paris. I ride, fence, dance, and have a

master to teach me French. I succeed much better in

fencing and riding than in the art of dancing, for

they suit my genius better; and I improve a little in

French. I have no great acquaintance with the French

women, nor am likely to have. It is almost impossible

to introduce one's self among them without losing a

 

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