Haerlem, July 1st.

THE sky was clear and blue when we left the Hague, and we travelled along a shady road for about an hour, then down sunk the carriage into a sand-bed; and I, availing myself of the peaceful rate we dragged at, fell into a profound repose. How long it lasted is not material; but when I awoke, we were rumbling through Leyden. There is no need to write a syllable in honour of this illustrious city: its praises have already been sung and said by fifty professors, who have declaimed in its university, and smoked in its gardens; so let us get out of it as fast as we can, and breathe the cool air of the wood near Haerlem; where we arrived just as day declined. Hay was making in the fields, and perfumed the country far and wide, with its reviving fragrance. I promised myself a pleasant walk in the groves, took up Gesner, and began to have pretty pastoral ideas; but when I approached the nymphs that were dispersed on the meads, and saw faces that would have dishonoured a flounder, and heard accents that would have confounded a hog, all my dislike to the walking fish of the Low Countries returned. I let fall the garlands I had wreathed for the shepherd; we jumped into the carriage, and were driven off to the town. Every avenue to it swarmed with people, whose bustle and agitation seemed to announce that something extraordinary was going forward. Upon enquiry I found it was the great fair at Haerlem; and before we had advanced much further, our carriage was surrounded by idlers and gingerbread-eaters of all denominations. Passing the gate, we came to a cluster of little illuminated booths beneath a grove, glittering with toys and looking-glasses. It was not without difficulty that we reached our inn, and then the plague was to procure chambers; at last we were accommodated, and the first moment I could call my own has been dedicated to you. You won't be surprized at the nonsense I have written, since I tell you the scene of riot and uproar from whence it bears date. At this very moment the confused murmur of voices and music stops all regular proceedings: old women and children tattling; apes, bears, and shew-boxes under the windows; French rattling, English swearing, outrageous Italians, frisking minstrels; tambours de basque at every corner; myself distracted; a confounded squabble of cooks and haranguing German couriers just arrived, their masters following open mouthed; nothing to eat, the steam of ham and flesh-pots all the while provoking their appetite; Mynheers very busy with the realities, and smoking as deliberately, as if in a solitary lust-huys over the laziest, canal in the Netherlands; squeaking chambermaids in the galleries above, and prudish dames below, half inclined to receive the golden solicitations of certain beauties for admittance, but positively refusing them the moment some creditable personage appears; eleven o'clock strikes; half the lights in the fair are extinguished; scruples grow less and less delicate; mammon prevails, darkness and complaisance succeed. Good night: may you sleep better than I shall.


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Additional letters, I-VII
An Excursion to the Grande Chartreuse in the year 1778