The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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July 7, 2018

'You enquire of me how I like Paris...'



Auteuil, 5 September, 1784
My Dear Lucy,
... You enquire of me how I like Paris.Why, they tell me I am no judge, for that I have not seen it yet. One thing, I know, that is that I have smelt it. If I was agreeably disappointed in London, I am so much disappointed in Paris. It is the very dirtiest place I ever saw. There are some buildings and some squares, which are tolerable, but in general the streets are narrow, the shops, the houses, inelegant and dirty, the streets full of lumber and stone, with which they build. Boston cannot boast so elegant public buildings, but, in every other respect, it is as much superior to my eyes to Paris, as London is to Boston. To have had Paris tolerable to me, I should not have gone to London. ...

To Mrs. Warren
Auteuil, near Paris, 5 September, 1784
... If you ask me what is the business of life here? I answer, pleasure. ... Ay, Madam, from the the throne to the footstool it is the science of every being in Paris and its environs. It is a matter of great speculation to me when these people labor. I am persuaded the greater part of those who crowd the streets the public walks, the theatres, the spectacles, as they term them, must subsist on bread and water. ...
      I believe this nation is the only one in the world which could make pleasure the business of life and yet retain such a relish for it... to be 'triste' is a complaint of a most serious nature. ...
...The cleanliness of Britain, joined to the civility and politeness of France, could make a most agreeable assemblage. You will smile at my choice, but as I am likely to reside some time in this country, why should I not wish them the article in which they are most deficient?

Abigail Adams, quoted in
Americans in Paris: a literary anthology, edited by Adam Gopnik




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