June 30th, 1835 

I HAVE half a mind to describe this town to you. It has twenty thousand inhabitants, is at the mouth of the Seine, and twenty-four hours from Paris. The houses are high, mostly of black slate and patched often till nothing is seen but the patches, and mushrooms and other vegetables grow through the cracks. Villages in America have an air of youth and freshness harmonising with their dimensions. Small things should never look old. This town presents you with the ungracious image of a wrinkled and gray-headed baby. The streets, except one, have no sidewalks; they are paved with rough stone, and are without gutters and common sewers, the march of intellect not having arrived at these luxuries. The exception is the rue de Paris; it has trottoirs, a theatre, a public square, a market-house, a library with six thousand volumes, and a church very richly furnished, the organ presented by Cardinal Richelieu.

I have been to the church this morning, to pay the Virgin Mary the pound of candles I owed for my preservation at sea. The prettiest improvement I have seen (and it is no miracle for a town of so much commercial importance) is a clock, cut in from the bay along the channel of an old creek, which contains three or four hundred ships, a goodly number of which wear the American flag; it runs through the midst of the town, and brings the vessels ride in their own element; when low, you see a whole fleet wallowing in the mud; and passengers, to get to sea, have to wait the complaisance of both wind and tide often a whole week.

But step out through the rue de Paris, a little to the north, and you will see a compensation for all this ugliness. It is a hill, running boldly up to the water’s edge, whose south side, several hundred feet high, is smothered with houses, which seems to be scrambling up the acclivity to get a look at the town; and the entire summit is covered with beautiful villas, and gardens rich with trees and shrubbery, and hedges, which at this season are a most luxurious ornament. Many American families, having grown rich here by commerce, are perched upon this hill. The view from the top is charming!

John Sanderson,  The American in Paris – Vol. I

When I first downloaded a copy of this ebook onto my Android phone, I had no idea who John Sanderson was. It was just on the strength of its title and the fact that it was written in the form of letters, that had my interest piqued.  And so it stayed quietly (almost forgotten) in its small allotted corner of my SD card, and was only brought back to mind recently when I once again heard the name pop up in the middle of my listening to The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris by David McCullough (which is proving to be most enjoyable, except for the initial struggle to get through the first chapter that was narrated by a voice which I found to be most sleep-inducing! Thankfully, it was a different narrator after that or else I would have most definitely stopped listening!) during this Paris in July month. It’s a happy feeling to have when you are suddenly able to make certain connections between books or writers, unexpectedly. 🙂

I had partly the intention of writing these letters, to dress them up one day into some kind of shape for the Public. I am not certain they are fit to be seen in their present dishabille – but leave that to the purchaser. A pretty woman slip-shod is a pretty woman still, and she is not so much improved as you think by her court dress. Tell the Public, I do not mean them for great things: I am no critic, no politician, no political economist; but only, as Shakespeare would say, “a snapper up of inconsiderate trifles”. Under this title I have the honour to be, with the most perfect consideration, the Public’s very obedient, humble servant.

John Sanderson, The American in Paris – Vol. I

I think I quite like Sanderson’s ‘voice’. 😉

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4 thoughts on “Tuesday Teaser : The American in Paris

  1. I may have to listen to The Greater Journey-Americans in Paris. I led my book group last Feb. and we had a great discussion. Many of us had been to Paris and loved it, even though we’re American (Ha) We had lots of books, magazines and items from Paris. Remember Emma Willard and her school for young women? My neighbor’s sister is the headmistress of that school in upstate New York.They had no clue about the founding and reputation of the school!

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    1. How interesting to have that connection/ link to Emma Willard and her school, through your neighbour’s sister! It’s always so interesting to see how the dots can be connected in the big picture and thus personalizes the history/ story for you.
      I really like McCullough’s way of storytelling, might want to check out his other works as well. Have you read any of his other books?

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  2. I like his “voice” as well. I love that passage you featured. My husband read David McCullough’s book and really enjoyed it. What a great idea, to do Paris for the month of July. I will now go back and look at the earlier entries. Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog. I am looking forward to following yours now!

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    1. Thanks for dropping by, Sunday! Am glad you like his “voice” as well. McCullough’s book is really quite enjoyable, while being most informative at the same time. I am also enjoying Paris in July very much, as with everyone else, I believe.
      I love ‘walking through’ your blog! It’s like taking a stroll in a garden full of good things, both for the eyes and the soul. 🙂

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