The Hon. George Dalrymple (d. 1745) was the third son of the first Earl of Stair. His older brother John (1673-1747) was much the more famous*, as an army officer, politician, and diplomat. Such is often the way with heirs to peerages; poor George seems to have been so thoroughly in his older brother's shadow that even his birthdate is now forgotten.
But in January, 1715, John journeyed to France as the newly appointed minister-plenipotentiary at Paris (aka the English ambassador), and George accompanied him. While John had a great many official duties to tend to, younger brother George had plenty of time to check out the female sights. Clearly he could have used the advice of a travel guide such as that would be written later in the century by Captain Thicknesse. George seems to have felt the usual English gentleman's disappointment (and the usual xenophobia) for the French ladies, as this excerpt from one of his letters proves:
"I have not been long enough here, to know, whether London or Paris is the most diverting town. The people here are more gay, the ladies less handsome, and much more painted, love gallantry more than pleasure, and coquetry more than solid love. This place is good for all those that have more vanity than real lust....This is the most diverting time to be at Paris because of the Fair Saint Germain. All the ladies go their every night at six o'clock and stay till ten. All that time they stroll about from the fair to the play and rope dancing and the rest of the things to be seen there and I am sure if the people there have a mind to be happy there is no difficulty to lose themselves. It is impossible to take more freedom, than that place allows of, and men and women stroll about without ceremony and everybody are taken up with their own projects so much that they do not mind what other people are doing. I am sure were such opportunities at London there would be many happy lovers. My brother being here makes it easy for me to get into good company though I am not as yet in love with anybody nor are the ladies handsome. I believe I shall only make love as I used to do to some chambermaid. I have already had some adventures of that kind."
Above: La Foire St. Germain, 1764.
* Another side-note about John Dalrymple: researching the background for this blog, I discovered that he was a F.O.M.C. – Friend of My Characters. In the army, he served as an aide-de-camp to John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough (the duke in Duchess), who became Dalrymple's patron and mentor. And when Dalrymple was eventually promoted to general and compelled to give up his regiment, he sold it to another Scotsman, David Colyear, Earl of Portmore, and the husband of Katherine Sedley, the heroine of The Countess and the King. It's a small world there in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography....
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.