Character of the French Nation by a Gentleman in 1773

One “gentleman” (likely English) who resided many years in France did not have the most favorable view of the French. In 1733, he submitted his opinion of the French to an English magazine of arts, literature, and miscellaneous interests that began in 1732, lasted until 1785, resurfaced in the 1800s, and is still published today. The name of the magazine was the London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer.

Frernch Nation

French couple in the eighteenth century. Author’s collection.

Here is his assessment verbatim:

The French in general are vain, trifling, changeable, and insincere:
   Too vain to approve any but themselves:
   Too trifling to think deeply or act nobly:
   Too changeable to be capable of true esteem:
   Incapable of true friendship, therefore insincere.

Their politeness is rude, because troublesome:
   Good-nature — selfish.
   Virtue — in theory.
   Knowledge — borrowed.
   Humanity and liberality — on their lips.
   Courage — in their honour.
   Magnificence — at court.
   Strength — in their numbers.
   Religion — cloistered.
   Riches — in appearance.
   Impartiality — not to be found.
   Cleanliness — no where.
   Learning — in a few. And
   Dissipation — in all.

They are
    Mischievous — as apes.
   Cunning — as foxes.
   False — as wolves. And
   Cruel — as tygers.

As a nation,
   Luxurious and effeminate.
   Suspected by all, and
  Confided in by none.

If Rich — you are adored.
   Poor — despised.
   Diffident — laughed at.
   Sincere — deceived.
   Friendly — imposed upon by them.

Their merits:
Ingenious, sober, social, chearful, and obliging.


  • The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Volume 42, 1773.

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  1. Sue Bursztynski on April 13, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Let’s face it, the English and French had never liked each other much! It started with French conquering England in the 11th century and went downhill from there.

    • Geri Walton on April 19, 2016 at 9:34 am

      LOL. I know Louis XV was unhappy about the French and raised Louis XVI to not like England either (hence Louis XVI’s aid to America during the American Revolution).

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