Right now, I’m in France — the perfect time to share with you some 18th century stereotypes about different European nationalities!

Excerpted from THE ROAD TO KNOWLEDGE: Or, Young Man & Woman’s Best Friend, by George Stapleton, published in London in 1797.


With respect to the PEOPLE of France, they are very lively and active, with a great share of wit, and a natural disposition and aptitude for all bodily exercises: they are, however, of a most restless disposition, and appear more fond of war than any other people.

As to treaties, covenants, &c. they pay very little regard to them. They violate a treaty, however solemn, with as little ceremony as they sit down to dinner.

Politeness is a characteristic with them; but this is often overdone; and that wit and sprightliness, otherwise so engaging, seems to be not purely natural.

In the mean time, amidst their excessive fondness for wit, the understanding is neglected, as of little or not consequence; the effect of which is, that they often mistake the shadow for the substance, and seek merit in external appearances, and things of no affinity with it.

As they vainly imagine no nation can come in competition with them for wit, so they arrogate to themselves the like superiority in qualities really praiseworthy, and especially military courage. Their natural levity subjects them in their own deportment, and particularly in their cloathing, to the tyranny of fashion, which is ever varying, and yet is submitted to by almost every European nation except the Spaniards.


The native of Switzerland are very industrious, and no part of the world produces better soldiers.


The inhabitants [of Rome] possess many good qualities, and many bad ones: they are polite, prudent, industrious, and ingenious; but they are luxurious, effeminate, and addicted too much to pleasure.

And remember — the first Tuesday of the month is the Jane Austen Movie Club! (Next week’s movie: the 1995 version of PERSUASION. Please join us!)

Cara King, luxurious, effeminate, and full of levity