Adnax Publications

César de Saussure

  Letters from London 1725-1730



César de Saussure (1705-1783) made his first voyage to England in 1725, travelling by water from Yverdon in Switzerland, up the Rhine through the German States and Holland, then across the North Sea from Rotterdam to London. He has left an amusing and detailed incidental description of this journey through an area of Europe frequently torn by wars before and since, but it is his sojourn of five years in London, from 1725 until 1730 that is the main subject of the sixteen letters which comprise this book. 

In these letters, the coronation procession of George II and Queen Caroline, and the subsequent banquet at Westminster Hall are covered in great detail, and there are interesting and informative descriptions of the Court at St James under George I and George II, of the Tower of London, the City, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the Thames, Bedlam Hospital and many other London landmarks. But Saussure also demonstrated a lively interest in the ordinary and the everyday, which is reflected in his sometimes minute observations of life, and his wonderful digressions from the main subject to describe, for example, the way the population of London made off with the planks and covering material of the specially constructed walkway as soon as the coronation procession had passed, or the confusion following the mass hanging of 13 felons (including Jonathan Wild the Great) when the relatives of the hanged men joined battle with the agents of the surgeons over the disposal of the bodies.

Among other subjects covered are : football, cricket, the opera, pantomimes, Thames etiquette, debtors, false witnesses, the judicial process, horse races, gladiatorial contests, prize fights, cock fighting, highwaymen, footpads, pickpockets, the Gazettes, Quakers, Jews, Non-Conformists, Presbyterians, coffee-houses, hackney carriages, boatmen, porters, roads, sedan chairs, Customs officials, insurance, gin shops, eating houses and the water supply system. 

There is also an account of Peter the Wild Boy, who was found by huntsmen in the forests of Hanover and was brought to London at the command of George I, and a detailed description of the sequence of events following the death of George I in 1727, when Sir Robert Walpole maintained his effective position as First Minister to the new King George, contrary to all the expectations at the time.

The notes, accessible from the links at the bottom of this page, give information about some of the people, places and events mentioned in the letters.

letter 1

Journey by water from Yverdon - Lake of Neuchatel - Lake of Bienne - The Aar - The Rhine - Dangerous passages - Bad inns - Basle - Huninguen - Strasbourg - Philipsbourg - Dispute between two ladies - Mannheim - Worms - Mayence - Wines of Baccarach - St Goar - Rat Tower - Coblentz - Episode in a church - Bonn - Cologne - Fight on the boat - Dusseldorf - Wesel - Culembourg - Rotterdam - Delft - The Hague - England - The Thames - Customs.

letter 1 notes

notes on the voyage from Lausanne to London by boat, with maps

letter 2

London — The author gets lost — The Court of London — Palace of St James — Drawing-room or circle — About George I, King of England — Of the Prince of Wales and family — The Park of St James — Westminster Abbey — Tombs of the kings — Houses of Parliament — House of Peers — House of Commons — The King goes in state to Parliament — the King's livery. 

notes on the text

explicatory notes on the text of the book

 the nobility in 1727

a list of Dukes, Duchesses, Earls and Viscounts with some biographical notes

the royal family in 1727

the illustrious house of Hanover in 1727

previous royalty

kings and queens of England prior to 1727