de Verger Journal
Newport, Rhode Island, played an important part in the American Revolution by housing military personnel who arrived from France to help the Americans. Excerpts from three journals, kept by Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crèvecœur, comte de; Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, and Louis Alexandre Berthier, provide material for this second post on Newport, Rhode Island and American women. To read Part 1, click on The French Military in America During The American Revolution: Pt. 1.
In 1780 women in America were very pale and seemingly frail. The men were “tall and well-built,” although some were big, fat and lacked vigor.
This was according to diarist Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crevecœur, one three French military officers in M. le Comte de Rochambeau’s army who kept journals which extensively described their observations and thoughts about Revolutionary America. The army spent the winter of 1780 in Newport, Rhode Island. Along with the other two diarists, Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger and Louis Alexandre Berthier, Clermont-Crevecoeur recorded his keen observations about Americans and their dating/marriage habits. Observations from two other diarists, Prince de Broglie (in 1782) and Comte de Segure, add to the word picture painted by Clermont-Crevecoeur, Verger and Berthier.
Americans had a lifespan of sixty years, Clermont-Crevecoeur wrote. Some rare residents lived to be seventy, and occasionally even eighty, “…but it is exceedingly uncommon for them to reach that age. I knew one man who was ninety and still rode horseback with ease, was possessed of all his faculties, and enjoyed perfect health.” However, most American men “look as though they had grown while convalescing from an illness,”
The French journal-keepers recorded apt descriptions about Newport and/or American women. Clermont-Crevecoeur wrote that he must admit “that nowhere have I seen a more beautiful strain.” In spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that the women had little color, nothing could “compare with the whiteness and texture of their skin.” They also had “charming figures, and in general one can say they are all pretty, even beautiful, in the regularity of their features and in what one can imagine to be a woman’s loveliest attribute.”
Several of the names listed in Verger’s journal described particular belles whom the French greatly admired, including Mr. Champlin’s daughter. He was known for his wealth, “but even more so in our army for the lovely face of his daughter…,” who, when she appeared in the parlor, was examined “with attention, which was to treat her handsomely…” The French men observed that “she had beautiful Continue reading