The Project Gutenberg EBook of Peregrine in France, by William Bromet This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Peregrine in France A Lounger's Journal, in Familiar Letters to his Friend Author: William Bromet Release Date: March 8, 2014 [EBook #45076] Language: English Character set encoding: UTF-8 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK PEREGRINE IN FRANCE *** Produced by Chris Curnow and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)
IN FAMILIAR LETTERS TO HIS FRIEND.
Printed by Thomas Davison, Whitefriars,
FOR JAMES HARPER AND CO., 46, FLEET-STREET.
The friend who has ventured to send these letters to the press feels it necessary to state, in apology for the insufficiency of such a trifle to meet the public eye, that they are actually published without the knowledge of Peregrine (who is still abroad) and chiefly with the view of giving copies to the numerous friends by whom he is so justly regarded. The editor, therefore, relying on the indulgence of those friends, humbly also deprecates the stranger critic's censure, both for poor Peregrine and himself.
Paris, December 14, 1815.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Arrived safely at this interesting metropolis, I take the earliest opportunity of relieving the affectionate anxiety you expressed over our parting glass, by the assurance that I have happily escaped all the evils prognosticated by some of our acquaintance from a journey at this inclement season.
Those indeed of the inquisitive family of John Bull, who look only for luxury and convenience in travelling, will do well never to leave the comforts of their own happy island from motives of expected pleasure, as they will be sure to be fretted by a series of petty disappointments and vexations which fall to the lot of every traveller. A little forethought may occasionally be necessary, but I am convinced that he alone will truly enjoy a continental trip who knows how at once to reconcile himself to the chances of the moment, derive from them all the good he can, thank God for it,—and be satisfied.
Without more prosing I will endeavour to comply with Mrs. ——'s request, and, trying to overcome my propensity to lounging indolence, send you, from time to time, such crude observations as may suggest themselves in my peregrinations through some of the towns and provinces of France, and during my short stay in the capital; although I fear all novelty on this subject has already met your eye, from the abler pens of more accomplished tourists.
At Dover I repaired immediately to the York Hotel, where the host and hostess justified all you had told me of their attention and civility. I found that the mail packet would attempt to get out of harbour on Saturday afternoon; the captain had in vain endeavoured to put to sea that morning: however, we succeeded on a second trial, and held one course to Boulogne, which we reached in about four hours. The vessel was very much crowded, having the mails of four days on board, and the accumulation of four days' passengers. It was very cold, and I was, as usual, sea-sick. I went on shore about eleven o'clock that night, and was conducted to an hotel in the upper town, all those of the lower town, which are the best, being full. I took under my protection an English lady proceeding to her husband at Havre-de-Grace. We knocked up the host, hostess, and drowsy servants, who, however, soon cooked us some broiled whitings and lean mutton-chops (coutelets de mouton); and after having taken a little eau de vie and warm Burgundy, I was conducted to my bed-room, having first seen my fellow traveller safely lodged in hers. The waiter, "garçon," was an Englishman, with all the obliging willingness of the French. I was surprised to find my dormitory so comfortable, having supped in a dirty uncomfortable apartment, in which I believe slept mine host and his wife, whom we had routed out of their snug quarters from an alcove at one corner of it. My said bed-chamber was large, and on the ground floor; at one end was a good wood fire blazing on the hearth, and at the other a comfortable bed in a recess, with clean sheets, &c.; over the fire-place a very fine chimney-glass, and upon a large clumsy deal table stood a basin and ewer of thick French earthenware and of peculiar form, the basin having that of an English salad-bowl with a flat bottom,—of course it is inconvenient for its purpose. Soap is only brought when you ask for it, and is an extra charge. All the bed-chambers I have yet seen answer this description, which perhaps you will think tedious; but every thing at the moment, with the warm colouring of first impressions in a foreign country, was interesting to me.
On going to the custom-house next morning, I found all my baggage, except my drawing table, camera, and apparatus; I hope to regain them, as I gave directions to Mrs. Parker, an Englishwoman, who keeps the Hotel d'Angleterre, to forward them to me at Paris in case they were left on board the packet; but there are so many porters (women principally) who attend upon the landing of a boat, and, like as many harpies, seize upon your packages, malgré vous, that it is more than probable I shall never see them again; in which case you must not expect very accurate sketching.
À propos, talking of female porters, let me inform you that, in spite of the boasted gallantry of the French nation, some of the most laborious part of the work, agricultural as well as commercial, is performed by women. This may, however, be in a degree owing to the exhaustion of male population, occasioned by the continued wars in which unhappy France has been so long involved by the insatiate ambition of her late ruler.
After managing, as well as I could, the affair of my missing drawing utensils, I took a cursory view of the town and environs, attended by a gay, obsequious droll, of the old French school, who hung about me with such an assiduous importunity it was not possible to shake him off; he stuck to me like a burr, and would fain have accompanied "Mi-lord Anglois" to Paris, or any where else: he brought Sterne's La Fleur so strongly to my mind, and amused me so exceedingly by his singing, and skipping about at all calls with such unaffected sprightliness, that I own I parted with him very reluctantly: but a poor philosophic lounger, likely soon to be on half pay, had little occasion for a valet of his qualifications. An accident afforded me a proof of this good-humoured fellow's honesty, which I cannot deny myself the pleasure of relating. I had a considerable quantity of silver pieces in a bag, which, coming untied, the contents rolled on the bed and floor; I thought I had picked up the whole, but on returning to my chamber he presented me with several which had fallen into a fold of the blankets, and which I had overlooked. I afterwards also recovered a five franc piece from the fille de chambre. I believe, indeed, that the lower orders in France are generally honest, as well as sober and obliging; and that, although they make no scruple of outwitting, they will not actually rob John Bull.
Boulogne sur Mer is divided into an higher and lower town; the intermediate street, in which the church is situated, and which ascends gradually to the former, is wide and cheerful, and looking from the top of it, towards the opposite southern hills, an interesting view presented itself,—the remains of the hut encampments of Bonaparte's army of England. On the heights, to the northward of the town, are also the ruins of long streets of soldiers' huts, mess-houses, &c. Near this encampment Napoleon had begun to build a noble column, of a species of marble found in a neighbouring quarry: we saw a very beautiful model of it; the base and part of the shaft, already built, are about fifty feet from the ground, but the scaffolding around it runs to the projected height of the capital, viz. 150 feet, and is strongly bolted with iron. This column, intended as a trophy of imperial grandeur, would have been, when finished, a handsome object on the coast, and probably useful to the coasting mariner as a land-mark; it is now a striking monument of disappointed ambition, and may afford a salutary moral lesson both to princes and their subjects!
There are some striking views about Boulogne, which English travellers hurrying to and from the capital rarely stop to look at. The heights were every where bristled with cannon and mortars during the war, and the forts are very strong by art and nature: the approach to the harbour was therefore truly formidable when the republican flag waved on this iron-bound coast. This port is very ancient: it was here the Romans are said to have embarked for Britain, and the remains of a tower, built by them in the reign of Caligula, are still shewn. The harbour is also interesting from having been the rendezvous for the flotilla, which idly threatened to pour the imperial legions on our happy shores. Of this vaunted flotilla, consisting once of 2000 vessels, scarcely a wreck remains!
Our gallant tars always heartily despised this Lilliputian armada, unsupported by ships of force, which Boulogne and the ports near it are incapable of admitting. The harbour here being almost dry at low water, the French, in one tide, could only have got about 100 of their puny vessels into the outer roads, where, while waiting for the rest, they would have been equally exposed to destruction by our vigilant cruisers, or by a gale at N.W. Nevertheless our enterprising government, in the spring of 1804, was induced to send over, at no small cost, an expedition of several vessels, having each in their interior an immense mass of large stones clamped and cemented together, which artificial rocks (the wooden exterior being set on fire) were intended to be sunk at the mouth of the harbour and channels near it, and thus to block up the poor republican gun-boats for ever.
The attempt, however, to carry this scheme into execution met with several obstacles unforeseen by the projector (a civilian and a foreigner unskilled in nautical affairs), and after various fruitless efforts, the expedition was wisely abandoned on the representation of its utter inexpediency, made to the lords of the admiralty by the navy employed on the service. The stone-ships were in consequence withdrawn, but I never heard what became of them or their projector afterwards.
In viewing the sands and neighbouring beach, I was forcibly struck with the want of enterprise in the French. Such a town possessing similar advantages in England, would shortly rival Ramsgate or Brighton, and become, in the season, the resort of fashion. Here, with every natural capability for a bathing-place, they have neither machines for bathing, nor lodgings for visitants.
Embellishments, or even repairs, are rarely thought of in the provincial towns of France; the houses are large, old, and gloomy, and descend "unaltered, unimproved," "from sire to son," without any of the cheerful agrémens which render our smallest houses in England so delightful.
The fishing-boats of Boulogne appeared to me clumsy and ill appointed—ours are yachts in comparison of them.
Bidding now adieu to the coast, where I have kept you too long, I took my departure for Paris with a young French gentleman of Calais and the English lady mentioned before, in a cabriolet. I shall now whisk you speedily to the capital. We slept that night at Vernai, a small village on the other side of Abbeville, having made a slight repast at Montreuil, where I inquired of a soldier about your friend S—— ——, whose regiment, the Inniskillen Dragoons, with the Scots Greys and Royals, was there.
Montreuil is situated on a very steep hill. Here my passport was asked for; but I shewed the hilt of my sword instead of it, which was sufficient. We left Vernai next morning, and breakfasted upon excellent coffee and mutton chops, for which, with delicious bread and butter, they charged three francs each.
Abbeville contains 18,000 inhabitants: it is situated in a pleasant valley, where the river Somme divides into several branches, and separates the town into two parts. The view, as I approached it, was very striking; something like Salisbury from Harnam Hill. Two very fine churches are the most conspicuous objects. On the road we met the Highland Brigade; and in the town was one regiment halted, and four others about to be billeted off. I parted from my agreeable fellow-travellers at Amiens, and proceeded alone in the Diligence.
I am interrupted by the postman, but shall shortly renew my narrative, and shall not therefore expect to hear from you till I write again. Adieu!
Creil, a dirty little town between Clermont
and Chantilly. Jan. 14, 1816.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I take the opportunity of the return of a brother officer to England, to send you a brief continuation of my journal, knowing that you will make every reasonable allowance for its imperfection. In my last, which I wrote to you soon after my arrival at Paris, I believe I conducted you with me as far as Amiens, a large city, possessing a beautiful cathedral, which however I had not then an opportunity of seeing. Here, for the first time, I got into a French Diligence, the machinery and necessary, or rather unnecessary appendages of which I shall not attempt to describe, but shall merely say, that within they are sufficiently easy, large, and commodious. On my journey to the capital, I was amused by a warm political conversation between a Bonapartist and a Royalist, who, I think, was more strenuous in the cause of Louis than he otherwise would have been, had he not been honoured with a cross, the ribband of which he wore in one of the button-holes of his coat.
We dined at Clermont: the first dish brought was vermicelli soup—then came the meat of which it had been made, but of which, judging that I had taken its essence in the soup, I declined to partake. Afterwards came some partridges baked, in a kind of pudding, to rags. Their flavour had been so abstracted by their covering, I suppose, that I asked what birds they were. Next entered, swimming in oiled butter, a fish with a livid-purple head, the name of which I was also obliged to enquire, and found that it was a barbel. I was soon, however, able to turn my eyes to a less novel, but more pleasing object, a fowl roasted and garnished with water cresses, but without liver, gizzard, or gravy. An omelette, with salad, pears, and walnuts, completed our dinner, my first regular one in France, and of which, consequently, I took more notice than usual on such occasions. The wine put down to us was small, but not badly flavoured: small as it is, however, the French always mix it with water. This repast, for which we paid each three francs, would have been better relished by me if some of my messmates had possessed cleaner hands, and tooth-picks more convenient than a French table-knife, which is an instrument quite rude enough for its intended purpose.
I arrived in Paris late on the evening of the 12th of December; and finding that I could be accommodated with a bed at the hotel where the diligence stopped, after eating some cold fowl, and drinking half a bottle of wine, I requested to be shewn to my chamber, the ascent to which was by a miserable dirty staircase. The room had a tiled floor, and felt very cold and comfortless; the bed was, however, good, and furnished with a clean pair of sheets.
Next morning, after being obliged to perform my ablutions without the use of soap, an article, as I said before, never found in the bedchambers of France without special requisition, I descended the common staircase, almost as dirty as any you ever saw in Edinburgh, and found at breakfast, in the coffee-room, an old gentleman of Boston, in America. He made me acquainted with the customs of the house, and introduced me, at dinner, to a gentleman from the Havannah, and another from a small town near Valenciennes, both of whom could talk English fluently, and were very sensible, well informed men, whose society has been very useful to me.
That day being rainy, (and, by the by, all Paris is more dirty than the dirtiest part of London,) I contented myself with studying the map of the city; and next morning repaired, brimful of anxious curiosity, to see the Louvre and its gallery.
Elated as I was, as almost every one must be who goes upon a similar occasion, and consequently apt for disappointment, I was confounded by its grandeur. No wonder—the court of the Louvre, which has been lately restored to its pristine magnificence, is, I am told by my Flemish friend, who has travelled all over Europe, the most superb thing of its kind existing. I found my way into the interior by means of an English officer, who, having conducted me through the gallery of statues on the ground floor, directed me up stairs to that containing the pictures.
The collection of statues has been much less encroached on by the hands of the austere justice, which has lately spoiled this famous assemblage of the finest works of art, than that of pictures. Of these, for one remaining, eight or nine have been removed; and many that are left are not, I think, worthy of having been in company with those returned to their former habitations.
There are some very fine statues which remain, and among these the Gladiator Pugnans; but the niches, which were so highly adorned by the celebrated Venus and Apollo, now yawn upon the mournful spectator with a melancholy vacancy. The galleries themselves, however, are so grand, that the sight of them alone may be esteemed a sufficient inducement for a visit to the Louvre; and indeed they seem to rejoice that their more attractive inmates have departed.
The picture gallery is badly lighted. It is the longest room I ever saw. Children, and persons of almost all ranks, were promenading through it the day I was there, which, I believe, was one on which it is open to the public at large, under the careful supervision, however, of some keepers, who wear the livery of the king's household.
In the evening I went to the Theatre Français, and saw Talma in Ulysse. I shall speak of this very excellent actor afterwards, when I describe the performance of the French Hamlet. This Theatre, where the legitimate French drama is represented, is very large, but of a very inconvenient form. The house is dirty now; but the decorations of the auditory were not, when new, so splendid as those of our London playhouses. It is lighted, as are all the theatres of Paris, by an immense chandelier suspended from the centre of the roof, without the aid of lamps or candles in front of the boxes. The orchestra, which is numerous and good, played, at the command of the audience, the national airs Vive Henri IV. and Channante Gabrielle.
The costume and scenery are very good—the former is superb, and correctly appropriate; the latter shifted only at the conclusion of each act. To each tier of boxes the price of admission is different—becoming less and less as you ascend, a regulation which ought to be adopted in our London theatres, where it is unreasonable to take the same price for the upper tier, as for those of the lower and dress circles. "They certainly manage these things better in France."—No females are permitted to enter the pit: there are, however, two seats in front, and four or five at the back, to which they may go; and the price of such seats is greater than that of the proper pit. The house was very full, for Talma always fills it; but I went late, and was badly situated. The afterpiece was adapted from the Sultan of Marmontel, which we have also on our English stage.
Next day, the 15th, having occasion to enter a hosier's shop, I had an opportunity of observing how necessary it is to beware of giving a French shopkeeper the full price which he will first ask for his goods, as he invariably demands more than they are worth, expecting, like the Jews in England, to be beat down considerably. His shop was on the Boulevards du Temple.
The Boulevards is a wide street or highway, with a separate foot-path on each side, and having between the footway and the coach road a row of trees, planted at regular distances, in the same way as the Mall in St. James's Park. The houses on each side are principally private ones, and large hotels, the residences of the nobility of France. There are also many small shops and stalls, and a great number of coffee-houses, and it is one of the principal promenades at Paris. It serves too as a boundary between the city and its suburbs, and on it are placed the gates of the city, of which the principal are Porte St. Denys and Porte St. Martin. They were both erected to perpetuate the remembrance of the glorious wars of Louis XIV., and are very noble, being sixty or seventy feet high, and embellished with well executed bas reliefs. They, like the Temple Bar at London, have each three ways through them; but they are much loftier than those of Temple Bar. It was by the Porte St. Martin, which opens into one of the principal streets of that part of Paris, that the allied sovereigns made their entry; the Porte St. Denys being the gate by which the kings of France usually entered.
In the evening I went to the Académie Royale de Musique, or the Opera House. The performances were Gluck's celebrated opera of Alceste, and a new ballet, called Flore et Zephyr. The orchestra is very numerous and ably directed; but the words of the opera are in the French language, which, in my opinion, is not so fit for musical expression as the Italian. The scenery and dresses were good, and, what you do not often find at an opera house, the acting was excellent. The vocal part of the performance is, however, much inferior to that in London, as Madame Catalani now sings at the Theatre des Italiens, of which her husband has lately become the proprietor.
The music of the ballet, which is delightful, is by Venua, whom I have heard play in concert on the violin in London. The story is prettily told, and the dancing, of course, the best in Europe. The house itself, like the Theatre Français, is dirty, and of an inconvenient form. It is very large, being capable of holding 3000 spectators. It does not appear, however, so large as the King's Theatre, Haymarket, nor was it ever so handsomely decorated.
It is not the custom in Paris, as in London, to go full dressed into the boxes of a theatre. On the contrary, nothing is more common than to see gentlemen with their great-coats of half a dozen capes, and ladies with their high walking bonnets, in the principal boxes in the house.
Next morning, 16th, on my way to St. Cloud, in order to report my arrival to the commanding officer, I passed through the court of the Palais des Tuileries, and saw the beautiful triumphal arch from which the Corinthian horses were lately taken. It is built almost entirely of the finest marbles, and is adorned with appropriate statues and bas-reliefs, which cover it in every part. But it is not, I think, well placed. It is a gate in form, but unlike a gate, it is not flanked by a fence; on the contrary, it stands alone, at a little distance from the superb iron rails, with golden tops, which inclose the court of the palace. It would be an improvement to bring forward the rail in a line with it, and so make a proper gate of it. The car at top remains, and the figures of Victory and Peace which conducted the removed horses; the latter are to be replaced by their models, now under the hands of the artist.
Upon the Quai des Tuileries I got into one of the many cabriolets which there ply for passengers to the towns in the neighbourhood. I passed the Champs Elysées, which appeared in a most forlorn state. They are planted with trees in every direction, in the trim formality of the ancient style, having alleys through all parts of them. But I saw no open lawns, or plots of grass, only one large grove of ugly trees, like some of the groves in Kensington Gardens, and the paths through them almost impassable.
In the villages of Plassy and Auteuil there are some large country-houses belonging to the rich merchants of Paris, but externally they shew nothing of the snug neatness and apparent comfort within of the country boxes about London.
The Bois de Boulogne, situated between Auteuil and a large village, at which I found my regiment, and from which the wood takes its name, is, I dare say, pretty enough in summer; but it has been much injured by the bivouac of the English and Hanoverians. In general the small boughs and tops of the trees have only been cut off; but in one part, which had been only planted a few years, the young trees have been cut to the ground. This spoliation of one of their principal places of recreation has naturally caused much discontent among the Parisians, and I have often, as an Englishman, been obliged to bear my portion of their complaints concerning it.
I found Colonel —— occupying the best bed-room of an excellent house belonging to a rich cambric merchant of Paris. The room was elegantly furnished, having the bed in a recess, the back of which was covered by an immense looking glass, the curtains (which are luxuries not always met with in the best French houses) being suspended from the top of the aperture of the recess. I was received with great cordiality, and pleading indisposition and want of military equipments, got leave to return to Paris for a few days.
I again mounted into my cabriolet, the day being very stormy, and proceeded back to Paris as fast as the miserable horse could draw me. On my way, which, for the greater part, lay along the banks of the Seine, I had an opportunity of admiring the bridge of Jena, which Blucher was about to destroy: I am glad he was prevented. It is of five arches, of a chastely elegant architecture; and the road over it is plane, as will be that over the Strand bridge at London. The piers, unlike those of the older bridges here, are very small, but sufficiently strong to resist the great rapidity of the river, which occasionally takes place after heavy rains have fallen in the country from which it flows.
On Sunday the 17th I accompanied my Flemish friend (he having a ticket of admission for the chapelle royale) to the Tuileries. After waiting some time for the breaking up of the council, we were permitted to pass up a very fine marble staircase to the Salon des Marechaux, the guard-room of the king's body guard. It is a handsome lofty apartment, hung round with pictures of the French marshals, and having a slight rail erected across it, in order to prevent the intrusion of those who have been admitted, upon the passage crossing it from the council chamber and hall of presentations, to the chapel. In a gallery, which goes round it, there are a few sets of old armour, and on the ceiling, which is divided into small compartments, the letter N still remains in each corner.
The uniform of the guard is very superb; they wear long blue coats with a silver epaulette on the left shoulder and an aiguillette upon the right, white kerseymere pantaloons, and long cavalry boots and spurs: their large helmets, of the Grecian form, are almost covered with silver embossed ornaments, and the white feathers in them are of a prodigious length. They are armed with a long straight cut and thrust sword, and a well finished fuzee or light musquet. Their cartouch-box belts are made of a broad silver lace, and were it not for their dirty gloves, they would be the most magnificently appointed corps I ever saw.
They are all fine young men, and, I suppose, are excellently mounted. I understand that they are principally men of family, and that before they can obtain admission to serve in this corps, their friends are called on to make over to them an allowance of 600 francs per annum; no great sum, considering that they thereby become equals in rank to the subalterns of the French army; their captains of companies being no less than marshals of France. They have, however, too much blood ever to behave with the requisite steadiness of a private soldier, if I may judge from the irregularity of the movements which I saw them put through by the officer who commanded them.
After waiting a considerable time, during which many officers and gentlemen of the court passed and repassed, the royal cavalcade approached. I saw Monsieur, and the Duke de Berri, and his majesty, the grand Monarque. He appeared in good health and in good humour. Many petitions were presented to him as he passed, all of which he very graciously received, and put into the hat of a gentleman on his left hand; I stood next to a poor woman who presented one. His majesty wore all his stars and crosses, and his blue ribband. The royal dukes had also their ribbands about them, and as each passed they were loudly acclaimed. One person behind me distinguished himself by adding forcibly the epithet bon to his Vive le Roi! His majesty was followed by the Duchess of Angouleme, attended by three or four ladies of the court, who, as usual, were no beauties. His majesty was preceded by his marshals, who, for the most part, are middle-aged men; they were superbly dressed in richly embroidered velvet coats and pantaloons, but I did not see one whose physiognomy betokened much of the great man.
In the chamber of presentations, into which I could not be admitted because I was not in a court dress or uniform, there were a great number of officers: it is a most magnificent room, and has in it some of the most beautiful chandeliers I ever saw. Finding that the chapel was quite full, and my friend being desirous, like a good catholic, of attending mass somewhere, we hastened to the cathedral of Nôtre Dame.
This was the first edifice which did not answer my expectations: it is not so spacious as many of our large religious buildings in England, nor is its style of architecture so appropriately solemn. The nave was filled with groups of people, each upon a common rush-bottomed wooden chair, (some at a very great distance from the priest officiating) and they seemed to pay little attention to their religious duties, except in tumbling on their knees whenever they heard the bell ring. The choir, however, though small, is very grand: it is paved with marble, the stalls are of finely carved wood-work, and its sculptured altar-piece, representing the descent from the cross, is excellent. There are eight large and very good paintings placed over the stalls, of which the archiepiscopal one is beautiful: but the painted windows of this cathedral are more adapted to a green-house than a place of holy worship, being made up of large square panes of differently coloured glass. It has two square towers at its west end, which are not so high as those of Westminster Abbey; they are, however, very richly ornamented externally, and the sculptured work about the grand entrance is very elaborate, but it is so much blackened and defaced by time as to have become almost unintelligible.
The great hospital, the Hôtel Dieu, is situated very near to the cathedral, but of the interior of this I cannot yet give you an account; its exterior has nothing worthy of notice. Of the Théâtre de l'Odeon I can only speak of the exterior, which is sufficiently handsome; it is a modern building in a large square, and approached by a new street which has the great convenience of a raised curbed footway; this, you must know, is a very great rarity in Paris, where, for the want of such a convenience, you are every minute exposed to the danger of being run over by the carriages and horsemen, who tear along the streets without any regard for pedestrians.
After a long walk in which I passed the Luxembourg palace, but could not get admission that day, I found myself in the Boulevards of the southern quarter of Paris. This quarter is much duller than that to the north of the river, consisting principally of large houses standing alone, and surrounded with high-walled gardens.
Proceeding along the Boulevard, I at length arrived at the Hôtel des Invalides, the Chelsea hospital of Paris; it is a noble building, and one of the most conspicuous in the city, owing to its high and splendid dome, half covered with gilt copper: this dome is very similar in form to those at Greenwich. I went into the chapel, which differs from all the churches I have seen here, in having convenient benches for the congregation. The architecture of that part of the building supporting the dome is very fine, but that of the other parts of this edifice is plain; I am told that in one of its galleries there is a collection of models of all the fortified towns of France, but it requires a special order to obtain admission into it. This building affords a comfortable asylum for 7000 officers and soldiers, who are clothed in an old-fashioned military dress, like our Chelsea pensioners, and who do the military duty of the place.
Not far from the Hôpital des Invalides is the Palais Bourbon, an extensive building but very low. A new front has been added to it on the side of the river, at the end of one of the bridges. This, the most elegant thing I know, is one vast portico, and is the entrance to the chamber of deputies composing the corps legislatif. It must be, I think, an imitation of one of the celebrated temples of Greece or Rome, its architecture is so classical and chaste. Upon four low pedestals at the foot of the steps, by which you ascend to the doors, are four colossal figures sitting, representing Sully and Colbert with two other celebrated statesmen, dressed in the habiliments of their respective offices.
In the evening I again went to the opera, and was much pleased with the excellent acting in the Vestal and in Nina. Old Vestris still keeps his pre-eminent station among the dancers in the ballet: they say that he is more than sixty years of age. The illustrious commander of the forces was there in his box, with some of his staff. All this on Sunday evening, recollect!
Next day, the 18th, I rode to Boulogne, and found myself, by chance of war, billeted at a boarding-school, in a very good apartment, and thought myself in high luck. I dined with Colonels —— and —— who requested me to form one of their mess, which honour I of course accepted.
On Tuesday, the 19th, I attended the battalion inspection of Lieutenant General Sir H. Clinton, the general officer commanding the 2d division: they were formed for this purpose, with the 91st regiment, in one of the great walks in the garden of St. Cloud. The bridge, over which we passed, is a very long one: it was blown up by the French on the advance of the allies to Paris this last time, and is now repaired only in a temporary manner.
The country about St. Cloud is very picturesque; the river winds luxuriantly through a valley, enclosed by hills planted with vineyards, and there are an immense number of country seats to be seen in all directions. On the top of a hill in the neighbourhood is Mount Calvary, on which a superb edifice has been commenced for the education of the children of deceased soldiers, but I believe it has not been proceeded with since the return of Louis XVIII.; the revenues of the state, I suppose, not being sufficient to enable the government to spend much on charitable purposes; and charity, no doubt, in France, as elsewhere, begins at home.
In the afternoon I returned to Paris, at a very slow pace, in a miserable cabriolet.
On Wednesday, Dec. 20, I went with my American acquaintance, to whom I had become a Ciceroni, to shew him the Corn Hall. This is a new, immense, circular building of brick and stone, having an enormous dome, which is constructed wholly of metal; the rafters are of iron; the inside of it is of tinned iron, and the outside of sheet copper. It is lighted by a large skylight in the centre. Its whole area beneath, into which you enter by a dozen or more gates, is paved, and completely covered by piles of flour and different grain in sacks.
On the outside there has been placed an old doric pillar of a great height, on which there is a curiously constructed sun-dial, which points out every moment of the day: the column, I suppose, is nearly an hundred feet high; at its bottom there is a small fountain. The Emperor of Russia, it is said, expressed greater admiration at the sight of the Corn Hall than of all the other public buildings in Paris.
The church of St. Eustache, close to the Corn Hall, is a very fine gothic edifice with a new Grecian front, surmounted by two square towers. Spires, as in London, are not seen in Paris, all the churches having either domes or towers. The interior of St. Eustache is decorated with some good pictures, and there is a charming statue of the Virgin and child. Its chapels are elegantly fitted up, particularly one, on the door of which there is a label, informing you that it contains the relics of some celebrated saint, whose name I have forgotten.
Next morning, the 21st, I accompanied Mr. G—— to the Lycée d'Henri IV., where the famous young American calculator, Zerah Colburn, was placed for the purpose of being educated. Mr. G. is acquainted with the father of this lad, and I believe is one of the committee, at the head of which is the worthy Alderman Brydges, of London. The boy is there learning Latin, but it is very evident that he has no genius for that expressive poetical language. He is, except on one subject, a very dull boy, and expresses himself so badly that it is difficult to understand his meaning. I put a simple arithmetical question to him, which he quickly answered, and correctly, as I afterwards found. He appears to be losing the talent which has acquired him the patronage of the scientific world, without gaining any thing but habits of indifference to his improvement; in my opinion, it is a loss of time and expense to endeavour to enlarge this boy's understanding by giving him a knowledge of the dead languages. Send him to Leslie or Bonnycastle, and perhaps his extraordinary talent may be improved, but the air of France is too refined for the genius of a plodder.
On our way to the Lycée d'Henri IV. we went into the new church of St. Genevieve, or the Pantheon; this is not yet, I believe, completed within, but from what I saw will be very handsome. It is not, at present, at all fitted up like a church, but is more like the parts of St. Paul's cathedral at London not occupied by the choir.
Below the building is the burying place of the great men of France, but into this we did not enter, the day being wet and cold. Its exterior is very grand, and its dome, after that of the Hôtel des Invalides, the finest in Paris. On the pediment, which is adorned with appropriate sculpture, is this inscription, "Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnoissante."
We now entered the church of St. Etienne, in which there is an old pulpit of carved wood, supported by a crouching human figure, with one knee on the belly of a lion, which seems crushed by the superincumbent weight, all formed of some hard wood in excellent preservation. There are a few fine paintings also, and some tapestry, among which I discovered, inappropriate enough in a church, a representation of the siege of Tournay. We next steered for the celebrated tapestry manufactory, but found that we applied for admission on a wrong day. On our return we passed by the Hôpital de la Pieté, which is very large, in order to see the Halle aux Vins, where may be conveniently stowed not less than 200,000 casks. It is a warehouse for brandies and vinegar as well as for wines. There are four immense buildings, of a great many roofs, something like the large tobacco bonded warehouse at the London Docks. It is quite a new building, and not yet completed.
We then looked into the calf market, which is also sufficiently convenient for its purpose, the sale of cows and calves, whence they are taken to be butchered at the public slaughter-houses in the suburbs.
In the evening I visited one of the minor theatres, le Théâtre de la Porte St. Martin, of which the music and decorations are very respectable.
The next day, the 22d, I repaired to the Musée des Monumens Français, a very interesting collection of the monuments which have been rescued from the ruins of the churches destroyed during the revolution. There are an immense number from St. Denys, the burial-place of the French kings. They are arranged in different apartments, according to their relative antiquity, from the time of king Clovis to the present. Some are worthy of attention for their excellent workmanship, and others for their ancient date. Among the former the monuments of Francis I. and the Cardinal de Richelieu interested me; and among the latter the tomb and monument of Abelard and Eloisa, in which are actually contained the real ashes of these far-famed lovers. Here are also specimens of painted glass of different ages, and some curious heathen idols, supposed to have been worshipped by the ancient Gauls. Many of the larger monuments are placed in a garden, suitably planted with willows, cypresses, &c. In fact, this museum is the Westminster Abbey of Paris, and well deserving of being visited by every traveller, who will find there two conductors equally civil and intelligent.
I afterwards went to the celebrated National Institute, and found my way into the library, which, though not so large as some others in Paris, is convenient; and its books, which are all very handsomely bound, are well arranged. A member, perceiving me to be a stranger, very politely shewed me the Salle des Séances, where their papers and communications are read. It is a comfortable warm room, and fitted up with desks and chairs in a very handsome style, much superior to the room in which our Royal Society hold their sittings. This gentleman, upon my telling him that I had the honour of a degree in medicine, said he should be very happy to introduce me to the president, and invited me to assist at their next sitting.
I was then conducted by an under librarian through three or four small apartments, lined with books, (in one of which he pointed out a curious piece of antiquity from Egypt, a kind of shirt, 4000 years old,) to the hall where the public sittings of the Institute are held every quarter. This hall is plain, but neat and convenient. Its antechambers, however, are magnificent. There are ten or twelve of the most beautiful statues I ever saw of their kind, representing the most celebrated philosophers and poets of France, all in sitting attitudes, and clothed according to the costume of the times in which they flourished.
There is another library under the same roof, which is a public one, and of course larger than that of the Institute. I believe it is called the Mazarine Library. There is in it a large terrestrial globe, of seven or eight feet diameter, having the boundaries of the land marked by a small silver fillet neatly inlaid. The globe is of metal, and the water is painted blue. It is so placed as to be easily referred to. Round this library there are some fine busts.
Behind the institute are placed the schools of painting and architecture. I obtained admission into the gallery of models, belonging to the school of architecture, and was much pleased by a collection of models of the most celebrated buildings of Greece, Palmyra, and Rome, executed in cork and plaster, in the same way as Du Bourg's in London. Here, for the first time, the man who shewed them to me asked for something à boire; and conceiving that his gallery was not usually open to the public, he got it.
The following morning, the 23d, I went to the Royal Library, which contains not less than 400,000 volumes, all in one gallery of the shape of the Greek letter π. This is open to the public for reference and amusement. The books are in general well bound. Here are the famous globes of Coronelli, of nearly forty feet in circumference. They are seen from the gallery, but they stand in a room below it, and enter the gallery by a large aperture in the floor. They have no merit but their size, which, however, does not prevent them from being easily turned upon their axes. They have been made fifty or sixty years; and of course the geographical discoveries which have taken place since are not depicted. Upon every country there is a representation of the dress and manners of its inhabitants; and on the various seas of the different kinds of ships made use of on them. There is also a model of the pyramids of Egypt, and a small group of bronze statues, representing the great French writers, on the top of Parnassus, a truly French idea!
Over the library of printed books, in two small rooms, there is a very complete collection of prints, bound and arranged according to their different schools. Here I saw several students copying from them.
In another part of the building is the library of manuscripts, where I also saw some bibles superbly bound in velvet, and ornamented with chased gold and precious stones. There are likewise exposed in glass cases, original letters of Henry IV. to la belle Gabrielle, and the Telemachus of Fenelon, in the hand-writing of that beautiful author.
Many valuable manuscripts, brought here from the Vatican and other Italian libraries, should, in justice, have been restored with the pictures and statues of that country; but, I suppose, not being of such interest to the general mass of the people there, they have been overlooked. There is also a valuable cabinet of Greek and Roman medals, and other antiquities; but not knowing this circumstance when I paid my visit there, I did not see them. The exterior of this large building has nothing worthy of notice.
From the Royal Library I went to the Museum of Natural History, at the Jardin des Plantes; and this is certainly a most complete collection of every created being that could be procured. There are three noble lions, as many lionesses, and four or five fine bears, one of which, some years ago, devoured a man who had descended by a ladder into his den, (a large open place inclosed in high walls,) for the purpose of getting a piece of money which he had dropt.
The animals, natives of tropical climates, are inclosed in a large circular building, kept comfortably warm by means of stoves. I was interested by some camels, which have bred here, as well as by a fine sagacious elephant. Every thing is perfectly clean, and well secured. The collection of voracious birds is complete; and as you walk through the garden, you are surrounded by fowls and ducks, sheep, goats, deer, and other tame animals, of different kinds.
The Cabinet of Comparative Anatomy is not better than that of the British Museum: but I saw some beautifully executed wax-work representations of the progress of the chick in ovo; and a skeleton of an amazing camelopard. Among the human skeletons is that of the assassin of General Kleber, who was tortured in Egypt, with a view of extorting from him the name of the person who had instigated him to the rash act. The mode of torture used was the application of fire to his hands, which he endured with surprising fortitude, without uttering a word of confession. The effects of the fire upon the bones of the hand are very visible.
The mineralogical collection, and that of serpents, small fishes, and stuffed birds, I have not seen. The botanical garden does not appear so good as that of Edinburgh.
There is a convenient anatomical theatre, for the prosecution of comparative anatomy; and from one part of the garden, near a fine cedar, planted by Jussieu, a good view of the city of Paris and its neighbourhood presented itself.
In the evening I saw the celebrated Talma in the character of Hamlet. It was but seldom that I could trace much resemblance between the Hamlet of the Théâtre Français and that of our immortal Shakspeare. From its very close similarity, however, in some parts, it must be an adaptation from the English. But it has been necessarily very much altered in order to suit it to the genius of the French stage, which requires pieces of more regular construction, than those of the wildly energetic Shakspeare, and that they should have the three unities, as they are called. In vain I expected the fine opening scene upon the platform. No ghost appeared during the whole performance; and I could find nothing like the original till the soliloquy—"To be, or not to be"—almost literally rendered.
The acting of M. Talma, however, is superior to any thing I have seen in England; and although the ghost is not introduced, yet it is very evident, from M. T.'s gestures, that he is not far off. The piece concludes with the chamber scene, in which Hamlet endeavours to point out to his mother the ghost of her murdered husband—"look where he goes, out of the very portal"—also literally rendered. But there is no Laertes, no Ophelia. The king is deposed. The queen, by the artful and exquisitely acted insinuations and questions of Hamlet, is almost made to confess her guilt, of which her suicide is a proof; and Hamlet ascends the throne of his father. The lady who played the queen is an excellent performer: I believe her name is Duchesnois. She is not young, and is of low stature. Talma is not tall.
Next morning, the 24th, after enjoying the luxury of one of the warm baths, with which Paris abounds, and for which you pay but one franc and a quarter, with something to the attendant for towels, &c., I paid my bill at the hotel, where I had lodged since my arrival, and went with bag and baggage in a cabriolet to my quarters at Boulogne, in order to unbend my mind a while from the fatigue of ever searching after novelties.
And here, my dear friend, I must conclude this long epistle. It can of course give you but little information. I have endeavoured to describe what I saw faithfully; and generally under the impulse of the ideas which they at first, prima facie, created. I must, therefore, necessarily have committed some errors, but none, I think, of much magnitude; these, if you will excuse, and think me not intrusive, at another opportunity I shall continue my narration.
From my thatched mud apartment at Tinques, a miserable
village between St. Pol and Arras. May 26, 1816.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
In compliance with your request, I continue my little journal, and shall be glad if it afford you half the entertainment which you have been pleased to say the former part has done; for I fear that the most interesting of my adventures have already been recounted.
Having learnt, soon after my arrival at my quarters, that the whole division of Lieutenant-General Clinton was under orders to march on the 27th Dec., towards the frontiers of Belgium, I determined to pass the 25th and 26th in seeing the royal palaces and gardens in the vicinity. Accordingly, on the 25th, Christmas-day, after having attended the celebration of a high mass at the parish-church, which was assisted by the rude but solemn music of two immense serpents; and having witnessed something like a Roman Catholic religious procession, I went to see the park and waterworks of St. Cloud.
This park, as it is called, is very different to our English parks, being destitute of the fine open plains and lawns which are so common to them, and which, indeed, with an Englishman, are as essential to the existence of a park as its waving woods and sheets of water, or its animated groups of sheep and deer. It is nothing but an extensive grove of tall slender trees, like those of the groves in Kensington Gardens, with narrow avenues cut through it in several directions. There is, however, one very handsome mall, bordered by lofty stately trees, of a sufficient width to hold fifty men abreast, and having on one side a long row of little shops, like those on the public walk at Tunbridge Wells, which are filled with toys and trinkets during the three weeks' fair held here every September; and, on the other side, (at the bottom of a wall which forms this promenade into a kind of terrace,) flows the river Seine, which is here much wider than at Paris. This promenade is entered near the bridge of St. Cloud, by a handsome iron rail-fence, and leads to the cascades and basins of the water-works.
The boasted cascade, as I saw it, is not superior to that at Bramham Park in Yorkshire; and I dare say, to some others in England. Its frogs, and toads, and crocodiles of lead, which swarm in and about it, although, no doubt, they were esteemed vastly appropriate to the aquatic scene by M. le Nôtre, are so many hideous colossuses, which excite the disgust of the spectator, and his contempt of the false taste which created them for any place but the borders of the river Styx. There is, however, a most superb jet d'eau, which, as to its height, nearly 100 feet, must give, I suppose, to the Icelandic traveller, an idea of the celebrated geysers of that island.
I had no opportunity that day of seeing the interior of the palace; but, from all accounts, I have not thereby lost much, most of its furniture and paintings having been lately removed. It is situated above the park, on a steep eminence, and must have a most beautiful prospect of the meanderings of the river, and of Paris in the distance.
The next day I went to see another royal chateau at Meudon, near Sevres. Like that at St. Cloud, it stands upon a hill, and possesses almost the same view. This was the nursery of the little king of Rome, but appears to be now quite deserted, and much out of repair, the park having been lately occupied by the Prussian artillery. Its terraces, however, are in good order. They are very extensive; and under them are hot-houses and green-houses of every description. The hills in its neighbourhood are thickly planted with wood.
On my return I rode through the desolate courts of a large palace, near that of Meudon, formerly inhabited by a princess of the blood-royal, but now completely in ruins. The face of the country hereabouts consists of rocky hills, the sides of which are in general covered with vines or underwood. A sharp skirmish took place on these heights when the allies advanced to Paris, on which occasion the bridges at Sevres and St. Cloud were both blown up by the French, and are now only repaired in a temporary manner.
The next day, the 27th, after seeing major-general O'Callaghan's brigade, consisting of the 3d, or buffs, the 39th, and the 91st, march off for Chantilly and its neighbourhood, and having procured leave to join them after their arrival there, I returned with my friend Colonel —— to Paris, who did me the honour to dine with me at my hotel, after having been shopping together all the morning.
On my way to the Hôtel de Ville next day, I traversed many of the quays and ports by the river side; of which the largest is the Port au Blé, where the corn and flour brought by water to the Paris markets is landed. But, unlike the quays of London, these are quite large enough for the little traffic which appears to be carried on upon them. They have no warehouses; but here and there are wooden huts, which are the counting-houses of the merchants; and on the quays, almost close to the water's edge, you see immense stacks of hay, of straw, and of wood, and long rows of casks of wines and cider. The hay, thus exposed, often becomes wet; and I have more than once, in fine weather, seen the process of hay-making carried on upon these paved quays, but with what advantage to it I leave you to judge.
The Hôtel de Ville, or Town Hall, is an old-fashioned and apparently inconvenient building, of a quadrangular form, with a large court in the middle; but as Paris cannot boast of the tumultuous livery-meetings of London, it may perhaps be sufficiently large for its principal purpose, the transacting of the judicial business of the department. It forms one side of the Place de Grève, a spacious square in which the public executions are carried into effect.
On my return I looked into the church of St. Louis St. Paul, formerly belonging to the Jesuits. It appeared to me unusually plain, containing but two or three paintings; but it was enriched, prior to the revolution, by two most superb monuments, and several excellent pictures. The figures of these monuments, I understand, were of silver, having their draperies of the same precious metal gilt. They represented four angels of the human size, holding two gold hearts, containing the hearts of Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. The exterior of the building is very highly finished, but possesses no leading feature of much interest.
On the 29th I walked to one of the extremities of the town to see the large military hospital at the Val de Grâce. It was originally built, I believe, for a monastery, and has been a very noble edifice, but it is now apparently out of repair. The chapel has been turned into a military storehouse, and the dormitories and other parts now form a sufficiently convenient military infirmary.
In the evening I went to the Opera: the performances were "Iphigènie en Aulide," and "Flore et Zephyr." The music of the former is by Gluck, and consequently learned and elegant, while that of the ballet, of which I think I gave you an account in my last, is enchantingly delicious.
Having seen the ballet before, I devoted my whole attention to the music, by shutting my eyes and reclining on a vacant bench in the box, and I certainly never experienced more gratification of the kind, being now and then completely intoxicated by it. No doubt, you have sometimes felt the same effect in a degree, and can therefore well conceive the power which has been attributed to music by the ancient medical writers, upon the human mind, when it was less civilized, but consequently more susceptible of external impressions; indeed I almost literally believe what we hear of Orpheus upon this subject.
The next morning I went to the Hôtel des Monnaies, where I saw the collection of medals, which have been struck from time to time, in order to commemorate the great events France has experienced since the accession of Francis the first: they are of copper, and in general well executed. They may, however, be procured either of gold or silver, as I was informed by an English countess, who came there to make inquiries for some which she had ordered to be made for her.
That evening I could not resist the inclination once more to hear Madame Catalani, at the Théâtre des Italiens. The opera was "Il Fanatico per la Musica," by Mayer, which has been often played in London. Catalina's singing is infinitely preferable to any other which I have heard in Paris, and, if I may judge from the manner in which the theatre was filled, her talents are duly estimated by the French. The house is not large, but newly and tastily decorated, and I dare say she is making money there; although her income, as proprietor of the theatre, is less sure than when in London she was performing at an enormous salary. No ballet is played at this theatre.
On Sunday the 31st I repaired to the celebrated gallery of the Palais de Luxembourg, in order to see the series of paintings, by Rubens, descriptive of the principal events in the life of Marie de Medicis, the queen of Henri IV. They are about twenty in number, all of a very large size, and in excellent preservation. They have been called Rubens' poem, and certainly with so much justice, that if an accurate description of them were made in verse, it could not fail of becoming in every particular an epic poem of the first order.
He has employed, with excellent judgment, a good deal of celestial machinery, as it is called, and so intelligibly, that any one the least versed in mythology can at once discover his meaning. I shall always quote this fine collection as a forcible proof of the very intimate alliance of painting to poetry; they are not merely sisters, they are twin sisters; and I now doubt whether Rubens, in the enjoyment of the former, had not a richer prize than even Milton in the possession of the latter.
There is another collection of smaller pictures here by Lesueur, which is also much talked of, but certainly very much inferior to that just noticed: it describes the life of St. Bruno, the founder of the order of Carthusians; but unlike Rubens' divine poem, this is a mere insipid matter-of-fact representation of the adventures of an individual, much less interesting, to the generality of spectators, than Dr. Syntax or Johnny Newcome.
In another wing of the palace there is a fine assemblage of views of the sea-ports of France, exquisitely painted by Vernet, and by Hue a living artist. In the view of Boulogne, by the latter, there existed a few months ago a very good likeness of Bonaparte at the head of his staff, ascending the heights on a review day: he was represented in the act of giving charity to a crippled soldier; but lately, his imperial countenance has been "transmogrified" to the ugly mug of Marshal Any-body.
There are also a few good modern statues, among which the Baigneuse, by Julien, is lovely, being almost equal, in my opinion, to the far-famed Venus de Medicis: the French are very proud of this statue; and indeed it must appear to every one, as it struck me, a first-rate production of human art. The fine marble staircase and the ceilings must also be noticed as very grand and striking.
The exterior of this palace, which is now the House of Peers, has nothing very remarkable. It is a large regular building of a pure style of architecture: but its gardens are almost as fine as those of the Tuileries; they are, however, in bad condition, owing to the encampment of the Prussians, which has only of late been broken up: they were in small wooden huts, built in the principal walks and avenues of the garden.
By the by, I must not omit to mention that in Rubens' gallery there was a carpenter at work, mending the inlaid floor, although Sunday; a pretty example of attention to the fourth commandment.
The church of St. Sulpice, of which I shall next take notice, is one of the finest structures of its kind in Paris. Its architecture is very chaste and beautiful, especially that of the interior, which has more the air of our great religious edifices than French churches usually have. It possesses many fine chapels, but the chapel of the Virgin is the most venerable looking spot I have ever seen. Indeed I was completely awe-struck by it, and almost instinctively returned, to experience again the pleasing calm which its first appearance had excited in me. Upon examining the outer wall of the building, I found that this effect was produced by the ingenious manner in which its altar piece, which is a chef d'œuvre in sculpture, received its light: it is a statue of the Virgin and child, with a surrounding representation of clouds and little cherubs, placed in a niche, which is lighted by a small window over the head of the statue. The window is not discernible, but I suppose it is formed of ground glass, or something like it; at all events, the effect is almost magical, and although no catholic, I see no impropriety, in such a vortex of vice as Paris, in endeavouring by any means, even by an image or a painting, to abstract the human mind, for one short moment, to ideas above it.
This church, which is not old, I understand was one of Bonaparte's favourite churches, and to shew it to more advantage, he pulled down its surrounding houses, in order to form a large square before it, in the centre of which he erected a very handsome fountain.
Near this square is the École de Médecine, a large and noble building, enclosing an open court, from which you enter to the different lecture rooms. Its style of architecture is pure and manly, and its interior, as far as I could judge by looking through some of the windows, is conveniently arranged. I went thither intending to have heard one of Vauquelin's lectures on chemistry, but, it being holiday-time, there was no admission. The fountain near it is also worthy of notice, from its massive Grecian architecture, and its being a reservoir of the waters from the celebrated aqueduct at Arcueil, which, on account of their petrifying qualities, are brought to Paris, only, I suppose, to be used medicinally.
In the evening I accompanied two friends to the parterre of the Opera House. The performances were Les Badayeres and the ballet of Psyche: the music of the opera, by Catel, was but indifferent, and poor Psyche was too much bedeviled.
After the opera we resolved to end the year at the Café de France, in the Palais Royal, where we supped, à la mode Anglaise, on oysters, bread and butter, and beer, to the apparent astonishment and amusement of not less than seventy or eighty Frenchmen.
On Monday, 1st January, I went a second time to the Jardin des Plantes, in order to see that part of the Museum of Natural History which I had not time to inspect on my former visit. But I found that the porter had gone holiday-making so I contented myself by observing the various live foreign animals which may be seen in various parts of the garden, enclosed in proper fences, and by ascending a prospect-mount, erected for the purpose of overlooking Paris and its environs, of which, the day being clear, I had a very fine view. Returning, I crossed the Pont du Jardin, formerly called the Pont d'Austerlitz, a noble bridge of iron upon stone abutments; this and the other iron bridge at Paris, the Pont des Arts, leading to the National Institute, are the only two where they demand toll from passengers.
I then walked all along the Boulevards to the Porte St. Denys, passing the beautiful fountain on the Boulevard de Bondi. This is very large and circular, and embellished with several well executed figures of lions couchants, whose mouths serve for the passage of the water. On my way I passed many groups of people all dressed in their best clothes, amusing themselves by looking at the drolleries of mountebanks and puppet shows, with which the Boulevards were swarming; others were playing at games of skill and hazard, while some were exercising in swings and round-abouts; indeed it was almost like an English fair, and it appeared to me that all Paris was merry-making, on account of the arrival of the new year.
In the evening I went to the Théâtre de la Gaieté, one of the minor playhouses, but it was so filled by holiday folks that the only vacant place was the stage box. This house is small and dirty, but the music and dresses were good. A great many people in the boxes were eating little holiday sweetmeats. On my return home I witnessed, for the first time, a slight disturbance in one of the streets, and some national guards about to break their way into a house.
The next day I repaired to the gallery of the Louvre, in order to see a collection of the celebrated porcelain exposed for sale there, from the manufactory at Sevres; and although I found that others were only admitted upon shewing an order from a certain duke, to whom I was referred, yet upon my telling the porter that I was a foreigner about to leave Paris the next day, he very civilly permitted me to walk up, without further trouble to his grace or myself. They shewed me several most superb vases of very large dimensions, and a portrait of Louis XVIII. as large as life, painted upon porcelain. I saw also a very beautiful desert service of landscapes and sea views, and an immense variety of inkstands, &c.; but as I am no great admirer of nick-nackery, I passed by them without observing further than that though the composition of this celebrated manufacture may be of a finer texture than ours made at Worcester and elsewhere, yet that they do not exceed us in the painting and gilding of it.
In the evening I went to witness one of the most abominable scenes which human nature can possibly present,—a gambling table—but not without having previously fortified myself against any attack which might induce me to partake of its horrible iniquity. I first entered into a large anteroom, in which were stationed two gens-d'armes, (for strange to say, these sinks of vice are licensed and protected by the French government,) and three or four men, one of whom asked me for my hat and stick, which he hung upon a peg at the top of the room by means of a long pole; near the peg was a number painted on the wall, and he gave me a small wooden ticket with the same number marked on it. I suppose there were at least 500 numbers, so extensive was this den. I then entered a large room, in which was a table surrounded by the wretches who confide in its dishonourable and ruinous traffic, upon some of whose countenances might easily be traced the inward distraction of their souls, while others, callous no doubt by use to its variable fortune, sat round it with a sottish kind of indifference. Each person had a short wooden hoe, with which he placed his stake upon the red or black, as he thought proper, and with which he brought his adversary's counters to him if he proved successful.
At each table, the men who presided, (the proprietors, I believe, of the table,) called the bankers, were well dressed, and near them lay long rouleaux of dollars and louis. There were three tables in three different rooms, for the convenience, it appeared to me, of the different classes of gamesters; of those whose customary stake was but a franc or two, as well as those who risked at each throw their ten or twenty louis. The greatest apparent discipline was observed, nor was there any noise or squabbling; and, from what a casual looker-on, like myself, could see, the chances of the game were nearly equal. This, however, cannot be the real case, or otherwise the proprietors of these places could not afford to pay the immense sums which they do to government for their licenses, which afford a very considerable revenue, there being a great number of them established in the Palais Royal.
The rooms were very much crowded and very hot, and I was soon glad to quit for ever such a scene, into which nothing but a natural, although perhaps not a laudable, curiosity had induced me to enter.
Repassing the entrance chamber, upon shewing my ticket and paying three or four sous to the Cerberus of this hell, I regained my hat and cane, and escaped a better man, I trust, than when I was admitted, inasmuch as I there received a lesson which will ever prevent me from resorting, under any circumstances, to a place where loss is ruin, and success dishonour.
I then went to the celebrated Café des Mille Colonnes, but was disappointed in not seeing the beautiful Limonnadière, who, I understand, was formerly a chere amie of Murat, and by whom she was enabled to become the proprietress of this expensive coffee-house. In her room, however, sat, like a wax figure, to be stared at by every one, a young woman of a tolerable degree of beauty, very superbly set off by trinkets of all descriptions, transferred to her, I believe, for the mere purpose of attraction, by her more beautiful predecessor. The coffee-room is very large, and fitted up with nothing but looking-glasses and imitations of marble. Near the centre is a copy of the Venus de Medicis, which, with its twenty or thirty columns and pilasters, is reflected in every direction; but it would be difficult to count, in any one part, its 1000 columns, or even 200 of them.
The next morning, 3d Jan. I started to join my regiment at Creil, but again returned to Paris upon duty, not having tasted any thing that day, from five in the morning until eleven at night, but a crust of bread and a glass or two of brandy; a slight privation, which rendered a cold fowl, a bottle of Burgundy, and a comfortable bed, the more cheering and acceptable.
Having accomplished the business which caused my return, I next day promenaded two or three hours in the gardens of the Tuileries, the St. James's Park of Paris. They are the boasted chef d'œvre of Le Nôtre, and in summer, no doubt, are very pretty. There are many fine statues, most of them copied after the most celebrated antiques, and four or five fountains, but which only play on holidays. I do not recollect to have seen any benches, which are so common on our promenades, but in their stead there are persons who let out chairs, by the hour, for two of which, I believe, you pay a penny.
Returning by the Boulevards, I saw, for the first time, some French cuirassiers, or heavy dragoons in armour: the cuirass is made of iron, and does not appear to be very inconvenient to the wearer, although I am told that the front and back pieces weigh together 24 pounds; but it would be a great improvement in the martial appearance of the men, if their large loose woollen breeches were concealed by something like the Highland kilt.
The same day I saw reviewed two battalions of the newly organized Garde Royale, formed principally from the old imperial guard, who distinguished themselves at the battle of Fleurus, as the French call our Waterloo; but I did not think much of their appearance. Their martial music was too noisy, the sound of their clarionets being overwhelmed by that of their drums and cymbals, which are too large and too often introduced.
In the evening I went to the house of a person styling himself the Abbé Faria, a professor of animal magnetism, in order to see its effects upon those persons susceptible of its influence. The Abbé is a stout muscular man, of a mulatto complexion, and of a countenance which has more of the knave than the fool in it. The room was filled with the best of company of all ages, among whom I met Mr. L. and his friend Count B. Previous to the Abbé's lecture and the exhibition of his powers, L. and myself were anxious to know if we were susceptible. He accordingly requested me to shut my eyes, and applied his finger to my forehead and temples; but he said I was too robust for his purpose, but that poor L., who I suppose was trembling as much as if Old Nick himself had put his claws upon his forehead, was susceptible. The Count, who, entre nous, appears to be a sound sterling man, was also deemed of too robust a habit.
After a short lecture, in which he affected to treat the subject in a rational philosophical point of view, and to talk very finely of the influence of the soul upon the body, and so forth, he called from the company a lad about sixteen years of age, who placed himself in a large easy chair in the centre of the room, and retiring himself three or four paces from him, asked if he wished to sleep,—Oui was the answer; accordingly the lad threw himself back upon the squab-lining of the chair, and in a few minutes after, fetching two or three deep sighs, was apparently in a sound sleep. He was asked if he slept tranquilly—he answered non, with the drawling tone of a person sleeping. The Abbé then advanced to the chair, and moving his hand with an air of command, said, "Calmez, calmez," loud enough to have awakened all the people in the room, even had they been sleeping as you and I sleep. After a short time, having answered Oui to the question Dormez vous profondément? the Abbé asked him how he felt,—whether his complaint in the chest was alleviated? to which he replied in the affirmative. He was next asked what must be done for a person afflicted with rheumatism, to which question he answered with the apparent judgment of Hippocrates; for you must know that a person when thus under the influence of somnambulism, as the Abbé chose to designate it, has the power of seeing the diseases, and of stating the proper remedies for them to any one of the company whom he may be desired to fix his attention upon.
The chair was now taken by a young lady, who did not fall asleep so soon as her predecessor, owing, as the Abbé said, to her too great agitation of mind. Two or three "Calmezs," however, tranquillized her, and she became a second Galen, answering to many questions upon the improving state of health of a young man who had been apparently dying of consumption, but restored by the wonderful operations of this fair enchantress and the black magician.
A French colonel then sat down, but his scepticism was at first too great to permit him to be influenced, for you must know that it requires implicit faith and great tranquillity of mind in order to be made susceptible. He got up in a profuse state of perspiration, without having had a glimpse even of this new light. A very stout gentleman next sat down, but professing himself an unbeliever of course arose again no wiser than at first. The French colonel now mustering all his faith, again disposed himself to be acted on, and consequently was so. He slept, however, uncomfortably, and the Abbé asked him if he would drink any thing to refresh him. He answered, Yes. The Abbé then gave him some plain water, which he told him was weak spirit and water with sugar, and asked him if he did not taste them. He said he tasted the spirit but not the sugar. He was asked if he saw his own heart—Yes. Is it in good order?—Yes. How are your lungs?—Bad. Do you wish to know what remedies are applicable for them?—Yes. Come to me again to-morrow at two o'clock—I cannot; I have an appointment at that hour. Come to me on Sunday—Very well; at two o'clock. The Abbé then awakened him "secundum artem," and asked him if he recollected any part of the conversation with him, to which, to the evident confusion of the Abbé, he replied that he was to come to him again on Sunday, but that he recollected nothing else.
A little girl of five or six years old was afterwards placed in the chair, but the Abbé could not affect her.
By the by, I have forgotten to state that he professed to have the power of paralyzing any part of the body merely by forcibly exclaiming Paralysez, as he did when the young lady was the subject of his skill; and that this magnetic sleep is so far from refreshing, that the young man who was under its influence not more than ten minutes, awoke yawning and quite exhausted by it. So much for animal magnetism, and its somnifying qualities, which, although many of the first class of Parisians have implicit faith in it, I have no doubt you will consider with me mere charlatanism.
The next morning, after lounging away two or three hours in the garden of the Tuileries and on the Boulevards, studying men and manners as they are exhibited in Paris, I went into one of the Panoramas, where I saw a view of Naples, represented under a hazy Mediterranean noon. The effect was good; but although I made due allowance for its having been painted seven years, it appeared much inferior as to execution and finishing to those we have seen in London. The comparison made me more than ever sensible of the merit of our ingenious countryman Barker.
On the 6th I ascended Mont Martre, and discovered the spot from which the panoramic view of Paris was taken which was exhibited in London two years ago; but the weather was so unfavourable, that I did not recognize its similarity to the scene before me so precisely as no doubt I otherwise should have done.
Returning, I went to see the foundation of a most superb religious edifice, which Bonaparte was about to complete, as a kind of military chapel, under the name of the Temple of Glory. It appears at present very like one of the celebrated ruins of Palmyra, being nothing more than a collection of the bases and lower parts of the shafts of its intended columns. But these are so justly proportioned, and so classically placed, that it is easy to conceive what would be its magnificent effect if ever finished.
It is also most advantageously situated, being at the end of one of the streets passing from the Place Vendôme, in the centre of which stands the celebrated triumphal column, erected to the glory of the French armies, and formed in great part of the cannon taken by them in Germany.
This pillar of vain glory is not so high as the Monument of London, nor so well terminated at the top. Like the ancient Roman columns, built for similar purposes, it is surrounded by a belt, encircling the shaft in a spiral direction, on which are represented the various actions of the campaign, that terminated with the battle of Austerlitz, and the occupation of Vienna. These bas-reliefs, however, although no doubt extremely flattering to French vanity, spoil altogether the architectural beauty of the column, and would certainly have been seen to more advantage on the interior of the walls of the Temple of Glory, or some such building.
The Théâtre des Italiens, where Catalani performs, is a building deserving notice, as a fine piece of architecture; and, like the Théâtre de l'Odeon, forms one side of a small square, which renders the approach to it safe and easy; for in this respect the Opera House and Théâtre Français are as inconveniently situated as our Drury-lane or Covent-garden. Speaking of the external appearance of the French theatres, the Théâtre de l'Opera Comique ought not to be passed by without observing the well-sculptured caryatides which embellish its front.
The next day, Sunday, the 7th of January, I visited the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. This is an establishment in the old priory of St. Martin, for the deposition of all patent machines, which are here exhibited to the public for their improvement and amusement. Specimens also of the various manufactures of France in cotton, silk, wool, and leather, are here deposited, with the tools, utensils, and machines employed in making them.
One long gallery is filled with models of different manufactories, such as powder-mills, of which you see the graining-room, and drying-room, with the different implements so arranged as if the mill were actually at work. There are also brick and lime-kilns, iron-founderies, sawing-mills, splitting-mills, porcelain manufactories, and potteries, oil of vitriol works, and every kind of public manufactory, all made after a certain scale, and with such apparent precision, that they give perhaps to a spectator a more complete idea of their several uses than if he were in the very manufactories which they represent. I was amused by an immense collection of little windmills and watermills, both under-shot and over-shot, with their sieves, &c.
They exhibit also a great variety of lamps, oil being usually burnt in France, and many different kinds of locks, one of which, a door-lock, had an ingenious piece of mechanism attached to it, for the purpose of seizing any one by the hand who should attempt to pick it. But, in general, the show of locks, as well as every article of hardware and cutlery, was much inferior to the hard and sharp ware of English make.
The old church of the priory is filled with agricultural implements and fire-engines. The former, as far as I am a judge, are much ruder than ours; but different kinds of land must certainly require different kinds of ploughs and harrows, &c. The fire-engines are numerous, among which I observed one of Bramah's. I saw too a very clever kind of fire-escape, consisting of a series of ladders, of different widths, which are placed upright on a small truck running on four low wheels, and which, when brought to the required situation, are worked up one above another to any height, by the means of a windlass. Among a variety of very beautiful time-pieces, one is remarkable for the complicated structure of its pendulum. This is made upon the old English principle, of two self-correcting metals, which you know thus keep it of the same length in all temperatures and climates; but the different pieces of metal are joined together in a curious manner, the use of which I do not understand. The ball of this pendulum is a little chronometer, keeping, they say, exact time with the large one, which itself preserves in motion. To another time-piece, made by a German, there is attached on the top a very pretty little orrery, inclosed in a glass sphere, on which are engraved, with fluoric acid, the different, constellations, &c. Here is also the car in which was performed the first aërial voyage ever undertaken; but it is a clumsy, heavy thing, of the size and shape of a large slipper-bath.
On Monday, the 8th of January, I left Paris with regret, but with the hope of again visiting it, and joined my regiment at Creil, a poor dirty town, near Chantilly, where I was obliged to content myself with a nasty unfloored apartment in a miserable auberge. During the first fortnight I scarcely stirred from the house, the surrounding country being all under water.
On the 28th of January, having received orders to march for the frontiers, I left Creil, after sojourning there three weeks, during which nothing occurred to me worthy of notice, but a trip to Chantilly, the former residence of the Prince de Condé. But little now remains of that which was undoubtedly the finest chateau in France, excepting the stables, and their necessary accompaniments, then occupied by a detachment of our waggon train, being large enough for the accommodation of 300 horses. They are at some distance from the high road, from which they look like the chateau itself. A book is published, with twenty descriptive plates, giving an account of the chateau and grounds as they formerly existed, a copy of which I purchased on the spot.
At Amiens, where I had leave to halt for a few days, I by good luck got myself billeted on the house of a young gentleman with whom I travelled from Boulogne sur Mer on my first arrival in this country. I found his father a sensible, well-educated man, but low and desponding on account of the general distressed state of his commercial connexions, and his mother an active domestic woman, although of a rich and superior family. Being received with great cordiality, I of course found myself very comfortable. With this family I might have boarded for four Napoleons per month, including every thing,—about 40l. per annum.
Amiens is a fine old town, they say of 60,000 inhabitants; but unless they are closely packed, I should think of not more than 40,000. It is clean, but dull; and there is only one public building worthy of notice, the cathedral. This is certainly very fine, but wants a lofty spire or a handsome tower to make it what it ought to be. It was built by the English, when the good Henry VI. was King of France, and in many parts resembles the edifices in England erected during the same period, especially in its nave, which the French speak of proverbially, and which I think is the only part of English fabrication. It is in the form of a cross, as usual, and has two low square towers at the west end; these have an awkward appearance, and are badly proportioned to the rest of the building, the one being lower considerably than the other, but why I do not know, the necessity of this deviation from architectural uniformity not being sufficiently evident to pass with me as faultless. The grand entrance is highly ornamented by an immense number of sculptured busts and animals, with full-length figures. The interior of the nave is very chaste and elegant, and the wood-work of the stalls in the choir is the best finished thing of the kind I ever saw.
There are a few good paintings and statues in the chapels, among which the statue of the Enfant Pleurant is well worthy of admiration. It is placed behind the high altar, and was erected to the memory of some former prior of the cathedral, but it is unfortunately damaged a little. The stained glass windows are also good and appropriate.
Amiens has been a regularly fortified town; but nothing now remains of its works except an old defenceless citadel, and its ruined ramparts. Strangers are however denied access to the citadel, as is generally the case in the fortified towns of France, although it merely serves at present for a barrack to the legion of the department. The ramparts, or boulevards, have been planted, and are a pretty promenade. Amiens is situated on the Somme, the stream of which, although small here, is very rapid, and turns several mills in the city and vicinity. It intersects the town in many parts, and affords more opportunities of cleanliness than the inhabitants take advantage of. I went twice to the theatre-once to the parterre for a franc; and another night took the gentleman on whom I was billeted to the boxes, paying two francs for each. The company is very good, and the house convenient and tastily decorated.
Here also is a place like our Exeter 'Change; but the goods there exposed are very far inferior to ours in every respect. The corn market is the only other building of note, besides an old hospital, the Hôtel Dieu.
After a week's residence at Amiens, I came on to St. Pol, and found my regiment quartered in its neighbourhood, in the most miserable dirty villages I suppose you ever knew; at one of which, from whence I now write, I took up my abode, with the requisite resignation to my lot, content with a good wood fire, a mattress or two, and a sound thatched roof.
On the 18th of March I set out for Cambray, through Arras and Douay, the two principal cities in this neighbourhood. Arras contains about 20,000 inhabitants, but is irregularly built, and badly paved. It possessed formerly a very handsome cathedral, which, I believe, with all its churches, except one, were demolished by the frenzy of the revolutionists, during the reign of terror, as it is now and then called. A new one in its place has been commenced, but has not been proceeded with for many years. When completed, it will be a very superb edifice, of Grecian architecture.
The library, which belonged to the clergy of the late cathedral, is still in good preservation, and in a very handsome building which formed part of the accompanying Abbey of St. Wast. Most of the books are theological; but there are also some good collections of prints and manuscripts. At one end there is a paltry museum of subjects in natural history, "an alligator stuffed," a comb which formerly formed part of the toilette of King Dagobert, one of the first race of French monarchs, and with which I arranged my dishevelled locks, an old queen's shoe, and a few other paltry antiquities not worthy notice.
The theatre at Arras is dirty, and the company bad; but there are occasionally very good concerts, at one of which I was much diverted with the attempt of an amateur to amuse the audience by his singing, which undoubtedly he did, but not in the manner his egregious vanity led him to suppose.
A Mademoiselle Noyen was the principal singer, and certainly of no mean talents. She was living at the same hotel where I chanced to be, and I had frequent opportunities of listening to her as she was practising her lesson for the evening.
Arras is one of the towns on which Marshal Vauban exercised his uncommon talents as an engineer. It is one of the largest fortresses in France, but, with the exception of the citadel, might easily be taken by the present mode of warfare. I was at least an hour walking round its ramparts, which are still kept in pretty good condition. In consequence of being formerly thought impregnable, one of the gates long bore this inscription:
It was, however, taken by Louis XIII.; and this distich was then modified by removing the p from the word prendront, thus making it rendront. Arras formerly belonged to the Spaniards, who built a very large square, surrounded by piazzas and shops, or magazins. There is also a smaller square, at one end of which is the Hôtel de Ville, a very fine old structure, with an immensely high tower, surmounted with a large sculptured crown of excellent workmanship. The barracks are spoken of as the best in France, but they are apparently much less convenient than those of the fortified towns in England.
On the 20th I set out in the diligence for Douai, at six o'clock in the morning; and although its distance from Arras is not more than six leagues and a half, I was five hours on the road. Douai is a large city, of 15,000 souls, but capable of containing many more, being in a great measure deserted. It is strongly fortified, but the works are rapidly hastening to decay. Here is a large handsome square, the streets also are well paved, and have the rare convenience of a raised foot-pavement in many of them. But the weather was so rainy, that I proceeded as quickly as possible to Cambray in a returning cabriolet, which luckily I found at the hotel. The Danish contingent of 5000 men, commanded by the Prince of Hesse, was in the neighbourhood. They appeared very well liked by the inhabitants on whom they were billeted, who styled them braves gens. Like the English, they wear a red uniform, and are very well appointed; but their knowledge of the modern art of war, like Michael Cassio's, can be "but from bookish theory."
I reached Cambray about five o'clock, but found it so full of English, it being the head-quarters of the army, that I went to two inns, and could not find house-room. I then applied for a billet on some inhabitant from the British commandant, but he was a little sulky at being intruded upon after office-hours, so I determined upon trying for admission at some other inn, and found a good table d'hôte and clean bed-room at the Petit Canard, with tolerable company, and reasonable charges.
Cambray is not a handsome town: the large Place is irregularly built; and there is not one public building of any beauty. The cathedral has been destroyed, nothing of it having escaped but an old long building, which is now a kind of picture-gallery, where there are a few small good scriptural pieces, the coffin containing the ashes of the immortal Fenelon, and a monument to the memory of some former bishop. There is a plain marble bust of Fenelon at the foot of his coffin, which is placed upon a stand at one end of the room. The coffin is quite plain, of oak, bound round here and there with red tape, and sealed with the seal of the bishoprick. The frail old tenement, in which the remains of this beautiful writer are deposited, I believe is inclosed in this outer one, which I kissed with a literary veneration.
The abbey church of St. Sepulchre is worthy of notice on account of some very excellent paintings, executed to represent marble bas-reliefs attached to the walls; the deception is the most complete I ever witnessed, one more especially in the sacristy.
The barracks were occupied by the guards, who astonish the natives by the prodigal use of their money; but they were, nevertheless, not in much estimation by the gentry of Cambray and its neighbourhood, being, I suppose, too high to submit to the suppleness of French manners, which require a bon jour and a doff of the hat at every rencontre. Cambray is one of the strongest places in our possession. I walked round the citadel, and examined that part of the wall where the British escaladed, under the command of Sir William Douglass, upon the last march of the allies to Paris. The storming party bivouaced the night previous to the assault in a burying-ground, just without the Valenciennes gate, to which many a poor fellow returned next night to bivouac eternally! I went in the evening to an instrumental concert at the Hôtel de Ville, where the apparent gentility and beauty of the audience vied with the precision and execution of the orchestra. Cambray is well supplied with fish and vegetables, at a very low rate.
Next day I returned by another road on foot to Arras, in company with a fellow-pedestrian, whom I overtook on my road, not displeased with my little excursion.
On the 27th of April I proceeded to Bethune from Arras on foot, preferring this mode of travelling to that by the diligence, in which you are almost completely prevented from seeing any part of the country through which you are travelling; the glass window, which just serves for the admission of a little light, not being above eight or ten inches square. The day was fine, the road good, and the prospect from it beautiful, looking over an immense extent of a fine corn country, thickly studded with towns and villages, and their surrounding woods, bounded by lovely blue hills, which I contemplated with my telescope in perfect rapture.
"Heavens! what a goodly prospect spreads around!"
The colouring was just like that of Teniers; and here I first felt the real value of his productions.
Bethune is a small but very strong town, containing nothing remarkable but its chime of bells and old brick church. The former play every quarter of an hour; and the hour is twice sounded, once at the proper time, and once, by way of warning, half an hour before. I returned next day, taking in my way the ruined abbey at Mont St. Eloy, near Arras, another mournful victim of the revolution.
I here close my little narration, and shall soon set out in search of more novelty, but in what direction I have not yet determined. Hoping this, however, may not prove uninteresting, I remain always,
Your affectionate friend.
Hesdin, between St. Pol and Montreuil, 6th of June, 1816.
P.S. The foregoing letter has been hitherto unavoidably detained, but I have now an opportunity of sending it to you from this place, where I am on an excursion to see the fields of Cressy and Agincourt, so interesting to an Englishman.
The rain has fallen in torrents ever since I came here: not having therefore a fair opportunity to judge of this town, I can tell you no more, than that it is said to contain 4,000 inhabitants, and that it is fortified. Indeed in this part of the country, you cannot journey five leagues in any direction, without finding yourself stopped at the gates of some fortified place, for the revision of your passports. Pointing to the hilt of the sword will not now suffice as before.
Once more adieu, my dear friend! Believe me ever
Most truly yours,
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