MAY 15, 1787.
THE streight that separates England, so fortunately for her, from all the rest of the world, must be crossed many times before a traveller ceases to be surprised at the sudden and universal change that surrounds him on landing at Calais. The scene, the people, the language, every object is new; and in those circumstances in which there is most resemblance, a discriminating eye finds little difficulty in discovering marks of distinctions.
The noble improvement of a salt marsh, worked by Mons. Mouron of this town, occasioned my acquaintance some time ago with that gentleman; and I had found him too well informed, upon various important objects, not to renew it with pleasure. I spent an agreeable and instructive evening at his house.—165 miles.
The 17th. Nine hours rolling at anchor had so fatigued my mare, that I thought it necessary for her to rest one day; but this morning I left Calais. For a few miles the country resembles parts of Norfolk and Suffolk; gentle hills, with some inclosures around the houses in the vales, and a distant range of wood. The country is the same to Boulogne. Towards that town, I was pleased to find many seats belonging to people who reside there. How often are false ideas conceived from reading and report! I imagined that nobody but farmers and labourers in France lived in the country; and the first ride I take in that kingdom shews me a score of country seats. The road excellent.
Boulogne is not an ugly town; and from the ramparts of the upper part the view is beautiful, though low water in the river would not let me see it to advantage. It is well known that this place has long been the resort of great numbers of persons from England, whose misfortunes in trade, or extravagance in life, have made a residence abroad more agreeable than at home. It is easy to suppose that they here find a level of society that tempts them to herd in the same place. Certainly it is not cheapness, for it is rather dear. The mixture of French and English women makes an odd appearance in the streets; the latter are dressed in their own fashion; but the French heads are all without hats, with close caps, and the body covered with a long cloak that reaches to the feet. The town has the appearance of being flourishing: the buildings good, and in repair, with some modern ones; perhaps as sure a test of prosperity as any other. They are raising also a new church, on a large and expensive scale. The place on the whole is chearful, and the environs pleasing; and the sea-shore is a flat strand of firm sand as far as the tide reaches. The high land adjoining is worth viewing by those who have not already seen the petrification of clay; it is found in the stoney and argilaceous state, just as what I described at Harwich. ("Annals of Agriculture," vol. vi. p. 218.)—24 miles.
The 18th. The view of Boulogne from the other side, at the distance of a mile is a pleasing landscape; the river meanders in the vale, and spreads in a fine reach under the town, just before it falls into the sea, which opens between two high lands, one of which backs the town.—The view wants only wood; for if the hills had more, fancy could scarcely paint a more agreeable scene. The country improves, more inclosed, and some parts strongly resembling England. Some fine meadows about Bonbrie, and several chateaus. I am not professedly in this diary on husbandry, but must just observe, that it is to the full as bad as the country is good; corn miserable and yellow with weeds, yet all summer fallowed with lost attention, On the hills, which are at no great distance from the sea, the trees turn their heads from it, shorn of their foliage: it is not therefore to the S. W. alone that we should attribute this effect.—If the French have not husbandry to shew us, they have roads; nothing can be more beautiful, or kept in more garden order, if I may use the expression, than that which passes through a fine wood of Mons. Neuvillier's; and indeed for the whole way from Samer it is wonderfully formed: a vast causeway, with hills cut to level vales; which would fill me with admiration, if I had known nothing of the abominable corveès, that make me commiserate the oppressed farmers, from whose extorted labour, this magnificence has been wrong. Women gathering grass and weeds by hand in the woods for their cows is a trait of poverty.
Pass turbarries, near Montreuil, like those at Newbury. The walk round the ramparts of that town is pretty: the little gardens in the bastions below are singular. The place has many English; for what purpose not easy to conceive, for it is unenlivened by those circumstances that render towns pleasant. In a short conversation with an English family returning home, the lady, who is young, and I conjecture agreeable, assured me I should find the court of Versailles amazingly splendid. Oh! how she loved France!—and should regret going to England if she did not expect soon to return. As she had crossed the kingdom of France, I asked her what part of it pleased her best; the answer was, such as a pair of pretty lips would be sure to utter, "Oh! Paris and Versailles." Her husband, who is not so young, said "Touraine." It is probable, that a farmer is much more likely to agree with the sentiments of the husband than of the lady, notwithstanding her charms.—24 miles.
The 19th. Dined, or rather starved, at Bernay, where for the first time I met with that wine of whose ill fame I had heard so much in England, that of being worse than small beer. No scattered farm-houses in this part of Picardy, all being collected in villages which is as unfortunate for the beauty of a country, as it is inconvenient to its cultivation. To Abbeville, unpleasant, nearly flat; and though there are many and great woods, yet they are uninteresting. Pass the new chalk chateau of Mons. St. Maritan, who, had he been in England, would not have built a good house in that situation, nor have projected his walls like those of an alms-house.
Abbeville is said to contain 22,000 souls; it is old, and disagreeably built; many of the houses of wood, with a greater air of antiquity than I remember to have seen; their brethren in England have been long ago demolished. Viewed the manufacture of Van Robais, which was established by Lewis XIV. and of which Voltaire and others have spoken so much. I had many enquiries concerning wool and woollens to make here; and, in conversation with the manufacturers, found them great politicians, condemning with violence the new commercial treaty with England.—30 miles.
The 21st. It is the same flat and unpleasing country to Flixcourt. —15 miles.
The 22d. Poverty and poor crops to Amiens; women are now ploughing with a pair of horses to sow barley. The difference of the customs of the two nations is in nothing more striking than in the labours of the sex; in England, it is very little that they will do in the fields except to glean and make hay; the first is a party of pilfering, and the second of pleasure: in France, they plough and fill the dung-cart. Lombardy poplars seem to have been introduced here about the same time as in England.
Picquigny has been the scene of a remarkable transaction, that does great honour to the tolerating spirit of the French nation. Mons. Colmar, a Jew, bought the seignory and estate, including the viscounty of Amiens, of the Duke of Chaulnes, by virtue of which he appoints the canons of the cathedral of Amiens. The bishop resisted his nomination, and it was carried by appeal to the parliament of Paris, whose decree was in favour of Mons. Colmar. The immediate seignory of Picquigny, but without its dependences, is resold to the Count d'Artois.
At Amiens, view the cathedral, said to be built by the English; it is very large and beautifully light and decorated. They are fitting it up in black drapery, and a great canopy, with illuminations for the burial of the prince de Tingry, colonel of the regiment of cavalry, whose station is here. To view this was an object among the people, and crouds were at each door. I was refused entrance, but some officers being admitted, gave orders that an English gentleman without should be let in, and I was called back from some distance and desired very politely to enter, as they did not know at first that I was an Englishman. These are but trifles, but they show liberality, and it is fair to report them. If an Englishman receives attention in France, because he is an Englishman, what return ought to be made to a Frenchman in England is sufficiently obvious. The château d'eau or machine for supplying Amiens with water is worth viewing; but plates only could give an idea of it. The town abounds with woollen manufactures. I conversed with several masters who united entirely with those of Abbeville in condemning the treaty of commerce.—15 miles.
The 23rd. To Breteuil the country is diversified, woods everywhere in sight the whole journey.—21 miles.
The 24th. A flat and uninteresting chalky country continues about to Clermont, where it improves; is hilly and has wood. The view of the town as soon as the dale is seen, with the Duke of Fitzjames' plantation is pretty.—24 miles.
The 25th. The environs of Clermont are picturesque. The hills about Liancourt are pretty and spread with a sort of cultivation I had never seen before, a mixture of vineyards (for here the vines first appear), gardens and corn. A piece of wheat, a scrap of lucerne, a patch of clover or vetches, a bit of vine with cherry and other fruit trees scattered among all, and the whole cultivated with the spade; it makes a pretty appearance, but must form a poor system of trifling.
Chantilly—magnificence is its reigning character, it is never lost. There is not taste or beauty enough to soften it into milder features; all but the château is great, and there is something imposing in that; except the gallery of the great Condé's battles and the cabinet of natural history, which is rich in very fine specimens, most advantageously arranged; it contains nothing that demands particular notice; nor is there one room which in England would be called large. The stable is truly great and exceeds very much indeed anything of the kind I had ever seen. It is 580 feet long and 40 broad, and is sometimes filled with 240 English horses. I had been so accustomed to the imitation in water of the waving and irregular lines of nature that I came to Chantilly prepossessed against the idea of a canal, but the view of one here is striking and had the effect which magnificent scenes impress. It arises from extent and from the right lines of the water uniting with the regularity of the objects in view. It is Lord Kames, I think, who says the part of the garden contiguous to the house should partake of the regularity of the building; with much magnificence about a place this is unavoidable. The effect here, however, is lessened by the parterre before the castle, in which the division and the diminutive jets d'eau are not of a size to correspond with the magnificence of the canal. The menagerie is very pretty, and exhibits a prodigious variety of domestic poultry, from all parts of the world; one of the best objects to which a menagerie can be applied; these, and the Corsican stag had all my attention. The hameau contains an imitation of an English garden; the taste is but just introduced into France, so that it will not stand a critical examination.' The most English idea I saw is the lawn in front of the stables; it is large, of a good verdure, and well kept; proving clearly that they may have as fine lawns in the north of France as in England. The labyrinth is the only complete one I have seen, and I have no inclination to see another: it is in gardening what a rebus is in poetry. In the Sylvae are many very fine and scarce plants. I wish those persons who view Chantilly, and are fond of fine trees would not forget to ask for the great beech; this is the finest I ever saw; strait as an arrow, and, as I guess, not less than 80 or 90 feet high; 40 feet to the first branch, and 12 feet diameter at five from the ground. It is in all respects one of the finest trees that can anywhere be met with. Two others are near it, but not equal to this superb one. The forest around Chantilly, belonging to the Prince of Condé, is immense, spreading far and wide; the Paris road crosses it for ten miles, which is its least extent. They say the capitainerie, or paramountship, is above 100 miles in circumference. That is to say, all the inhabitants for that extent are pestered with game, without permission to destroy it, in order to give one man diversion. Ought not these capitaineries to be extirpated?
At Luzarch, I found that my mare, from illness, would travel no further; French stables, which are covered dunghills, and the carelessness of garcons d'ecuries, an execrable set of vermin, had given her cold. I therefore left her to send for from Paris, and went thither post; by which experiment I found that posting in France is much worse, and even, upon the whole, dearer than in England. Being in a post-chaise I travelled to Paris, as other travellers in post-chaises do, knowing little or nothing. The last ten miles I was eagerly on the watch for that throng of carriages which near London impede the traveller. I watched in vain; for the road, quite to the gates, is, on comparison, a perfect desert. So many great roads join here, that I suppose this must be accidental. The entrance has nothing magnificent; ill built and dirty. To get to the Rue de Varenne Faubourg St. Germain, I had the whole city to cross, and passed it by narrow, ugly, and crouded streets.
At the hotel de la Rochefoucauld I found the Duke of Liancourt and his sons, the Count de la Rochefoucauld, and the Count Alexander, with my excellent friend Monsieur de Lazowski, all of whom I had the pleasure of knowing in Suffolk. They introduced me to the Duchess d'Estissac, mother of the Duke of Liancourt, and to the Duchess of Liancourt. The agreeable reception and friendly attentions I met with from all this liberal family were well calculated to give me the most favourable impression * * * *—42 miles.
The 26th. So short a time had I passed before in France, that the scene is totally new to me. Till we have been accustomed to travelling we have a propensity to stare at and admire everything—and to be on the search for novelty, even in circumstances in which it is ridiculous to look for it. I have been upon the full silly gape to find out things that I had not found before, as if a street in Paris could be composed of anything but houses, or houses formed of anything but brick or stone—or that the people in them, not being English, would be walking on their heads. I shall shake off this folly as fast as I can, and bend my attention to mark the character and disposition of the nation. Such views naturally lead us to catch the little circumstances which sometimes express them; not an easy task, but subject to many errors.
I have only one day to pass at Paris, and that is taken up with buying necessaries. At Calais, my abundant care produced the inconvenience it was meant to avoid; I was afraid of losing my trunk, by leaving it at Dessein's for the diligence; so I sent it to M. Mouron's.—The consequence is, that it is not to be found at Paris, and its contents are to be bought again before I can leave this city on our journey to the Pyrenees. I believe it may be received as a maxim, that a traveller should always trust his baggage to the common voitures of the country, without any extraordinary precautions.
After a rapid excursion, with my friend Lazowski, to see many things; but too hastily to form any correct idea, spend the evening at his brother's, where I had the pleasure of meeting Mons. de Broussonet, secretary of the Royal Society of Agriculture, and Mons. Desmarets, both of the Academy of Sciences. As Mons. Lazowski is well informed in the manufactures of France, in the police of which he enjoys a post of consideration, and as the other gentlemen have paid much attention to agriculture, the conversation was in no slight degree instructive, and I regretted that a very early departure from Paris would not let me promise myself a further enjoyment so congenial with my feelings, as the company of men, whose conversation shewed a marked attention to objects of national importance. On the breaking up of the party, went with count Alexander de la Rochefoucauld post to Versailles, to be present at the fête of the day following; (whitsunday) slept at the duke de Liancourt's hotel.
The 27th. Breakfasted with him at his apartments in the palace, which are annexed to his office of grand master of the wardrobe, one of the principal in the court of France.—Here I found the duke surrounded by a circle of noblemen, among whom was the duke de la Rochefoucauld, well known for his attention to natural history; I was introduced to him, as he is going to Bagnere de Luchon in the Pyrenees, where I am to have the honour of being in his party.
The ceremony of the day was, the King's investing the Duke of Berri, son of the count D'Artois, with the cordon blue. The Queen's band was in the chapel where the ceremony was performed, but the musical effect was thin and weak. During the service the King was seated between his two brothers, and seemed by his carriage and inattention to wish himself a hunting. He would certainly have been as well employed, as in hearing afterwards from his throne a feudal oath of chivalry, I suppose, or some such nonsense, administered to a boy of ten years old. Seeing much pompous folly I imagined it was the dauphin, and asked a lady of fashion near me; at which she laughed in my face, as if I had been guilty of the most egregious idiotism: nothing could be done in a worse manner; for the stifling of her expression only marked it the more. I applied to Mons. de la Rochefoucauld to learn what gross absurdity I had been guilty of so unwittingly; when, for-sooth, it was because the dauphin, as all the world knows in France, has the cordon blue put around him as soon as he is born. So unpardonable was it for a foreigner to be ignorant of such an important part of French history, as that of giving a babe a blue slobbering bib instead of a white one!
After this ceremony was finished, the King and the knights walked in a sort of procession to a small apartment in which he dined, saluting the Queen as they passed. There appeared to be more ease and familiarity than form in this part of the ceremony; her majesty, who, by the way, is the most beautiful woman I saw to-day, received them with a variety of expression. On some she smiled; to others she talked; a few seemed to have the honour of being more in her intimacy. Her return to some was formal, and to others distant. To the gallant Suffrein it was respectful and benign. The ceremony of the King's dining in public is more odd than splendid. The Queen sat by him with a cover before her, but ate nothing; conversing with the duke of Orleans, and the duke of Liancourt, who stood behind her chair. To me it would have been a most uncomfortable meal, and were I a sovereign, I would sweep away three-fourths of these stupid forms; if Kings do not dine like other people, they lose much of the pleasure of life; their station is very well calculated to deprive them of much, and they submit to nonsensical customs, the sole tendency of which is to lessen the remainder. The only comfortable or amusing dinner is a table of ten or twelve covers for the people whom they like; travellers tell us that this was the mode of the late King of Prussia, who knew the value of life too well to sacrifice it to empty forms on the one hand, or to a monastic reserve on the other.
The palace of Versailles, one of the objects of which report had given me the greatest expectation, is not in the least striking: I view it without emotion: the impression it makes is nothing. What can compensate the want of unity? From whatever point viewed, it appears an assemblage of buildings; a splendid quarter of a town, but not a fine edifice; an objection from which the garden front is not free, though by far the most beautiful.—The great gallery is the finest room I have seen; the other apartments are nothing; but the pictures and statues are well known to be a capital collection. The whole palace, except the chapel, seems to be open to all the world; we pushed through an amazing croud of all sorts of people to see the procession, many of them not very well dressed, whence it appears, that no questions are asked. But the officers at the door of the apartment in which the King dined, made a distinction, and would not permit all to enter promiscuously.
Travellers speak much, even very late ones, of the remarkable interest the French take in all that personally concerns their King, shewing by the eagerness of their attention not curiosity only, but love. Where, how, and in whom those gentlemen discovered this I know not.—It is either misrepresentation, or the people are changed in a few years more than is credible. Dine at Paris, and in the evening the duchess of Liancourt, who seems to be one of the best of women, carried me to the opera at St. Cloud, where also we viewed the palace which the Queen is building; it is large, but there is much in the front that does not please me.—20 miles.
The 28th. Finding my mare sufficiently recovered for a journey, a point of importance to a traveller so weak in cavalry as myself, I left Paris, accompanying the count de la Rochefoucauld and my friend Lazowski, and commencing a journey that is to cross the whole kingdom to the Pyrenees. The road to Orleans is one of the greatest that leads from Paris, I expected, therefore, to have my former impression of the little traffic near that city removed; but on the contrary, it was confirmed; it is a desert compared with those around London. In ten miles we met not one stage or diligence; only two messageries, and very few chaises; not a tenth of what would have been met had we been leaving London at the same hour. Knowing how great, rich, and important a city Paris is, this circumstance perplexes me much. Should it afterwards be confirmed, conclusions in abundance are to be drawn.
For a few miles, the scene is everywhere scattered with the shafts of quarries, the stone drawn up by lanthorn wheels of a great diameter. The country diversified; and its greatest want to please the eye is a river; woods generally in view; the proportion of the French territory covered by this production for want of coals, must be prodigious, for it has been the same all the way from Calais. At Arpajon, the maréchal duke de Mouchy has a small house, which has nothing to recommend it.—20 miles.
The 29th. To Estamps is partly through a flat country, the beginning of the famous Pays de Beauce. To Toury, flat and disagreeable, only two or three gentlemen's seats in sight.—31 miles.
The 30th. One universal flat, uninclosed, uninteresting, and even tedious, though small towns and villages are every where in sight; the features that might compound a landscape are not brought together. This Pays de Beauce contains, by reputation, the cream of French husbandry; the soil excellent; but the management all fallow. Pass through part of the forest of Orleans belonging to the duke of that name: it is one of the largest in France.
From the steeple of the cathedral at Orleans, the prospect is very fine. The town large, and its suburbs, of single streets, extend near a league. The vast range of country, that spreads on every side, is an unbounded plain, through which the magnificent Loire bends his stately way, in sight for 14 leagues; the whole scattered with rich meadows, vineyard, gardens, and forests. The population must be very great; for, beside the city, which contains near 40,000 people, the number of smaller towns and villages strewed thickly over the plain is such as to render the whole scene animated. The cathedral, from which we had this noble prospect is a fine building, the choir raised by Henry IV. The new church is a pleasing edifice; the bridge a noble structure of stone, and the first experiment of the flat arch made in France, where it is now so fashionable. It contains nine, and is 410 yards long, and 45 feet wide. To hear some Englishmen talk, one would suppose there was not a fine bridge in all France; not the first, nor the last error I hope that travelling will remove. There are many barges and boats at the quay, built upon the river in the Bourbonnois, &c. loaded with wood, brandy, wine, and other goods; on arriving at Nantes, the vessels are broken up and sold with the cargo. Great numbers built with spruce fir. A boat goes from hence to that city, when demanded by six passengers, each paying a louis-d'or: they lie on shore every night, and reach Nantes in four days and a half. The principal street leading to the bridge is a fine one, all busy and alive, for trade is brisk here. Admire the fine acacias scattered about the town.—20 miles.
The 31st. On leaving it, enter soon the miserable province of Sologne, which the French writers call the triste Sologne. Through all this country they have had severe spring frosts, for the leaves of the walnuts are black and cut off. I should not have expected this unequivocal mark of a bad climate after passing the Loire. To La Ferté Lowendahl, a dead flat of hungry sandy gravel, with much heath. The poor people, who cultivate the soil here, are métayers, that is, men who hire the land without ability to stock it; the proprietor is forced to provide cattle and seed, and he and his tenant divide the produce; a miserable system, that perpetuates poverty and excludes instruction. Meet a man employed on the roads who was prisoner at Falmouth four years; he does not seem to have any rancour against the English; nor yet was he very well pleased with his treatment. At La Ferté is a handsome chateau of the marquis de Croix, with several canals, and a great command of water. To Nonant-le-Fuzelier, a strange mixture of sand and water. Much inclosed, and the houses and cottages of wood filled between the studs with clay or bricks, and covered not with slate but tile, with some barns boarded like those in Suffolk—rows of pollards in some of the hedges; an excellent road of sand; the general features of a woodland country; all combined to give a strong resemblance to many parts of England; but the husbandry is so little like that of England, that the least attention to it destroyed every notion of similarity.—27 miles.
JUNE 1. The same wretched country continues to La Loge; the fields are scenes of pitiable management, as the houses are of misery. Yet all this country highly improveable, if they knew what to do with it: the property, perhaps, of some of those glittering beings, who figured in the procession the other day at Versailles. Heaven grant me patience while I see a country thus neglected—and forgive me the oaths I swear at the absence and ignorance of the possessors.—Enter the generality of Bourges, and soon after a forest of oak belonging to the count d'Artois; the trees are dying at top, before they attain any size. There the miserable Sologne ends; the first view of Verson and its vicinity is fine. A noble vale spreads at your feet, through which the river Cher leads, seen in several places to the distance of some leagues, a bright sun burnished the water, like a string of lakes amidst the shade of a vast woodland. See Bourges to the left.—18 miles.
The 2d. Pass the rivers Cher and Lave; the bridges well built; the stream fine, and with the wood, buildings, boats, and adjoining hills, form an animated scene. Several new houses, and buildings of good stone in Verson; the place appears thriving, and doubtless owes much to the navigation. We are now in Berri, a province governed by a provincial assembly, consequently the roads good, and made without corvées. Vatan is a little town that subsists chiefly by spinning. We drank there excellent Sancere wine, of a deep colour, rich flavour, and good body, 20f. the bottle; but in the country 10. An extensive prospect before we arrived at Chateauroux where we viewed the manufactures.—40 miles.
The 3d. Within about three of Argenton come upon a fine scene, beautiful, yet with bold features; a narrow vale bounded on every side with hills covered with wood, all of which are immediately under the eye, without a level acre, except the bottom of the vale, through which a river flows, by an old castle picturesquely situated to the right; and to the left, a tower rising out of a wood.
At Argenton, walk up a rock that hangs almost over the town. It is a delicious scene. A natural ledge of perpendicular rock pushes forward abruptly over the vale, which is half a mile broad, and two or three long: at one end closed by hills, and at the other filled by the town with vineyards rising above it; the surrounding scene that hems in the vale is high enough for relief; vineyards, rocks or hills covered with wood. The vale cut into inclosures of a lovely verdure, and a fine river winds through it, with an outline that leaves nothing to wish. The venerable fragments of a castle's ruins, near the point of view, are well adapted to awaken reflections on the triumph of the arts of peace over the barbarous ravages of the feudal ages, when every class of society was involved in commotion, and the lower ranks were worse slaves than at present.
The general face of the country, from Verson to Argenton, is an uninteresting flat with many heaths of ling. No appearance of population, and even towns are thin. The husbandry poor and the people miserable. By the circumstances to which I could give attention I conceive them to be honest and industrious; they seem clean; are civil, and have good countenances. They appear to me as if they would improve their country, if they formed the part of a system, the principles of which tended to national prosperity.—18 miles.
The 4th. Pass an inclosed country, which would have a better appearance if the oaks had not lost their foliage by insects, whose webs hang over the buds. They are but now coming into leaf again. Cross a stream which separates Berri from La Marche; chesnuts appear at the same time; they are spread over all the fields, and yield the food of the poor. A variety of hill and dale, with fine woods, but little signs of population. Lizards for the first time also. There seems a connection relative to climate between the chesnuts and these harmless animals. They are very numerous, and some of them near a foot long. Sleep at La Ville au Brun. —24 miles.
The 5th. The country improves in beauty greatly; pass a vale, where a causeway stops the water of a small rivulet and swells it into a lake, that forms one feature of a delicious scene. The indented outlines and the swells margined with wood are beautiful; the hills on every side in unison; one now covered with ling the prophetic eye of taste may imagine lawn. Nothing is wanted to render the scene a garden, but to clear away rubbish.
The general face of the country, for 16 miles, by far the most beautiful I have seen in France; it is thickly inclosed, and full of wood; the umbrageous foliage of the chesnuts gives the same beautiful verdure to the hills, as watered meadows (seen for the first time to day) to the vales. Distant mountainous ridges form the back ground, and make the whole interesting. The declivity of country, as we go down to Bassies, offers a beautiful view; and the approach to the town, presents a landscape fancifully grouped of rock, and wood, and water. To Limoge, pass another artificial lake between cultivated hills; beyond are wilder heights, but mixed with pleasant vales; still another lake more beautiful than the former, with a fine accompanyment of wood; across a mountain of chesnut copse, which commands a scene of a character different from any I have viewed either in France or England, a great range of hill and dale all covered with forest, and bounded by distant mountains. Not a vestige of any human residence; no village: no house or hut, no smoke to raise the idea of a peopled country; an American scene; wild enough for the tomohawk of the savage. Stop at an execrable auberge, called Maison Rouge, where we intended to sleep; but, on examination, found every appearance so forbidding, and so beggarly an account of a larder, that we passed on to Limoge. The roads through all this country, are truly noble, far beyond any thing I have seen in France or elsewhere.—44 miles.
The 6th. View Limoge, and examine its manufactures. It was certainly a Roman station, and some traces of its antiquity are still remaining. It is ill built, with narrow and crooked streets, the houses high and disagreeable. They are raised of granite, or wood with lath and plaister, which saves lime, an expensive article here, being brought from a distance of twelve leagues; the roofs are of pantiles, with projecting eaves, and almost flat; a sure proof we have quitted the region of heavy snows. The best of their public works is noble fountain, the water conducted three quarters of a league by an arched aqueduct brought under the bed of a rock 60 feet deep to the highest spot in the town, where it falls into a bason 15 feet diameter, cut out of one piece of granite; thence the water is let into reservoirs, closed by sluices, which are opened for watering the streets, or in cases of fires.
The cathedral is ancient, and the roof of stone; there are some arabesque ornaments cut in stone, as light, airy, and elegant as any modern house can boast, whose decorations are in the same taste.
The present bishop has erected a large and handsome palace, and his garden is the finest object to be seen at Limoge, for it commands a landscape hardly to be equalled for beauty: it would be idle to give any other description than just enough to induce travellers to view it. A river winds through a vale, surrounded by hills that present the gayest and most animated assemblage of villas, farms, vines, hanging meadows, and chesnuts blended so fortunately as to compose a scene truly smiling. This bishop is a friend of the count de la Rochefoucauld's family; he invited us to dine, and gave us a very handsome entertainment. Lord Macartney, when a prisoner in France, after the Grenades were taken, spent some time with him; there was an instance of French politeness shewn to his lordship, that marks the urbanity of this people. The order came from court to sing Te Deum on the very day that Lord Macartney was to arrive. Conceiving that the public demonstrations of joy for a victory that brought his noble guest a prisoner, might be personally unpleasant to him, the bishop proposed to the intendant to postpone the ceremony for a few days, in order that he might not meet it so abruptly; this was instantly acceded to, and conducted in such a manner afterwards as to mark as much attention to Lord Macartney's feelings as to their own. The bishop told me, that Lord Macartney spoke better French than he could have conceived possible for a foreigner, had he not heard him; better than many well educated Frenchmen.
The post of intendant here was rendered celebrated by being filled by that friend of mankind, Turgot, whose well earned reputation in this province placed him at the head of the French finances, as may be very agreeably learned, in that production of equal truth and elegance, his life by the marquis of Condorcet. The character which Turgot left here is considerable. The noble roads we have passed, so much exceeding any other I have seen in France, were amongst his good works; an epithet due to them because not made by corvées. There is here a society of agriculture, which owes it origin to the same distinguished patriot: but in that most unlucky path of French exertion he was able to do nothing: evils too radically fixed were in the way of the attempt. This society does like other societies,—they meet, converse, offer premiums, and publish nonsense. This is not of much consequence, for the people, instead of reading their memoirs, are not able to read at all. They can however see; and if a farm was established in that good cultivation which they ought to copy, something would be presented from which they might learn. I asked particularly if the members of this society had land in their own hands, from which it might be judged if they knew anything of the matter themselves: I was assured that they had; but the conversation presently explained it: they had métayers around their country-seats, and this was considered as farming their own lands, so that they assume something of a merit from the identical circumstance, which is the curse and ruin of the whole country. In the agricultural conversations we have had on the journey from Orleans, I have not found one person who seemed sensible of the mischief of this system.
The 7th. No chesnuts for a league before we reach Piere Bussiere, they say because the basis of the country is a hard granite; and they assert also at Limoge, that in this granite there grow neither vines, wheat, nor chesnuts, but that on the softer granites these plants thrive well: it is true, that chesnuts and this granite appeared together when we entered Limosin. The road has been incomparably fine, and much more like the well kept alleys of a garden than a common high way. See for the first time old towers, that appear in this country.—33 miles.
The 8th. Pass an extraordinary spectacle for English eyes, of many houses too good to be called cottages, without any glass windows. Some miles to the right is Pompadour, where the King has a stud; there are all kinds of horses, but chiefly Arabian, Turkish and English. Three years ago four Arabians were imported, which had been procured at the expence of 72,000 livres (31491.) the price of covering a mare is only three livres to the groom; the owners are permitted to sell their colts as they please, but if these came up to the standard height, the King's officers have the preference, provided they give the price offered by others. These horses are not saddled till six years old. They pasture all day, but at night are confined on account of wolves, which are so common as to be a great plague to the people. A horse of six years old, a little more than four feet six inches high, is sold for 701.; and 151. has been offered for a colt of one year old. Pass Uzarch; dine at Donzenac; between which place and Brive meet the first maize, or Indian corn.
The beauty of the country, through the 34 miles from St. George to Brive, is so various, and in every respect so striking and interesting, that I shall attempt no particular description, but observe in general, that I am much in doubt, whether there be anything comparable to it either in England or Ireland. It is not that a fine view breaks now and then upon the eye to compensate the traveller for the dulness of a much longer district; but a quick succession of landscapes, many of which would be rendered famous in England, by the resort of travellers to view them. The country is all hill or valley; the hills are very high, and would be called with us mountains, if waste and covered with heath; but being cultivated to the very tops, their magnitude is lessened to the eye. Their forms are various: they swell in beautiful semi-globes; they project in abrupt masses, which inclose deep glens: they expand into amphitheatres of cultivation that rise in gradation to the eye: in some places tossed into a thousand inequalities of surface; in others the eye reposes on scenes of the softest verdure. Add to this, the rich robe with which nature's bounteous hand has dressed the slopes, with hanging woods of chesnut. And whether the vales open their verdant bosoms, and admit the sun to illumine the rivers in their comparative repose; or whether they be closed in deep glens, that afford a passage with difficulty to the water rolling over their rocky beds, and dazzling the eye with the lustre of cascades; in every case the features are interesting and characteristic of the scenery. Some views of singular beauty rivetted us to the spot; that of the town of Uzarch, covering a conical hill, rising in the hollow of an amphitheatre of wood, and surrounded at its feet by a noble river, is unique. Derry in Ireland has something of its form, but wants some of its richest features. The water-scenes from the town itself, and immediately after passing it, are delicious. The immense view from the descent to Donzenac is equally magnificent. To all this is added the finest road in the world, every where formed in the most perfect manner, and kept in the highest preservation, like the well ordered alley of a garden, without dust, sand, stones, or inequality, firm and level, of pounded granite, and traced with such a perpetual command of prospect, that had the engineer no other object in view, he could not have executed it with a more finished taste.
The view of Brive, from the hill is so fine, that it gives the expectation of a beautiful little town, and the gaiety of the environs encourages the idea; but on entering, such a contrast is found as disgusts completely. Close, ill built, crooked, dirty, stinking streets, exclude the sun, and almost the air from every habitation, except a few tolerable ones on the promenade.—34 miles.
The 9th. Enter a different country with the new province of Quercy, which is a part of Guienne; not near so beautiful as Limosin, but, to make amends, it is far better cultivated. Thanks to maize, which does wonders! Pass Noailles, on the summit of a high hill, the chateau of the Marshal Duke of that name.—Enter a calcareous country, and lose chesnuts at the same time.
In going down to Souillac, there is a prospect that must universally please: it is a bird's eye view of a delicious little valley, sunk deep amongst some very bold hills that inclose it; a margin of wild mountain contrasts the extreme beauty of the level surface below, a scene of cultivation scattered with fine walnut trees; nothing can apparently exceed the exuberant fertility of this spot.
Souillac is a little town in a thriving state, having some rich merchants. They receive staves from the mountains of Auvergne by their river Dordonne, which is navigable eight months in the year; these they export to Bordeaux and Libourn; also wine, corn, and cattle, and import salt in great quantities. It is not in the power of an English imagination to figure the animals that waited upon us here, at the Chapeau Rouge. Some things that called themselves by the courtesy of Souillac women, but in reality walking dung-hills.—But a neatly dressed clean waiting girl at an inn, will be looked for in vain in France.—34 miles.
The 10th. Cross the Dordonne by a ferry; the boat well contrived for driving in at one end, and out at the other, without the abominable operation, common in England, of beating horses till they leap into them; the price is as great a contrast as the excellence; we paid for an English whisky, a French cabriolet, one saddle-horse and six persons, no more than 50s. (2s. 1d.) I have paid half- a-crown a wheel in England for execrable ferries, passed over at the hazard of the horses limbs.—This river runs in a very deep valley between two ridges of high hills: extensive views, all scattered with villages and single houses; an appearance of great population. Chesnuts on a calcareous soil, contrary to the Limosin maxim.
Pass Payrac, and meet many beggars, which we had not done before. All the country, girls and women, are without shoes or stockings; and the ploughmen at their work have neither sabots nor feet to their stockings. This is a poverty, that strikes at the root of national prosperity; a large consumption among the poor being of more consequence than among the rich: the wealth of a nation lies in its circulation and consumption; and the case of poor people abstaining from the use of manufactures of leather and wool ought to be considered as an evil of the first magnitude. It reminded me of the misery of Ireland. Pass Pont-de-Rodez, and come to high land, whence we enjoyed an immense and singular prospect of ridges, hills, vales, and gentle slopes, rising one beyond another in every direction, with few masses of wood, but many scattered trees. At least forty miles are tolerably distinct to the eye, and without a level acre; the sun, on the point of being set, illumined part of it, and displayed a vast number of villages and scattered farms. The mountains of Auvergne, at the distance of 100 miles, added to the view. Pass by several cottages, exceedingly well built, of stone and slate or tiles, yet without any glass to the windows; can a country be likely to thrive where the great object is to spare manufactures? Women picking weeds into their aprons for their cows, another sign of poverty I observed, during the whole way from Calais.—30 miles.
The 11th. See for the first time the Pyrenees, at the distance of 150 miles.—To me, who had never seen an object farther than 60 or 70, I mean the Wicklow mountains, as I was going out of Holyhead, this was interesting. Wherever the eye wandered in search of new objects it was sure to rest there. Their magnitude, their snowy height, the line of separation between two great kingdoms, and the end of our travels altogether account for this effect. Towards Cahors the country changes, and has something of a savage aspect; yet houses are seen every where, and one-third of it under vines.
That town is bad; the streets neither wide nor strait, but the new road is an improvement. The chief object of its trade and resource are vines and brandies. The true Vin de Cahors, which has a great reputation, is the produce of a range of vineyards, very rocky, on a ridge of hills full to the south, and is called Vin de Grave, because growing on a gravelly soil. In plentiful years, the price of good wine here does not exceed that of the cask; last year it was sold at 10s. 6d. a barique, or 8d. a dozen. We drank it at the Trois Rois from three to ten years old, the latter at 30s. (1s. 3d.) the bottle; both excellent, full bodied, great spirit, without being fiery, and to my palate much better than our ports. I liked it so well, that I established a correspondence with Mons. Andoury, the innkeeper. The heat of this country is equal to the production of strong wine. This was the most burning day we had experienced.
On leaving Cahors, the mountain of rock rises so immediately, that it seems as if it would tumble into the town. The leaves of walnuts are now black with frosts that happened within a fortnight. On enquiry, I found they are subject to these frosts all through the spring months; and though rye is sometimes killed by them, the mildew in wheat is hardly known;—a fact sufficiently destructive of the theory of frosts being the cause of that distemper. It is very rare that any snow falls here. Sleep at Ventillac. —22 miles.
The 12th. The shape and colour of the peasants houses here add a beauty to the country; they are square, white, and with rather flat roofs, but few windows. The peasants are for the most part land-proprietors. Immense view of the Pyrenees before us, of an extent and height truly sublime: near Perges, the view of a rich vale, that seems to reach uninterruptedly to those mountains is a glorious scenery; one vast sheet of cultivation: every where chequered with these well built white houses;—the eye losing itself in the vapour, which ends only with that stupendous ridge, whose snow-capped heads are broken into the boldest outline. The road to Caussade leads through a very fine avenue of six rows of trees, two of them mulberries, which are the first we have seen. Thus we have travelled almost to the Pyrenees before we met with an article of culture which some want to introduce into England. The vale here is all on a dead level; the roads finely made, and mended with gravel. Montauban is old, but not ill built. There are many good houses, without forming handsome streets. It is said to be very populous, and the eye confirms the intelligence. The cathedral is modern, and pretty well built, but too heavy. The public college, the seminary, the bishop's palace, and the house of the first president of the court of aids are good buildings: the last large, with a most shewy entrance. The promenade is finely situated; built on the highest part of the rampart, and commanding that noble vale, or rather plain, one of the richest in Europe, which extends on one side to the sea, and in front to the Pyrenees; whose towering masses, heaped one upon another, in a stupendous manner, and covered with snow, offer a variety of lights and shades from indented forms, and the immensity of their projections. This prospect, which contains a semi-circle of an hundred miles diameter, has an oceanic vastness, in which the eye loses itself; an almost boundless scene of cultivation; an animated, but confused mass of infinitely varied parts—melting gradually into the distant obscure, from which emerges the amazing frame of the Pyrenees, rearing their silvered heads far above the clouds. At Montauban, I met Capt. Plampin, of the royal navy; he was with Major Crew, who has a house and family here, to which he politely carried us; it is sweetly situated on the skirts of the town, commanding a fine view; they were so obliging as to resolve my enquiries upon some points, of which a residence made them complete judges. Living is reckoned cheap here; a family was named to us, whose income was supposed to be about 1500 louis a-year, and who lived as handsomely as in England on 5000l. The comparative dearness and cheapness of different countries, is a subject of considerable importance, but difficult to analize. As I conceive the English to have made far greater advances in the useful arts, and in manufactures, than the French have done, England ought to be the cheaper country. What we meet with in France, is a cheap mode of living, which is quite another consideration.—30 miles.
The 13th. Pass Grisolles, where are well built cottages without glass, and some with no other light than the door. Dine at Pompinion, at the Grand Soleil, an uncommonly good inn, where Capt. Plampin, who accompanied us thus far, took his leave. Here we had a violent storm of thunder and lightning, with rain much heavier I thought than I had known in England; but, when we set out for Toulouze, I was immediately convinced that such a violent shower had never fallen in that kingdom; for the destruction it had poured on the noble scene of cultivation, which but a moment before was smiling with exuberance, was terrible to behold. All now one scene of distress: the finest crops of wheat beaten so flat to the ground, that I question whether they can ever rise again; other fields so inundated, that we were actually in doubt whether we were looking on what was lately land or always water. The ditches had been filled rapidly with mud, had overflowed the road, and swept dirt and gravel over the crops.
Cross one of the finest plains of wheat that is any where to be seen; the storm, therefore, was fortunately partial. Pass St. Jorry; a noble road, but not better than in Limosin. It is a desert to the very gates; meet not more persons than if it were 100 miles from any town.—31 miles.
The 14th. View the city, which is very ancient and very large, but not peopled in proportion to its size: the buildings are a mixture of brick and wood, and have consequently a melancholy appearance. This place has always prided itself on its taste for literature and the fine arts. It has had a university since 1215; and it pretends that its famous academy of Jeux Floraux is as old as 1323. It has also a royal academy of sciences, another of painting, sculpture, and architecture. The church of the Cordelliers has vaults, into which we descended, that have the property of preserving dead bodies from corruption; we saw many that they assert to be 500 years old. If I had a vault well lighted, that would preserve the countenance and physiognomy as well as the flesh and bones, I should like to have it peopled with all my ancestors; and this desire would, I suppose, be proportioned to their merit and celebrity; but to one like this, that preserves cadaverous deformity, and gives perpetuity to death, the voracity of a common grave is preferable. But Toulouze is not without objects more interesting than churches and academies; these are the new quay, the corn mills, and the canal de Brien. The quay is of a great length, and in all respects a noble work: the houses intended to be built will be regular like those already erected, in a stile aukward and inelegant. The canal de Brien, so called from the archbishop of Toulouze, afterwards prime minister and cardinal, was planned and executed in order to join the Garonne at Toulouze with the canal of Languedoc, which is united at two miles from the town with the same river. The necessity of such a junction arises from the navigation of the river in the town being absolutely impeded by the wear which is made across it in favour of the corn mills. It passes arched under the quay to the river, and one sluice levels the water with that of Languedoc canal. It is broad enough for several barges to pass abreast. These undertakings have been well planned, and their execution is truly magnificent: there is however more magnificence than trade; for while the Languedoc canal is alive with commerce, that of Brien is a desert.
Among other things we viewed at Toulouze, was the house of Mons. du Barrè, brother of the husband of the celebrated countess. By some transactions, favourable to anecdote, which enabled him to draw her from obscurity, and afterwards to marry her to his brother, he contrived to make a pretty considerable fortune. On the first floor is one principal and complete apartment, containing seven or eight rooms, fitted up and furnished with such profusion of expence, that if a fond lover, at the head of a kingdom's finances, were decorating for his mistress, he could hardly give in large any thing that is not here to be seen on a moderate scale. To those who are fond of gilding here is enough to satiate; so much that to an English eye it has too gaudy an appearance. But the glasses are large and numerous. The drawing-room very elegant (gilding always excepted).—Here I remarked a contrivance which has a pleasing effect; that of a looking-glass before the chimnies, instead of those various screens used in England: it slides backwards and forwards into the wall of the room. There is a portrait of Madame du Barrè, which is said to be very like; if it really is, one would pardon a King some follies committed at the shrine of so much beauty—As to the garden, it is beneath all contempt, except as an object to make a man stare at the efforts to which folly can arrive: in the space of an acre, there are hills of genuine earth, mountains of pasteboard, rocks of canvass: abbés, cows, sheep, and shepherdesses in lead; monkeys and peasants, asses and altars, in stone. Fine ladies and blacksmiths, parrots and lovers, in wood. Windmills and cottages, shops and villages, nothing excluded except nature.
The 15th. Meet Highlanders, who put me in mind of those of Scotland; saw them first at Montauban; they have round flat caps, and loose breeches: "Pipers, blue bonnets, and oat-meal, are found," says Sir James Stuart, "in Catalonia, Auvergne and Swabia, as well as in Lochabar." Many of the women here are without stockings. Meet them coming from the market, with their shoes in their baskets. The Pyrenees, at sixty miles distance, appear now so distinct, that one would guess it not more than fifteen; the lights and shades of the snow are seen clearly.—30 miles.
The 16th. A ridge of hills on the other side of the Garonne, which began at Toulouze; became more and more regular yesterday; and is undoubtedly the most distant ramification of the Pyrenees, reaching into this vast vale quite to Toulouze, but no farther. Approach the mountains; the lower ones are all cultivated, but the higher seem covered with wood: the road now is bad all the way. Meet many waggons, each loaded with two casks of wine, quite backward in the carriage and as the hind wheels are much higher than the lower ones, it shews that these mountaineers have more sense than John Bull. The wheels of these waggons are all shod with wood instead of iron. Here, for the first time, see rows of maples, with vines, trained in festoons, from tree to tree; they are conducted by a rope of bramble, vine cutting, or willow. They give many grapes, but bad wine. Pass St. Martino, and then a large village of well built houses, without a single glass window.—30 miles.
The 17th. St. Gaudens is an improving town, with many new houses, something more than comfortable. An uncommon view of St. Bertrand; you break at once upon a vale sunk deep enough beneath the point of view to command every hedge and tree, with that town clustered round its large cathedral, on a rising ground; if it had been built purposely to add a feature to a singular prospect, it could not have been better placed. The mountains rise proudly around, and give their rough frame to this exquisite little picture.
Cross the Garonne, by a new bridge of one fine arch, built of hard blue limestone. Medlars, plumbs, cherries, maples in every hedge, with vines trained.—Stop at Lauresse; after which the mountains almost close, and leave only a narrow vale, the Garonne and the road occupying some portion of it. Immense quantities of poultry in all this country; most of it the people salt and keep in grease. We tasted a soup made of the leg of a goose thus kept, and it was not nearly so bad as I expected.
Every crop here is backward, and betrays a want of sun; no wonder, for we have been long travelling on the banks of a rapid river, and must now be very high, though still apparently in vales. The mountains, in passing on, grow more interesting. Their beauty, to northern eyes, is very singular; the black and dreary prospects which our mountains offer are known to every one; but here the climate cloaths them with verdure, and the highest summits in sight are covered with wood; there is snow on still higher ridges.
Quit the Garonne some leagues before Sirpe, where the river Neste falls into it. The road to Bagnere is along this river, in a very narrow valley, at one end of which is built the town of Luchon, the termination of our journey; which to me has been one of the most agreeable I ever undertook; the good humour and good sense of my companions are well calculated for travelling; one renders a journey pleasing, and the other instructive.—Having now crossed the kingdom, and been in many French inns, I shall in general observe, that they are on an average better in two respects, and worse in all the rest, than those in England. We have lived better in point of eating and drinking beyond a question, than we should have done in going from London to the Highlands of Scotland, at double the expence. But if in England the best of every thing is ordered, without any attention to the expence, we should for double the money have lived better than we have done in France; the common cookery of the French gives great advantage. It is true, they roast every thing to a chip, if they are not cautioned: but they give such a number and variety of dishes, that if you do not like some, there are others to please your palate. The desert at a French inn has no rival at an English one; nor are the liqueurs to be despised.—We sometimes have met with bad wine, but upon the whole, far better than such port as English inns give. Beds are better in France; in England they are good only at good inns; and we have none of that torment which is so perplexing in England, to have the sheets aired; for we never trouble our heads about them, doubtless on account of the climate. After these two points, all is a blank. You have no parlour to eat in; only a room with two, three, or four beds. Apartments badly fitted up; the walls white-washed; or paper of different sorts in the same room; or tapestry so old, as to be a fit nidus for moths and spiders; and the furniture such, that an English innkeeper would light his fire with it. For a table, you have every where a board laid on cross bars, which are so conveniently contrived, as to leave room for your legs only at the end.—Oak chairs with rush bottoms, and the back universally a direct perpendicular, that defies all idea of rest after fatigue. Doors give music as well as entrance; the wind whistles through their chinks; and hinges grate discord. Windows admit rain as well as light; when shut they are not so easy to open; and when open not easy to shut. Mops, brooms, and scrubbing-brushes are not in the catalogue of the necessaries of a French inn. Bells there are none; the fille must always be bawled for; and when she appears, is neither neat well dressed, nor handsome. The kitchen is black with smoke; the master commonly the cook, and the less you see of the cooking, the more likely you are to have a stomach to your dinner; but this is not peculiar to France. Copper utensils always in great plenty, but not always well tinned. The mistress rarely classes civility or attention to her guests among the requisites of her trade.—30 miles.
The 28th. Having being now ten days fixed in our lodgings, which the Count de la Rochefoucauld's friends had provided for us; it is time to minute a few particulars of our life here. Mons. Lazowski and myself have two good rooms on a ground floor, with beds in them, and a servant's room, for 4 liv. (3s. 6d.) a-day. We are so unaccustomed in England to live in our bed-chambers, that it is at first aukward in France to find that people live no where else: At all the inns I have been in, it has been always in bed-rooms; and here I find, that every body, let his rank be what it may, lives in his bed-chamber. This is novel; our English custom is far more convenient, as well as more pleasing. But this habit I class with the œconomy of the French, The day after we came, I was introduced to the La Rochefoucauld party, with whom we have lived; it consists of the duke and dutchess de la Rochefoucauld, daughter of the duke de Chabot; her brother, the prince de Laon and his princess, the daughter of the duke de Montmorenci; the count de Chabot, another brother of the dutchess de la Rochefoucauld; the marquis D'Aubourval, who, with my two fellow-travellers and myself, made a party of nine at dinner and supper. A traiteur serves our table at 4 liv. a head for the two meals, two courses and a good desert for dinner; for supper one, and a desert; the whole very well served, with every thing in season: the wine separate, at 6f. (3d.) a bottle. With difficulty the Count's groom found a stable. Hay is little short of 51. English per ton; oats much the same price as in England, but not so good: straw dear, and so scarce, that very often there is no litter at all.
The States of Languedoc are building a large and handsome bathing house, to contain various separate cells, with baths, and a large common room, with two arcades to walk in, free from sun and rain. The present baths are horrible holes; the patients lie up to their chins in hot sulphureous water, which, with the beastly dens they are placed in, one would think sufficient to cause as many distempers as they cure. They are resorted to for cutaneous eruptions. The life led here has very little variety. Those who bathe or drink the waters, do it at half after five or six in the morning; but my friend and myself are early in the mountains, which are here stupendous; we wander among them to admire the wild and beautiful scenes which are to be met with in almost every direction. The whole region of the Pyrenees is of a nature and aspect so totally different from every thing that I had been accustomed to, that these excursions were productive of much amusement. Cultivation is here carried to a considerable perfection in several articles, especially in the irrigation of meadows: we seek out the most intelligent peasants, and have many and long conversations with those who understand French, which however is not the case with all, for the language of the country is a mixture of Catalan, Provencal, and French.—This, with examining the minerals (an article for which the duke de la Rochefoucauld likes to accompany us, as he possesses a considerable knowledge in that branch of natural history), and with noting the plants with which we are acquainted, serves well to keep our time employed sufficiently to our taste. The ramble of the morning finished, we return in time to dress for dinner, at half after twelve or one: then adjourn to the drawing-room of madam de la Rochefoucauld, or the countess of Grandval alternately, the only ladies who have apartments large enough to contain the whole company. None are excluded; as the first thing done, by every person who arrives, is to pay a morning visit to each party already in the place; the visit is returned, and then every body is of course acquainted at these assemblies, which last till the evening is cool enough for walking. There is nothing in them but cards, trick-track, chess, and sometimes music; but the great feature is cards: I need not add, that I absented myself often from these parties, which are ever mortally insipid to me in England, and not less so in France. In the evening, the company splits into different parties, for their promenade, which lasts till half an hour after eight; supper is served at nine: there is, after it, an hour's conversation in the chamber of one of our ladies; and this is the best part of the day,—for the chat is free, lively, and unaffected; and uninterrupted, unless on a post-day, when the duke has such packets of papers and pamphlets, that they turn us all into politicians. All the world are in bed by eleven. In this arrangement of the day, no circumstance is so objectionable as that of dining at noon, the consequence of eating no breakfast; for as the ceremony of dressing is kept up, you must be at home from any morning's excursion by twelve o'clock. This single circumstance, if adhered to, would be sufficient to destroy any pursuits, except the most frivolous. Dividing the day exactly in halves, destroys it for any expedition, enquiry, or business that demands seven or eight hours attention, uninterrupted by any calls to the table or the toilette: calls which, after fatigue or exertion, are obeyed with refreshment and with pleasure. We dress for dinner in England with propriety, as the rest of the day is dedicated to ease, to converse, and relaxation; but by doing it at noon, too much time is lost. What is a man good for after his silk breeches and stockings are on, his hat under his arm, and his head bien poudrè?—Can he botanize in a watered meadow?—Can he clamber the rocks to mineralize?—Can he farm with the peasant and the ploughman?—He is in order for the conversation of the ladies, which to be sure is in every country, but particularly in France, where the women are highly cultivated, an excellent employment; but it is an employment that never relishes better than after a day spent in active toil or animated pursuit; in something that has enlarged the sphere of our conceptions, or added to the stores of our knowledge.—I am induced to make this observation, because the noon dinners are customary all over France, except by persons of considerable fashion at Paris. They cannot be treated with too much ridicule or severity, for they are absolutely hostile to every view of science, to every spirited exertion, and to every useful pursuit in life.
Living in this way, however, with several persons of the first fashion in the kingdom, is an object to a foreigner solicitous to remark the manners and character of the nation. I have every reason to be pleased with the experiment, as it affords me a constant opportunity to enjoy the advantages of an unaffected and polished society, in which an invariable sweetness of disposition, mildness of character, and what in English we emphatically call good temper, eminently prevails:—seeming to arise—at least I conjecture it, from a thousand little nameless and peculiar circumstances; not resulting entirely from the personal character of the individuals, but apparently holding of the national one.—Beside the persons I have named, there are among others at our assemblies, the marquis and marchioness de Hautfort; the duke and dutchess de Ville (this dutchess is among the good order of beings); the chevalier de Peyrac; Mons. l'Abbé Bastard; baron de Serres; viscountess Duhamel; the bishops of Croire and Montauban; Mons. de la Marche; the baron de Montagu, a chess player; the chevalier de Cheyron; and Mons. de Bellecomb, who commanded in Pondicherry, and was taken by the English. There are also about half a dozen young officers, and three or four abbes.
If I may hazard a remark on the conversation of French assemblies, from what I have known here, I should praise them for equanimity but condemn them for insipidity. All vigour of thought seems so excluded from expression, that characters of ability and of inanity meet nearly on a par: tame and elegant, uninteresting and polite, the mingled mass of communicated aside has powers neither to offend nor instruct; where there is much polish of character there is little argument; and if you neither argue nor discuss, what is conversation?—Good temper, and habitual ease, are the first ingredients in private society; but wit, knowledge, or originality, must break their even surface into some inequality of feeling, or conversation is like a journey on an endless flat.
Of the rural beauties we have to contemplate, the valley of Larbousse, in a nook of which the town of Luchon is situated, is the principal, with its surrounding accompanyment of mountain. The range that bounds it to the north, is bare of wood but covered with cultivation; and a large village, about three parts of its height, is perched on a steep, that almost makes the unaccustomed eye tremble with apprehension, that the village, church, and people will come tumbling into the valley. Villages thus perched, like eagles nests on rocks, are a general circumstance in the Pyrenees, which appear to be wonderfully peopled. The mountain, that forms the western wall of the valley, is of a prodigious magnitude. Watered meadow and cultivation rise more than one-third the height. A forest of oak and beech forms a noble belt above it; higher still is a region of ling; and above all snow. From whatever point viewed, this mountain is commanding from its magnitude, and beautiful from its luxuriant foliage. The range which closes in the valley to the east is of a character different from the others; it has more variety, more cultivation, villages, forests, glens, and cascades. That of Gouzat, which turns a mill as soon as it falls from the mountain, is romantic, with every accompanyment necessary to give a high degree of picturesque beauty. There are features in that of Montaubau, which Claude Loraine would not have failed transfusing on his canvass; and the view of the vale from the chesnut rock is gay and animated. The termination of our valley to the south is striking; the river Neste pours in incessant cascades over the rocks that seem an eternal resistance. The eminence in the centre of a small vale, on which is an old tower, is a wild and romantic spot the roar of the waters beneath unites in effect with the mountains, whose towering forests, finishing in snow, give an awful grandeur, a gloomy greatness to the scene; and seem to raise a barrier of separation between the kingdoms, too formidable even for armies to pass. But what are rocks, and mountains, and snow, when opposed to human ambition?—In the recesses of the pendent woods, the bears find their habitation on the rocks, and above, the eagles have their nests. All around is great; the sublime of nature, with imposing majesty, impresses awe upon the mind; attention is rivetted to the spot; and imagination, with all its excursive powers, seeks not to wander beyond the scene.
Deepens the murmurs of the falling floods,
And breathes a browner horror o'er the woods.
To view these scenes tolerably, is a business of some days; and such is the climate here, or at least has been since I was at Bagnere de Luchon, that not more than one day in three is to be depended on for fine weather. The heights of the mountains is such, that the clouds, perpetually broken, pour down quantities of rain. From June 26th to July 2d, we had one heavy shower, which lasted without intermission for sixty hours. The mountains, though so near, were hidden to their bases in the clouds. They do not only arrest the fleeting ones, which are passing in the atmosphere, but seem to have a generative power; for you see small ones at first, like thin vapour rising out of glens, forming on the sides of the hills, and increasing by degrees, till they become clouds heavy enough to rest on the tops, or else rise into the atmosphere, and pass away with others.
Among the original tenants of this immense range of mountains, the first in point of dignity, from the importance of the mischief they do, are the bears. There are both sorts, carnivorous and vegetable-eaters; the latter are more mischievous than their more terrible brethren, coming down in the night and eating the corn, particularly buckwheat and maize; and they are so nice in choosing the sweetest ears of the latter, that they trample and spoil infinitely more than they eat. The carnivorous bears wage war against the cattle and sheep, so that no stock can be left in the fields at night. Flocks must be watched by shepherds, who have fire-arms, and the assistance of many stout and fierce dogs; and cattle are shut up in stables every night in the year. Sometimes, by accident, they wander from their keepers, and if left abroad, they run a considerable risque of being devoured.—The bears attack these animals by leaping on their back, force the head to the ground, thrust their paws into the body in the violence of a dreadful hug. There are many hunting days every year for destroying them; several parishes joining for that purpose. Great numbers of men and boys form a cordon, and drive the wood where the bears are known or suspected to be. They are the fattest in winter, when a good one is worth three louis. A bear never ventures to attack a wolf; but several wolves together, when hungry, will attack a bear, and kill and eat him. Wolves are here only in winter. In summer, they are in the very remotest parts of the Pyrenees—the most distant from human habitations: they are here, as every where else in France, dreadful to sheep.
A part of our original plan of travelling to the Pyrenees, was an excursion into Spain. Our landlord at Luchon had before procured mules and guides for persons travelling on business to Saragossa and Barcelona, and at our request wrote to Vielle, the first Spanish town across the mountains, for three mules and a conductor, who speaks French; and being arrived according to appointment, we set out on our expedition. For the register of this Tour into Spain, I must refer the reader to the Annals of Agriculture, vol. viii. p. 193.
JULY 21. Return.—Leave Jonquieres, where the countenances and manners of the people would make one believe all the inhabitants were smugglers. Come to a most noble road, which the King of Spain is making; it begins at the pillars that mark the boundaries of the two monarchies, joining with the French road: it is admirably executed. Here take leave of Spain and re-enter France: the contrast is striking. When one crosses the sea from Dover to Calais, the preparation and circumstance of a naval passage, leave the mind by some gradation to a change: but here, without going through a town, a barrier, or even a wall, you enter a new world. From the natural and miserable roads of Catalonia, you tread at once on a noble causeway, made with all the solidity and magnificence that distinguishes the highways of France. Instead of beds of torrents you have well built bridges; and from a country wild, desert, and poor, we found ourselves in the midst of cultivation and improvement. Every other circumstance spoke the same language, and told us by signs not to be mistaken, and some great and operating cause worked an effect too clear to be misunderstood. The more one sees, the more I belive we shall be led to think, that there is but one all-powerful cause that instigates mankind, and that is GOVERNMENT!—Others form exceptions, and give shades of difference and distinction, but this acts with permanent and universal force. The present instance is remarkable; for Roussillon is in fact a part of Spain; the inhabitants are Spaniards in language and in customs; but they are under a French government.
Great range of the Pyrenees at a distance. Meet shepherds that speak the Catalan. The cabriolets we meet are Spanish. The farmers thresh their corn like the Spaniards. The inns and the houses are the same. Reach Perpignan; there I parted with Mons. Lazowski. He returned to Bagnere de Luchon, but I had planned a tour in Languedoc, to fill up the time to spare—15 miles.
The 22d. The Duke de la Rochefoucauld had given me a letter to Mons. Barri de Lasseuses, major of a regiment at Perpignan, and who, he said, understood agriculture, and would be glad to converse with me on the subject. I sallied out in the morning to find him, but being Sunday, he was at his country-seat at Pia, about a league from the town. I had a roasting walk thither, over a dry stony country under vines. Mons. Madame, and Mademoiselle de Lasseuses, received me with great politeness. I explained the motives of my coming to France, which were not to run idly through the kingdom with the common herd of travellers, but to make myself a master of their agriculture; that if I found any thing good and applicable to England, I might copy it. He commended the design greatly; said it was travelling with a truly laudable motive; but expressed much astonishment, as it was so uncommon; and was very sure there was not a single Frenchman in all England on such an errand. He desired I would spend the day with him. I found the vineyard the chief part of his husbandry, but he had some arable land, managed in the singular manner of that province. He pointed to a village which he said was Rivesalta, which produced some of the most famous wine in France; at dinner I found that it merited its reputation. In the evening returned to Perpignan, after a day fertile in useful information.—8 miles.
The 23d. Take the road to Narbonne. Pass Rivesalta. Under the mountain there is the largest spring I ever saw. Otters-Pool and Holly-well are bubbles to it. It rises at the foot of the rock, and is able to turn immediately many mills; being at once rather a river than a spring. Pass an uninterrupted flat waste, without a single tree, house, or village for a considerable distance: by much the ugliest country I have seen in France. Great quantities of corn every where treading out with mules, as in Spain. Dine at Sejean, at the Soleil, a good new inn, where I accidentally met with the marquis de Tressan. He told me, that I must be a singular person to travel so far with no other object than agriculture: he never knew nor heard of the like; but approved much of the plan, and wished he could do the same.
The roads here are stupendous works. I passed a hill, cut through to ease a descent, that was all in the solid rock, and cost 90,000 liv. (3,937l.) yet it extends but a few hundred yards. Three leagues and an half from Sejean to Narbonne cost 1,800,000 liv. (78,750l.) These ways are superb even to a folly. Enormous sums have been spent to level even gentle slopes. The causeways are raised and walled on each side, forming one solid mass of artificial road, carried across the vallies to the height of six, seven, or eight feet, and never less than 50 wide. There is a bridge of a single arch, and a causeway to it, truly magnificent; we have not an idea of what such a road is in England. The traffic of the way, however, demands no such exertions; one-third of the breadth is beaten, one-third rough, and one-third covered with weeds. In 36 miles, I have met one cabriolet, half a dozen carts, and some old women with asses. For what all this waste of treasure?—In Languedoc, it is true, these works are not done by corvées; but there is an injustice in levying the amount not far short of them. The money is raised by tailles, and, in making the assessment, lands held by a noble tenure are so much eased, and others by a base one so burthened, that 120 arpents in this neighbourhood held by the former, pay 90 liv. and 400 possessed by a plebeian right, which ought proportionally to pay 300 liv. is, instead of that, assessed at 1400 liv. At Narbonne, the canal which joins that of Languedoc, deserves attention; it is a very fine work, and will, they say, be finished next month.—36 miles.
The 24th. Women without stockings, and many without shoes; but if their feet are poorly clad they have a superb consolation in walking upon magnificent causeways: the new road is 50 feet wide, and 50 more digged away or destroyed to make it.
The vintage itself can hardly be such a scene of activity and animation as this universal one of treading out the corn, with which all the towns and villages in Languedoc are now alive. The corn is all roughly stacked around a dry firm spot, where great numbers of mules and horses are driven on a trot round a centre, a woman holding the reins, and another, or a girl or two, with whips drive; the men supply and clear the floor; other parties are dressing, by throwing the corn into the air for the wind to blow away the chaff. Every soul is employed, and with such an air of cheerfulness, that the people seem as well pleased with their labour, as the farmer himself with his great heaps of wheat. The scene is uncommonly animated and joyous. I stopped and alighted often to see their method; I was always very civilly treated, and my wishes for a good price for the farmer, and not too good a one for the poor, well received. This method, which entirely saves barns, depends absolutely on climate: from my leaving Bagnere de Luchon to this moment, all through Catalonia, Roussillon, and this part of Languedoc, there has been nothing like rain; but one unvarying clear bright sky and burning sun, yet not at all suffocating, or to me even unpleasant. I asked whether they were not sometimes caught in the rain? they said, very rarely indeed; but if rain did come, it is seldom more than a heavy shower, which a hot sun quickly succeeds and dries every thing speedily.
The canal of Languedoc is the capital feature of all this country. The mountain through which it pierces is insulated, in the midst of an extended valley, and only half a mile from the road. It is a noble and stupendous work, goes through the hill about the breadth of three toises, and was digged without shafts.
Leave the road, and crossing the canal, follow it to Beziers; nine sluice-gates let the water down the hill to join the river at the town.—A noble work! The port is broad enough for four large vessels to lie abreast; the greatest of them carries from 90 to 100 tons. Many of them were at the quay, some in motion, and every sign of an animated business. This is the best sight I have seen in France. Here Lewis XIV. thou art truly great!—Here, with a generous and benignant hand, thou dispensest ease and wealth to thy people!—Si sic omnia, thy name would indeed have been revered. To effect this noble work, of uniting the two seas, less money was expended than to besiege Turin, or to seize Strasbourg like a robber. Such an employment of the revenues of a great kingdom is the only laudable way of a monarch's acquiring immortality; all other means make their names survive with those only of the incendiaries, robbers, and violators of mankind. The canal passes through the river for about half a league, separated from it by walls which are covered in floods; and then turns off for Cette. Dine at Beziers. Knowing that Mons. l'Abbé Rozier, the celebrated editor of the Journal Physique, and who is now publishing a dictionary of husbandry, which in France has much reputation, lived and farmed near Beziers, I enquired at the inn the way to his house. They told me that he had left Beziers two years, but that the house was to be seen from the street, and accordingly shewed it me from something of a square open on one side to the country; adding, that it belonged now to a Mons. de Rieuse, who had purchased the estate of the Abbé. To view the farm of a man celebrated for his writings, was an object, as it would, at least, enable me, in reading his book, to understand better the allusions he might make to the soil, situation, and other circumstances. I was sorry to hear, at the table d'hôte, much ridicule thrown on the Abbé Rozier's husbandry, that it had beaucoup de fantasie mais rien solide; in particular, they treated his paving his vineyards as a ridiculous circumstance. Such an experiment seemed remarkable, and I was glad to hear it, that I might desire to see these paved vineyards. The Abbé here, as a farmer, has just that character which every man will be sure to have who departs from the methods of his neighbours; for it is not in the nature of countrymen, that any body should come among them who can presume with impunity to think for themselves. I asked why he left the country? and they gave me a curious anecdote of the bishop of Beziers cutting a road through the Abbé's farm, at the expence of the province, to lead to the house of his (the bishop's) mistress, which occasioned such a quarrel that Mons. Rozier could stay no longer in the country. This is a pretty feature of a government: that a man is to be forced to sell his estate, and driven out of a country, because bishops make love.—I suppose to their neighbours wives, as no other love is fashionable in France. Which of my neighbours' wives will tempt the bishop of Norwich to make a road through my farm, and drive me to sell Bradfield?— I give my authority for this anecdote, the chat of a table d'hôte; it is as likely to be false as true; but Languedocian bishops are certainly not English ones.—Mons. de Rieuse received me politely, and satisfied as many of my enquiries as he could; for he knew little more of the Abbe's husbandry than common report, and what the farm itself told him, As to paved vineyards, there was no such thing; the report must have taken rise from a vineyard of Burgundy grapes, which the Abbé planted in a new manner; he set them in a curved form, in a foss, covering them only with flints instead of earth; this succeeded well. I walked over the farm, which is beautifully situated, on the slope and top of a hill, which commands Beziers, its rich vale, its navigation, and a fine accompanyment of mountains.
Beziers has a fine promenade; and is becoming, they say, a favourite residence for the English, preferring the air to that of Montpellier. Take the road to Pezenas. It leads up a hill, which commands, for some time, a view of the Mediterranean. Through all this country, but particularly in the olive grounds, the cricket (cicala) makes a constant, sharp, monotonous noise; a more odious companion on the road can hardly be imagined. Pezenas opens on a very fine country, a vale of six or eight leagues extent all cultivated; a beautiful mixture of vines, mulberries, olives, towns, and scattered houses, with a great deal of fine lucerne; the whole bounded by gentle hills, cultivated to their tops.—At supper, at the table d'hôte, we were waited on by a female without shoes or stockings, exquisitely ugly, and diffusing odours not of roses: there were, however, a croix de St. Louis, and two or three mercantile-looking people that prated with her very familiarly: at an ordinary of farmers, at the poorest and remotest market village in England, such an animal would not be allowed by the landlord to enter his house; or by the guests their room.—32 miles.
The 25th. The road, in crossing a valley to and from a bridge, is a magnificent walled causeway, more than a mile long, ten yards wide, and from eight to twelve feet high; with stone posts on each side at every six yards—a prodigious work.—I know nothing more striking to a traveller than the roads of Languedoc: we have not in England a conception of such exertions; they are splendid and superb; and if I could free my mind of the recollection of the unjust taxation which pays them, I should travel with admiration at the magnificence displayed by the states of this province. The police of these roads is however execrable—for I scarcely meet a cart but the driver is asleep in it.
Taking the road to Montpellier, pass through a pleasing country; and by another immense walled causeway, twelve yards broad and three high, leading close to the sea. To Pijan, and near Frontignan and Montbasin, famous for their muscat wines.—Approach Montpellier; the environs, for near a league, are delicious, and more highly ornamented than any thing I have seen in France.—Villas well built, clean, and comfortable, with every appearance of wealthy owners, are spread thickly through the country. They are, in general, pretty square buildings; some very large. Montpellier, with the air rather of a great capital than of a provincial town, covers a hill that swells proudly to the view.—But on entering it, you experience a disappointment from narrow, ill-built, crooked streets, but full of people, and apparently alive with business; yet there is no considerable manufacture in the place; the principal are verdigrease, silk handkerchiefs, blankets, perfumes and liqueurs. The great object for a stranger to view is the promenade or square, for it partakes of both, called the Perou. —There is a magnificent aqueduct on three tires of arches for supplying the city with water, from a hill at a considerable distance; a very noble work; a chateau d'eau receives the water in a circular bason, from which it falls into an external reservoir, to supply the city, and the jets d'eau that cool the air of a garden below, the whole in a fine square considerably elevated above the surrounding ground, walled in with a ballustrade, and other mural decorations, and in the centre a good equestrian statue of Louis XIV. There is an air of real grandeur and magnificence in this useful work, that struck me more than any thing at Versailles. The view is also singularly beautiful. To the south, the eye wanders with delight over a rich vale, spread with villas, and terminated by the sea. To the north, a series of cultivated hills. On one side, the vast range of the Pyrenees trend away till lost in remoteness. On the other, the eternal snows of the Alps pierce the clouds. The whole view one of the most stupendous to be seen, when a clear sky approximates these distant objects.—32 miles.
The 26th. The fair of Beaucaire fills the whole country with business and motion; meet many carts loaded; and nine diligences going or coming. Yesterday and to day the hottest I ever experienced; we had none like them in Spain—the flies much worse than the heat.—30 miles.
The 27th. The amphitheatre of Nismes is a prodigious work, which shews how well the Romans had adapted these edifices to the abominable uses to which they were erected. The convenience of a theatre that could hold 17000 spectators without confusion; the magnitude; the massive and substantial manner in which it is built without mortar, that has withstood the attacks of the weather, and the worse depredations of the barbarians in the various revolutions of sixteen centuries, all strike the attention forcibly.
I viewed the Maison Quarré last night; again this morning, and twice more in the day; it is beyond all comparison the most light, elegant, and pleasing building I ever beheld. Without any magnitude to render it imposing; without any extraordinary magnificence to surprize, it rivets attention. There is a magic harmony in the proportions that charms the eye. One can fix on no particular part of pre-eminent beauty; it is one perfect whole of symmetry and grace. What an infatuation in modern architects, that can overlook the chaste and elegant simplicity of taste, manifest in such a work; and yet rear such piles of laboured foppery and heaviness as are to be met with in France. The temple of Diana, as it is called, and the ancient baths, with their modern restoration, and the promenade, form parts of the same scene, and are magnificent decorations of the city. I was, in relation to the baths, in ill luck, for the water was all drawn off, in order to clean them and the canals.—The Roman pavements are singularly beautiful, and in high preservation. My quarters at Nismes were at the Louvre, a large, commodious, and excellent inn, the house was almost as much a fair from morning to night as Beaucaire itself could be. I dined and supped at the table d'hôte; the cheapness of these tables suits my finances, and one sees something of the manners of the people; we sat down from twenty to forty at every meal, most motley companies of French, Italians, Spaniards, and Germans, with a Greek and Armenian; and I was informed, that there is hardly a nation in Europe or Asia; that have not merchants at this great fair, chiefly for raw silk, of which many millions in value are sold in four days: all the other commodities of the world are to be found there.
One circumstance I must remark on this numerous table d'hôte, because it has struck me repeatedly, which is the taciturnity of the French. I came to the kingdom expecting to have my ears constantly fatigued with the infinite volubility and spirits of the people, of which so many persons have written, sitting, I suppose, by their English fire-sides. At Montpellier, though 15 persons and some of them ladies were present, I found it impossible to make them break their inflexible silence with more than a monosyllable, and the whole company sat more like an assembly of tongue-tied quakers, than the mixed company of a people famous for loquacity. Here also, at Nismes, with a different party at every meal it is the same; not a Frenchman will open his lips. To day at dinner, hopeless of that nation, and fearing to lose the use of an organ they had so little inclination to employ, I fixed myself by a Spaniard, and having been so lately in his country, I found him ready to converse, and tolerably communicative; but we had more conversation than thirty other persons maintained among themselves.
The 28th. Early in the morning to the Pont du Gard, through a plain covered with vast plantations of olives to the left, but much waste rocky land. At the first view of that celebrated aqueduct, I was rather disappointed, having expected something of greater magnitude; but soon found the error: I was, on examining it more nearly, convinced that it possessed every quality that ought to make a strong impression. It is a stupendous work; the magnitude, and the massive solidity of the architecture, which may probably endure two or three thousand years more, united with the undoubted utility of the undertaking, to give us a high idea of the spirit of exertion which executed it for the supply of a provincial town: the surprize, however, may cease, when we consider the nations enslaved that were the workmen.—Returning to Nismes, meet many merchants returning from the fair; each with a child's drum tied to their cloakbag: my own little girl was too much in my head not to love them for this mark of attention to their children;—but why a drum?—Have they not had enough of the military in a kingdom, where they are excluded from all the honours, respect, and emolument, that can flow from the sword?—I like Nismes much; and if the inhabitants are at all on a par with the appearance of their city, I should prefer it for a residence to most, if not all the towns I have seen in France. The theatre, however, is a capital point, in that Montpellier is said to exceed it.—24 miles.
The 29th. Pass six leagues of a disagreeable country to Sauve. Vines and olives. The chateau of Mons. Sabbatier strikes in this wild country; he has inclosed much with dry walls, planted many mulberries and olives, which are young, thriving, and well inclosed, yet the soil is so stony, that no earth is visible; some of his walls are four feet thick, and one of them twelve thick and five high, whence it seems, he thinks moving the stones a necessary improvement, which I much question. He has built three or four new farm-houses; I suppose he resides on this estate for improving it. I hope he does not serve; that no moon-shine pursuit may divert him from a conduct honourable to himself, and beneficial to his country.—Leaving Sauve, I was much struck with a large tract of land, seemingly nothing but huge rocks; yet most of it inclosed and planted with the most industrious attention. Every man has an olive, a mulberry, an almond, or a peach-tree, and vines scattered among them; so that the whole ground is covered with the oddest mixture of these plants, and bulging rocks that can be conceived. The inhabitants of this village deserve encouragement for their industry; and if I was a French minister, they should have it. They would soon turn all the deserts around them into gardens. Such a knot of active husbandmen, who turn their rocks into scenes of fertility, because I suppose THEIR OWN, would do the same by the wastes, if animated by the same omnipotent principle. Dine at St. Hyppolite, with eight protestant merchants returning home to Rouverge, from the fair of Beaucaire; as we parted at the same time, we travelled together; and from their conversation, I learned some circumstances of which I wanted to be informed; they told me also, that mulberries extend beyond Vigan, but then, and especially about Milhaud, almonds take their place, and are in very great quantities.
My Rouverge friends pressed me to pass with them to Milhaud and Rodez, assured me, that the cheapness of their province was so great, that it would tempt me to live some time amongst them. That I might have a house at Milhaud, of four tolerable rooms on a floor furnished, for 12 louis a-year; and live in the utmost plenty with all my family, if I would bring them over, for 100 louis a-year: that there were many families of noblesse, who subsisted on 50, and even on 25 a-year. Such anecdotes of cheapness are only curious when considered in a political light, as contributing on one hand to the welfare of individuals; and on the other, as contributing to the prosperity, wealth, and power of the kingdom; if I should meet with many such instances, and also with others directly contrary, it will be necessary to consider them more at large.—30 miles.
The 30th. Going out of Gange, I was surprised to find by far the greatest exertion in irrigation which I had yet seen in France; and then pass by some steep mountains, highly cultivated in terraces. Much watering at St. Laurence. The scenery very interesting to a farmer. From Gange, to the mountain of rough ground which I crossed, the ride has been the most interesting which I have taken in France; the efforts of industry the most vigorous; the animation the most lively. An activity has been here, that has swept away all difficulties before it, and has cloathed the very rocks with verdure. It would be a disgrace to common sense to ask the cause: the enjoyment of property must have done it. Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him a nine years lease of a garden, and he will convert it into a desert. To Montadier, over a rough mountain covered with box and lavender; it is a beggarly village, with an auberge that made me almost shrink. Some cut throat figures were eating black bread, whose visages had so much of the gallies that I thought I heard their chains rattle. I looked at their legs, and could not but imagine they had no business to be free. There is a species of countenance here so horridly bad, that it is impossible to be mistaken in one's reading. I was quite alone, and absolutely without arms. Till this moment, I had not dreamt of carrying pistols: I should now have been better satisfied, if I had had them. The master of the auberge, who seemed first cousin to his guests, procured for me some wretched bread with difficulty, but it was not black.—No meat, no eggs, no legumes, and execrable wine: no corn for my mule; no hay; no straw; no grass: the loaf fortunately was large; I took a piece, and sliced the rest for my four-footed Spanish friend, who ate it thankfully, but the aubergiste growled.—Descend by a winding and excellent road to Maudieres, where a vast arch is thrown across the torrent. Pass St. Maurice, and cross a ruined forest amongst fragments of trees. Descend three hours, by a most noble road hewn out of the mountain side to Lodeve, a dirty, ugly, ill built town, with crooked close streets, but populous, and very industrious.—Here I drank excellent light and pleasing white wine at 5f. a bottle.—36 miles.
The 31st. Cross a mountain by a miserable road, and reach Beg de Rieux, which shares with Carcassonne, the fabric of Londrins, for the Levant trade.—Cross much waste to Beziers.—I met to-day with an instance of ignorance in a well dressed French merchant, that surprised me. He had plagued me with abundance of tiresome foolish questions, and then asked for the third or fourth time what country I was of. I told him I was a Chinese. How far off is that country?—I replied, 200 leagues. Deux cents lieus! Diable! c'est un grand chemin! The other day a Frenchman asked me, after telling him I was an Englishman, if we had trees in England?—I replied, that we had a few. Had we any rivers?—Oh, none at all. Ah ma foi c'est bien trieste! This incredible ignorance, when compared with the knowledge so universally disseminated in England, is to be attributed, like every thing else, to government.—40 miles.
AUGUST 1. Leave Beziers, in order to go to Capestan by the pierced mountain. Cross the canal of Languedoc several times; and over many wastes to Pleraville. The Pyrenees now full to the left, and their roots but a few leagues off. At Carcassonne they carried me to a fountain of muddy water, and to a gate of the barracks; but I was better pleased to see several large good houses of manufacturers, that shew wealth.—40 miles.
The 2d. Pass a considerable convent, with a long line of front, and rise to Fanjour. —16 miles.
The 3d. At Mirepoix they are building a most magnificent bridge of seven flat arches, each of 64 feet span which will cost 1,800,000 liv. (78,750l.); it has been 12 years erecting, and will be finished in two more. The weather for several days has been as fine as possible, but very hot; to-day the heat was so disagreeable, that I rested from 12 to 3 at Mirepoix; and found it so burning, that it was an effort to go half a quarter of a mile to view the bridge. The myriads of flies were ready to devour me, and I could hardly support any light in the room. Riding fatigued me, and I enquired for a carriage of some sort to carry me, while these great heats should continue; I had done the same at Carcassonne; but nothing like a cabriolet of any sort was to be had. When it is recollected that that place is one of the most considerable manufacturing towns in France, containing 15,000 people, and that Mirepoix is far from being a mean place, and yet not a voiture of any kind to be had, how will an Englishman bless himself for the universal conveniences that are spread through his own country, in which I believe there is not a town of 1500 people in the kingdom where post chaises and able horses are not to be had at a moment's warning? What a contrast! This confirms the fact deducible from the little traffic on the roads even around Paris itself. Circulation is stagnant in France.—The heat was so great that I left Mirepoix disordered with it: This was by far the hottest day that I ever felt. The hemisphere seemed almost in a flame with burning rays that rendered it impossible to turn ones eyes within many degrees of the radiant orb that now blazed in the heavens.—Cross another fine new bridge of three arches; and come to a woodland, the first I have seen for a great distance. Many vines about Pamiers, which is situated in a beautiful vale, upon a fine river. The place itself is ugly, stinking, and ill built; with an inn! Adieu, Mons. Gascit; if fate sends me to such another house as thine—be it an expiation for my sins!—28 miles.
The 4th. Leaving Amous, there is the extraordinary spectacle of a river issuing out of a cavern in a mountain of rock; on crossing the hill you see where it enters by another cavern.—It pierces the mountain. Most countries, however, have instances of rivers passing under ground. At St. Geronds go to the Croix Blanche, the most execrable receptacle of filth, vermin, impudence, and imposition that ever exercised the patience, or wounded the feelings of a traveller. A withered hag, the dæmon of beastliness, presides there. I laid, not rested, in a chamber over a stable, whose effluviæ through the broken floor were the least offensive of the perfumes afforded by this hideous place.—It could give me nothing but two stale eggs, for which I paid, exclusive of all other charges, 20f. Spain brought nothing to my eyes that equalled this sink, from which an English hog would turn with disgust. But the inns all the way from Nismes are wretched, except at Lodeve, Gange, Carcassonne, and Mirepoix. St. Geronds must have, from its appearance, four or five thousand people. Pamiers near twice that number. What can be the circulating connection between such masses of people and other towns and countries, that can be held together and supported by such inns? There have been writers who look upon such observations as rising merely from the petulance of travellers, but it shews their extreme ignorance. Such circumstances are political data. We cannot demand all the books of France to be opened in order to explain the amount of circulation in that kingdom: a politician must therefore collect it from such circumstances as he can ascertain; and among these, traffic on the great roads, and the convenience of the houses prepared for the reception of travellers, tell us both the number and the condition of those travellers; by which term I chiefly allude to the natives, who move on business or pleasure from place to place; for if they are not considerable enough to cause good inns, those who come from a distance will not, which is evident from the bad accommodations even in the high road from London to Rome. On the contrary, go in England to towns that contain 1500, 2000, or 3000 people, in situations absolutely cut off from all dependence, or almost the expectation of what are properly called travellers; yet you will meet with neat inns, well dressed and clean people keeping them, good furniture, and a refreshing civility; your senses may not be gratified, but they will not be offended; and if you demand a post chaise and a pair of horses, the cost of which is not less than 80l. in spite of a heavy tax, it will be ready to carry you whither you please. Are no political conclusions to be drawn from this amazing contrast? It proves that such a population in England have connections with other places to the amount of supporting such houses. The friendly clubs of the inhabitants, the visits of friends and relations, the parties of pleasure, the resort of farmers, the intercourse with the capital and with other towns, form the support of good inns; and in a country where they are not to be found, it is a proof that there is not the same quantity of motion; or that it moves by means of less wealth, less consumption, and less enjoyment. In this journey through Languedoc, I have passed an incredible number of splendid bridges, and many superb causeways. But this only proves the absurdity and oppression of government. Bridges that cost 70 or 80,000l. and immense causeways to connect towns, that have no better inns than such as I have described, appear to be gross absurdities. They cannot be made for the mere use of the inhabitants, because one-fourth of the expense would answer the purpose of real utility. They are therefore objects of public magnificence, and consequently for the eye of travellers. But what traveller, with his person surrounded by the beggarly filth of an inn, and with all his senses offended, will not condemn such inconsistencies as folly, and will not wish for more comfort and less appearance of splendour.—30 miles.
The 5th. To St. Martory is an almost uninterrupted range of well inclosed and well cultivated country.—For an hundred miles past, the women generally without shoes, even in the towns; and in the country many men also.—The heat yesterday and to-day as intense as it was before: there is no bearing any light in the rooms: all must be shut close, or none are tolerably cool: in going out of a light room into a dark one, tho' both to the north, there is a very sensible coolness; and out of a dark one into a roofed balcony, is like going into an oven. I have been advised every day not to stir till four o'clock. From ten in the morning till five in the afternoon, the heat makes all exercise most uncomfortable; and the flies are a curse of Egypt. Give me the cold and fogs of England, rather than such a heat, should it be lasting. The natives, however, assert, that this intensity has now continued as long as it commonly does, namely, four or five days; and that the greatest part even of the hottest months is much cooler than the weather is at present.—In 250 miles distant, I have met on the road two cabriolets only, and three miserable things like old English one-horse chaises; not one gentleman; though many merchants, as they call themselves, each with two or three cloak-bags behind him:—a paucity of travellers that is amazing.—28 miles.
The 6th. To Bagnere de Luchon, rejoining my friends, and not displeased to have a little rest in the cool mountains, after so burning a ride.—28 miles.
The 10th. Finding our party not yet ready to set out on their return to Paris, I determined to make use of the time there was yet to spare, ten or eleven days, in a tour to Bagnere de Bigorre to Bayonne, and to meet them on the way to Bourdeaux, at Auch. This being settled, I mounted my English mare, and took my last leave of Luchon.—28 miles.
The 11th. Pass a convent of Bernardine monks, who have a revenue of 30,000 liv. It is situated in a vale, watered by a charming chrystal stream, and some hills, covered with oak, shelter it behind.—Arrive at Bagnere, which contains little worthy of notice, but it is much frequented by company on account of its waters. To the valley of Campan, of which I had heard great things, and which yet much surpassed my expectation. It is quite different from all the other vales I have seen in the Pyreness or in Catalonia. The features and the arrangement novel. In general the richly cultivated slopes of those mountains are thickly inclosed; this, on the contrary, is open. The vale itself is a flat range of cultivation and watered meadow, spread thickly with villages and scattered houses. The eastern boundary is a rough, steep, and rocky mountain, and affords pasturage to goats and sheep; a contrast to the western, which forms the singular feature of the scene. It is one noble sheet of corn and grass uninclosed, and intersected only by lines that mark the division of properties, or the channels that conduct water from the higher regions for irrigating the lower ones; the whole hanging is one matchless slope of the richest and most luxuriant vegetation. Here and there are scattered some small masses of wood, which chance has grouped with wonderful happiness for giving variety to the scene. The season of the year, by mixing the rich yellow of ripe corn, with the green of the watered meadows, added greatly to the colouring of the landscape, which is upon the whole the most exquisite for form and colour that my eye has ever been regaled with.—Take the road to Lourde, where is a castle on a rock, garrisoned for the mere purpose of keeping state prisoners, sent hither by lettres de cachet. Seven or eight are known to be here at present; thirty have been here at a time; and many for life—torn by the relentless hand of jealous tyranny from the bosom of domestic comfort; from wives, children, friends, and hurried for crimes unknown to themselves—more probably for virtues—to languish in this detested abode of misery—and die of despair. Oh, liberty! liberty!—and yet this is the mildest government of any considerable country in Europe, our own excepted. The dispensations of providence seem to have permitted the human race to exist only as the prey of tyrants, as it has made pigeons for the prey of hawks—35 miles.
The 12th. Pau is a considerable town, that has a parliament and a linen manufacture; but it is more famous for being the birth-place of Henry IV. I viewed the castle, and was shewn, as all travellers are, the room in which that amiable prince was born, and the cradle, the shell of a tortoise, in which he was nursed. What an effect on posterity have great and distinguished talents! This is a considerable town, but I question whether any thing would ever carry a stranger to it but its possessing the cradle of a favourite character.
Take the road to Moneng, and come presently to a scene which was so new to me in France, that I could hardly believe my own eyes. A succession of many well built, tight, and COMFORTABLE farming cottages, built of stone, and covered with tiles; each having its little garden, inclosed by clipt thorn hedges, with plenty of peach and other fruit trees, some fine oaks scattered in the hedges, and young trees nursed up with so much care, that nothing but the fostering attention of the owner could effect any thing like it. To every house belongs a farm, perfectly well inclosed, with grass borders mown and neatly kept around the corn fields, with gates to pass from one inclosure to another. The men are all dressed with red caps, like the highlanders of Scotland. There are some parts of England (where small yeomen still remain) that resemble this country of Bearne; but we have very little that is equal to what I have seen in this ride of twelve miles from Pau to Moneng. It is all in the hands of little proprietors, without the farms being so small as to occasion a vicious and miserable population. An air of neatness, warmth, and comfort breathes over the whole. It is visible in their new built houses and stables; in their little gardens; in their hedges; in the courts before their doors; even in the coops for their poultry, and the sties for their hogs. A peasant does not think of rendering his pig comfortable, if his own happiness hangs by the thread of a nine years lease. We are now in Bearne, within a few miles of the cradle of Henry IV. Do they inherit these blessings from that good prince? The benignant genius of that good monarch, seems to reign still over the country; each peasant has the fowl in the pot.—34 miles.
The 13th. The agreeable scene of yesterday continues; many small properties; and every appearance of rural happiness. Navareen is a small walled and fortified town, consisting of three principal streets, which cross at right angles, with a small square. From the ramparts there is the view of a fine country. The linen fabric spreads through it. To St. Palais the country is mostly inclosed, and much of it with thorn-hedges, admirably trained, and kept neatly clipped.—25 miles.
The 14th. Left St. Palais, and took a guide to conduct me four leagues to Anspan. Fair day, and the place crouded with farmers; I saw the soup prepared for what we should call the farmer's ordinary. There was a mountain of sliced bread, the colour of which was not inviting; ample provision of cabbage, grease, and water, and about as much meat for some scores of people, as half a dozen English farmers would have eaten, and grumbled at their host for short commons.—26 miles.
The 15th. Bayonne is by much the prettiest town I have seen in France; the houses are not only well built of stone, but the streets are wide and there are many openings which, though not regular squares, have a good effect. The river is broad, and many of the houses being fronted to it, the view of them from the bridge is fine. The promenade is charming; it has many rows of trees, whose heads join and form a shade delicious in this hot climate. In the evening, it was thronged with well dressed people of both sexes: and the women, through all the country, are the handsomest I have seen in France. In coming hither from Pau, I saw what is very rare in that kingdom, clean and pretty country girls; in most of the provinces, hard labour destroys both person and complexion. The bloom of health on the cheeks of a well dressed country girl is not the worst feature in any landscape. I hired a chaloup for viewing the embankment at the mouth of the river. By the water spreading itself too much, the harbour was injured; and government, to contract it, has built a wall on the north bank a mile long, and another on the south shore of half the length. It is from ten to 20 feet wide, and about twelve high, from the top of the base of rough stone, which extends twelve or fifteen feet more. Towards the mouth of the harbour, it is twenty feet wide, and the stones on both sides crampt together with irons. They are now driving piles of pine 16 feet deep, for the foundation. It is, on the whole, a work of great expence, magnificence and utility.
The 16th. To Dax is not the best way to Auch, but I had a mind to see the famous waste called Les Landes de Bourdeaux, of which I had long heard and read so much. I was informed, that by this route, I should pass through more than twelve leagues of them. They reach almost to the gates of Bayonne; but broken by cultivated spots for a league or two. These landes are sandy tracts covered with pine trees, cut regularly for resin. Historians report, that when the moors were expelled from Spain, they applied to the court of France for leave to settle on and cultivate these landes; and that the court was much condemned for refusing them. It seems to have been taken for granted, that they could not be peopled with French; and therefore ought rather to be given to Moors, than to be left waste.—At Dax, there is a remarkably hot spring in the middle of the town. It is a very fine one, bubbling powerfully out of the ground in a large bason, walled in; it is boiling hot; it tastes like common water, and I was told that it was not impregnated with any mineral. The only use to which it is applied is for washing linen. It is at all seasons of the same heat, and in the same quantity.—27 miles.
The 17th. Pass district of sand as white as snow, and so loose as to blow; yet has oaks two feet in diameter, by reason of a bottom of white adhesive earth like marl. Pass three rivers, the waters of which might be applied in irrigation, yet no use made of them. The duke de Bouillon has vast possessions in these lands. A Grand Seigneur will at any time, and in any country, explain the reason of improveable land being left waste.—29 miles.
The 18th. As dearness is, in my opinion, the general feature of all money exchanges in France, it is but candid to note instances to the contrary. At Airé, they gave me, at the Croix d'Or, soup, eels, sweet bread, and green-peas, a pigeon, a chicken, and veal-cutlets, with a dessert of biscuits, peaches, nectarines, plumbs, and glass of liqueur, with a bottle of good wine, all for 40f. (20d.) oats for my mare 20f. and hay 10f. At the same price at St. Severe, I had a supper last night not inferior to it. Every thing at Airé seemed good and clean; and what is very uncommon, I had a parlour to eat my dinner in, and was attended by a neat well dressed girl. The last two hours to Airé it rained so violently, that my silk surtout was an insufficient defence; and the old landlady was in no haste to give me fire enough to be dried. As to supper, I had the idea of my dinner.—35 miles.
The 19th. Pass Beek, which seems a flourishing little place, if we may judge by the building of new houses. The Clef d'Or is a large, new, and good inn.
In the 270 miles, from Bagnere de Luchon to Auch, a general observation I may make is, that the whole, with very few exceptions, is inclosed; and that the farm-houses are every where scattered, instead of being, as in so many parts of France collected in towns. I have seen scarcely any gentlemen's country seats that seem at all modern; and, in general, they are thin to a surprising degree. I have not met with one country equipage, nor any thing like a gentleman riding to see a neighbour. Scarcely a gentleman at all. At Auch, met by appointment my friends, on their return to Paris. The town is almost without manufactures or commerce, and is supported chiefly by the rents of the country. But they have many of the noblesse in the province, too poor to live here; some indeed so poor, that they plough their own fields; and these may possibly be much more estimable members of society, than the fools and knaves that laugh at them.—31 miles.
The 20th. Pass Fleuran, which contains many good houses, and go through a populous country to La Tour, a bishoprick, the diocesan of which we left at Bagnere de Luchon. The situation is beautiful on the point of a ridge of hills.—20 miles.
The 22d. By Leyrac, through a fine country, to the Garonne, which we cross by a ferry. This river is here a quarter of a mile broad, with every appearance of commerce. A large barge passed loaded with cages of poultry; of such consequence throughout the extent of this navigation is the consumption of the great city of Bourdeaux. The rich vale continues to Agen, and is very highly cultivated; but has not the beauty of the environs of Leitour. If new buildings are a criterion of the flourishing state of a place, Agen prospers. The bishop has raised a magnificent palace, the centre of which is in good taste; but the junction with the wings not equally happy.—23 miles.
The 23d. Pass a rich and highly cultivated vale to Aguillon; much hemp, and every woman in the country employed on it. Many neat well built farm-houses on small properties, and all the country very populous. View the chateau of the Duc d'Aguillon, which, being in the town, is badly situated, according to all rural ideas; but a town is ever an accompanyment of a chateau in France, as it was formerly in most parts of Europe; it seems to have resulted from a feudal arrangement, that the Grand Seigneur might keep his slaves the nearer to his call, as a man builds his stables near his house. This edifice is a considerable one, built by the present Duke; begun about twenty years ago, when he was exiled here during eight years. And, thanks to that banishment, the building went on nobly; the body of the house done, and the detached wings almost finished. But as soon as the sentence was reversed, the duke went to Paris, and has not been here since, consequently all now stands still. It is thus that banishment alone will force the French nobility to execute what the English do for pleasure—reside upon and adorn their estates. There is one magnificent circumstance, namely, an elegant and spacious theatre; it fills one of the wings. The orchestra is for twenty-four musicians, the number kept, fed, and paid, by the duke when here. This elegant and agreeable luxury, which falls within the compass of a very large fortune is known in every country in Europe except England: the possessors of great estates here preferring horses and dogs very much before any entertainment a theatre can yield. To Tonnance. —25 miles.
The 24th. Many new and good country seats, of gentlemen, well built, and set off with gardens, plantations, &c. These are the effects of the wealth of Bourdeaux. These people, like other Frenchmen, eat little meat; in the town of Leyrac five oxen only are killed in a year; whereas an English town with the same population would consume two or three oxen a week. A noble view towards Bourdeaux for many leagues, the river appearing in four or five places. Reach Langon, and drink of its excellent white wine—32 miles.
The 25th.—Pass through Barsac, famous also for its wines. They are now ploughing with oxen between the rows of the vines, the operation which gave Tull the idea of horse-hoeing corn. Great population and country seats all the way. At Castres the country changes to an un-interesting flat. Arrive at Bourdeaux, through a continued village.—30 miles.
26th. Much as I had read and heard of the commerce, wealth, and magnificence of this city, they greatly surpassed my expectations. Paris did not answer at all, for it is not to be compared to London; but we must not name Liverpool in competition with Bourdeaux. The grand feature here, of which I had heard most, answers the least; I mean the quay, which is respectable only for length, and its quantity of business, neither of which, to the eye of a stranger, is of much consequence, if devoid of beauty. The row of houses is regular, but without either magnificence or beauty. It is a dirty, sloping, muddy shore; parts without pavement, incumbered with filth and stones; barges lie here for loading and unloading the ships, which cannot approach to what should be a quay. Here is all the dirt and disagreeable circumstances of trade, without the order, arrangement, and magnificence of a quay. Barcelona is unique in this respect. When I presumed to find fault with the buildings on the river, it must not be supposed that I include the whole; the crescent which is in the same line is better. The place royale, with the statue of Lewis XV. in the middle, is a fine opening, and the buildings which form it regular and handsome. But the quarter of the chapeau rouge is truly magnificent, consisting of noble houses, built, like the rest of the city, of white hewn stone. It joins the chateau trompette, which occupies near half a mile of the shore. This fort is bought of the king, by a company of speculators, who are now pulling it down with an intention of building a fine square and many new streets, to the amount of 1800 houses. I have seen a design of the square and the streets, and it would, if executed, be one of the most splendid additions to a city that is to be seen in Europe. This great work stands still at present through a fear of resumptions. The theatre, built about ten or twelve years ago, is by far the most magnificent in France. I have seen nothing that approaches it. The building is insulated; and fills up a space of 306 feet by 165, one end being the principal front, containing a portico the whole length of it, of twelve very large Corinthian columns. The entrance from this portico is by a noble vestibule, which leads not only to the different parts of the theatre, but also to an elegant oval concert-room and saloons for walking and refreshments, The theatre itself is of a vast size; in shape the segment of an oval. The establishment of actors, actresses, singers, dancers, orchestra, &c. speak the wealth and luxury of the place. I have been assured, that from thirty to fifty louis a night have been paid to a favourite actress from Paris. Larrive, the first tragic actor of that capital, is now here, at 500 liv. (21l. 12s. 6d.) a night, with two benefits. Dauberval, the dancer and his wife (the Mademoiselle Theodore of London) are retained as principal ballet-master and first female dancer, at a salary of 28,000 liv. (1225l.) Pieces are performed every night, Sundays not excepted, as every where in France. The mode of living that takes place here among merchants is highly luxurious. Their houses and establishments are on expensive scales. Great entertainments, and many served on plate: high play is a much worse thing;—and the scandalous chronicle speaks of merchants keeping the dancing and singing girls of the theatre at salaries which ought to import no good to their credit. This theatre, which does so much honour to the pleasures of Bourdeaux, was raised at the expence of the town, and cost 270,000l. The new tide corn-mill, erected by a company, is very well worth viewing. A large canal is dug and formed in masonry of hewn stone, the walls four feet thick, leading under the building for the tide coming in, to turn the water wheels. It is then conducted in other equally well formed canals to a reservoir; and when the tide returns it gives motion to the wheels again. Three of these canals pass under the building for containing 24 pairs of stones. Every part of the work is on a scale of solidity and duration, admirably executed. The estimate of the expence is 8,000,000 liv. (350,000l.); but I know not how to credit such a sum. How far the erection of steam engines to do the same business would have been found a cheaper method, I shall not enquire; but I should apprehend that the common water mills, on the Garonne, which start without such enormous expences for their power, must in the common course of common events ruin this company. The new houses that are building in all quarters of the town, mark, too clearly to be misunderstood, the prosperity of the place. The skirts are every where composed of new streets; with still newer ones marked out, and partly built. These houses are in general small, or on a middling scale, for inferior tradesmen. They are all of white stone, and add, as they are finished, much to the beauty of the city. I enquired into the date of these new streets, and found that four or five years were in general the period: that is to say, since the peace; and from the colour of the stone of those streets next in age, it is plain that the spirit of building was at a stop during the war. Since the peace they had gone on with great activity. What a satire on the government of the two kingdoms, to permit in one the prejudices of manufacturers and merchants, and in the other the insidious policy of an ambitious court, to hurry the two nations for ever into wars that check all beneficial works, and spread ruin where private exertion was busied in deeds of prosperity. The rent of houses and lodgings rises every day, as it has done since the peace considerably, at the same time that so many new houses have been and are erecting, unites with the advance in the prices of every thing: they complain that the expences of living have risen in ten years full 30 per cent.—There can hardly be a clearer proof of an advance in prosperity.
The commercial treaty with England being a subject too interesting not to have demanded attention, we made the necessary enquiries.—Here it is considered in a very different light from Abbeville and Rouen: at Bourdeaux they think it a wise measure, that tends equally to the benefit of both countries. This is not the place for being more particular on the trade of this town.
We went twice to see Larrive do his two capital parts of the Black Prince in Mons. du Belloy's Piere le Cruel, and Philoctete, which gave me a very high idea of the French theatre. The inns at this city are excellent; the hotel d'Angletere and the Prince of Asturias; at the latter we found every accommodation to be wished, but with an inconsistence that cannot be too much condemned: we had very elegant apartments, and were served on plate, yet the necessary-house the same temple of abomination that is to be met in a dirty village.
The 28th. Leave Bourdeaux;—cross the river by a ferry, which employs twenty-nine men and fifteen boats, and lets at 18,000 liv. (787l.) a year. The view of the Garonne is very fine, appearing to the eye twice as broad as the Thames at London; and the number of large ships lying in it, makes it, I suppose, the richest water view that France has to boast. From hence to the Dordonne, a noble river, though much inferior to the Garonne, which we cross by another ferry that lets at 6000 liv. Reach Cavignac. —20 miles.
The 29th. To Barbesieux, situated in a beautiful country, finely diversified and wooded; the marquisate of which, with the chateau, belongs to the duke de la Rochefoucauld, whom we met here; he inherits this estate from the famous Louvois, the minister of Louis XIV. In this thirty-seven miles of country, lying between the great rivers Garonne, Dordonne, and Charente, and consequently in one of the best parts of France for markets, the quantity of waste land is surprising: it is the predominant feature the whole way. Much of these wastes belonged to the prince de Soubise, who would not sell any part of them. Thus it is whenever you stumble on a Grand Seigneur, even one that was worth millions, you are sure to find his property desert. The duke of Bouillon's and this prince's are two of the greatest properties in France; and all the signs I have yet seen of their greatness, are wastes, landes, deserts, fern, ling.—Go to their residence, wherever it may be, and you would probably find them in the midst of a forest, very well peopled with deer, wild boars, and wolves. Oh! if I was the legislator of France for a day, I would make such great lords skip again. We supped with the duke de la Rochefoucauld; the provincial assembly of Saintonge is soon to meet, and this nobleman, being the president, is waiting for their assembling.
The 30th. Through a chalk country, well wooded, though without inclosures to Angoulême; the approach to that town is fine; the country around being beautiful with the fine river Charente, here navigable, flowing through it, the effect striking.—25 miles.
The 31st. Quitting Angoulême, pass through a country almost covered with vines, and across a noble wood belonging to the duchess d'Anville, mother of the duke de la Rochefoucauld, to Verteul, a chateau of the same lady, built in 1459, where we found every thing that travellers could wish in a hospitable mansion. The Emperor Charles V. was entertained here by Anne de Polignac, widow of Francis II. count de la Rochefoucauld, and that prince, said aloud, n'avoir jamais été en maison qui sentit mieux sa grande vertu honnêteté & seigneurie que celle la.—It is excellently kept; in thorough repair, fully furnished, and all in order, which merits praise, considering that the family rarely are here for more than a few days in a year, having many other and more considerable seats in different parts of the kingdom. If this just attention to the interests of posterity was more general, we should not see the melancholy spectacle of ruined chateaus in so many parts of France. In the gallery is a range of portraits from the tenth century; by one of which it appears, that this estate came by a Mademoiselle la Rochefoucauld, in 1470. The park, woods, and river Charente here are fine: the last abounds greatly in carp, tench, and perch. It is at any time easy to get from 50 to 100 brace of fish that weigh from three to 10lb. each: we had a brace of carp for supper, the sweetest, without exception, I ever tasted. If I pitched my tent in France, I should choose it to be by a river that gave such fish. Nothing provokes one so in a country residence as a lake, a river, or the sea within view of the windows, and a dinner every day without fish, which is so common in England.—27 miles.
SEPTEMBER 1st. Pass Caudec, Ruffec, Maisons-Blanches, and Chaunay. At the first of these places, view a very fine flour-mill built by the late count de Broglio, brother of the marechal de Broglio, one of the ablest and most active officers in the French service. In his private capacity, his undertakings were of a national kind; this mill, an iron forge, and the project of a navigation, proved that he had a disposition for every exertion that could, according to the prevalent ideas of the times, benefit his country; that is to say, in every way except the one in which it would have been effective—practical agriculture. This day's journey has been, with some exceptions, through a poor, dull, and disagreeable country.—35 miles.
The 2d. Poitou, from what I see of it, is an unimproved, poor, and ugly country. It seems to want communication, demand, and activity of all kinds; nor does it, on an average, yield the half of what it might. The lower part of the province is much richer and better.
Arrive at Poitiers, which is one of the worst built towns I have seen in France; very large and irregular, but containing scarcely any thing worthy of notice, except the cathedral, which is well built, and very well kept.—The finest thing by far in the town is the promenade, which is the most extensive I have seen; it occupies a considerable space of ground, with gravelled walks, &c. excellently kept.—12 miles.
The 3d. A white chalky country to Chateaurault, open, and thinly peopled, though not without country-seats. That town has some animation, owing to its navigable river, which falls into the Loire. There is a considerable cutlery manufacture: we were no sooner arrived, than our apartment was full of the wives and daughters of manufacturers, each with her box of knives, scissars, toys, &c. and with so much civil solicitude to have something bought, that had we wanted nothing it would have been impossible to let so much urgency prove vain. It is remarkable, as the fabrics made here are cheap, that there is scarcely any division of labour in this manufacture; it is in the hands of distinct and unconnected workmen, who go through every branch on their own account, and without assistance, except from their families.—25 miles.
The 4th. Pass a better country, with many chateaus, to Les Ormes, where we stopped to see the seat built by the late count de Voyer d'Argenson. This chateau is a large handsome edifice of stone, with two very considerable wings for offices and strangers' apartments: the entrance is into a neat vestibule, at the end of which is the saloon, a circular marble room, extremely elegant and well furnished; in the drawing-room are paintings of the four French victories of the war of 1744: in every apartment there is a strong disposition to English furniture and modes. This pleasing residence belongs at present to the count d'Argenson. The late count who built it formed with the present duke of Grafton, in England, the scheme of a very agreeable party. The duke was to go over with his horses and pack of fox-hounds, and live here for some months, with a number of friends. It originated in the proposal to hunt French wolves with English fox-dogs. Nothing could be better planned than the scheme, for Les Ormes is large enough to have contained a numerous party; but the count's death destroyed the plan. This is a sort of intercourse between the nobility of two kingdoms, which I am surprised does not take place sometimes; it would vary the common scenes of life very agreeably, and be productive of some of the advantages of travelling in the most eligible way.—23 miles.
The 5th. Through a dead flat and unpleasant country, but on the finest road I have seen in France—nor does it seem possible that any should be finer; not arising from great exertions, as in Languedoc, but from being laid flat with admirable materials. Chateaus are scattered every where in this part of Touraine; but farm houses and cottages thin, till you come in sight of the Loire, the banks of which seem one continued village. The vale, through which that river flows, may be three miles over; a dead level of burnt russet meadow.
The entrance of Tours is truly magnificent, by a new street of large houses, built of hewn white stone, with regular fronts. This fine street, which is wide, and with foot pavements on each side, is cut in a strait line through the whole city to the new bridge, of fifteen flat arches, each of seventy-five feet span. It is altogether a noble exertion for the decoration of a provincial town. Some houses remain yet to be built, the fronts of which are done; some reverend fathers are satisfied with their old habitations, and do not choose the expence of filling up the elegant design of the Tours projectors; they ought, however, to be unroosted if they will not comply, for fronts without houses behind them have a ridiculous appearance. From the tower of the cathedral there is an extensive view of the adjacent country; but the Loire, for so considerable a river, and for being boasted as the most beautiful in Europe, exhibits such a breadth of shoals and sands as to be almost subversive of beauty. In the chapel of the old palace of Louis XI. Les Plessis les Tours, are three pictures which deserve the travellers notice; a holy family, St. Catharine, and the daughter of Herod; they seem to be of the best age of Italian art. There is a very fine promenade here; long and admirably shaded by four rows of noble and lofty elms, which for shelter against a burning sun can have no superior; parallel with it is another on the rampart of the old walls, which looks down on the adjacent gardens; but these walks, of which the inhabitants have long boasted, are at present objects of melancholy; the corporation has offered the trees to sale, and I was assured they would be cut down the ensuing winter.—One would not wonder at an English corporation sacrificing the ladies' walk for plenty of turtle, venison, and madeira; but that a French one should have so little gallantry, is inexcusable.
The 9th. The count de la Rochefoucauld having a feverish complaint when he arrived here, which prevented our proceeding on the journey, it became the second day a confirmed fever; the best physician of the place was called in, whose conduct I liked much, for he had recourse to very little physick, but much attention to keep his apartment cool and airy; and seemed to have great confidence in leaving nature to throw off the malady that oppressed her. Who is it that says there is a great difference between a good physician and a bad one; yet very little between a good one and none at all?
Among other excursions, I took a ride on the banks of the Loire towards Saumur, and found the country the same as near Tours; but the chateaus not so numerous or good. Where the chalk hills advance perpendicularly towards the river, they present a most singular spectacle of uncommon habitations; for a great number of houses are cut out of the white rock, fronted with masonry, and holes cut above for chimnies, so that you sometimes know not where the house is from which you see the smoke issuing. These cavern-houses are in some places in tires one above another. Some with little scraps of gardens have a pretty effect. In general, the proprietors occupy them; but many are let at 10, 12, and 15 liv. a year. The people I talked with seemed well satisfied with their habitations, as good and comfortable: a proof of the dryness of the climate. In England the rheumatism would be the chief inhabitant. Walked to the Benedictine convent of Marmoutier, of which the cardinal de Rohan, at present here, is abbot.
The 10th. Nature, or the Tours doctor, having recovered the count, we set forward on our journey. The road to Chanteloup is made on an embankment, that secures a large level tract from floods. The country more uninteresting than I could have thought it possible for the vicinity of a great river to be.—View Chanteloup, the magnificent seat of the late duke de Choiseul. It is situated on a rising ground, at some distance from the Loire, which in winter, or after great floods, is a fine object, but at present is scarcely seen. The ground-floor in front consists of seven rooms: the dining-room of about thepleasureground, on a hill thirty by twenty, and the drawing-room thirty by thirty-three: the library is seventy-two by twenty, but now fitted up by the present possessor, the duke de Penthievre, with very beautiful tapestry from the Gobelins.—In commanding a very extensive prospect; is a Chinese pagoda, 120 feet high, built by the duke, in commemoration of the persons who visited him in his exile. On the walls of the first room in it their names are engraved on marble tablets. The number and rank of the persons do honour to the duke and to themselves. The idea was a happy one. The forest you look down on from this building is very extensive; they say eleven leagues across: ridings are cut pointing to the pagoda; and when the duke was alive, these glades had the mischievous animation of a vast hunt, supported so liberally as to ruin the master of it, and transferred the property of this noble estate and residence from his family to the last hands I should wish to see it in—a prince of the blood. Great lords love too much an environ of forest, boars, and huntsmen, instead of marking their residence by the accompanyment of neat and well cultivated farms, clean cottages, and happy peasants. In such a method of shewing their magnificence, rearing forests, gilding domes, or bidding aspiring columns rise, might be wanting; but they would have, instead of them, erections of comfort, establishments of ease, and plantations of felicity: and their harvest, instead of the flesh of boars, would be in the voice of chearful gratitude—they would see public prosperity flourish on its best basis of private happiness.—As a farmer, there is one feature which shews the duke had some merit; he built a noble cow-house; a platform leads along the middle, between two rows of mangers, with stalls for seventy-two, and another apartment, not so large, for others, and for calves. He imported 120 very fine Swiss cows, and visited them with his company every day, as they were kept constantly tied up. To this I may add the best built sheephouse I have seen in France: and I thought I saw from the pagoda part of the farm better laid out and ploughed than common in the country, so that he probably imported some ploughmen.—This has merit in it; but it was all the merit of banishment. Chanteloup would neither have been built nor decorated, nor furnished, if the duke had not been exiled. It was the same with the duke d'Aguillon. These ministers would have sent the country to the devil before they would have reared such edifices, or formed such establishments, if they had not both been sent from Versailles. View the manufacture of steel at Amboise, established by the duke de Choiseul. Vineyards the chief feature of agriculture.—37 miles.
The 11th. To Blois, an old town, prettily situated on the Loìre, with a good stone bridge of eleven arches. We viewed the castle, for the historical monument it affords that has rendered it so famous. They shew the room where the council assembled, and the chimney in it before which the duke of Guise was standing when the king's page came to demand his presence in the royal closet: the door he was entering when stabbed: the tapestry he was in the act of turning aside: the tower where his brother the cardinal suffered; with a hole in the floor into the dungeon of Louis XI. of which the guide tells many horrible stories, in the same tone, from having told them so often, in which the fellow in Westminster Abbey gives his monotonous history of the tombs. The best circumstance attending the view of the spots, or the walls within which great, daring, or important actions have been performed, is the impression they make on the mind, or rather on the heart of the spectator, for it is an emotion of feeling, rather than an effort of reflection. The murders, or political executions perpetrated in this castle, though not uninteresting, were inflicted on, and by men that command neither our love, nor our veneration. The character of the period, and of the men that figured in it, were alike disgusting. Bigotry and ambition, equally dark, insidious, and bloody, allow no feelings of regret. The parties could hardly be better employed than in cutting each others throats. Quit the Loire, and pass to Chambord. The quantity of vines is very great; they have them very flourishing on a flat poor blowing sand. How well satisfied would my friend Le Blanc be if his poorest sands at Cavenham gave him 100 dozen of good wine per acre per annum! See at one coup d'œil 2000 acres of them. View the royal chateau of Chambord, built by that magnificent prince Francis I. and inhabited by the late marechal de Saxe. I had heard much of this castle, and it more than answered my expectation. It gives a great idea of the splendor of that prince. Comparing the centuries, and the revenues of Louis XIV. and Francis I. I prefer Chambord infinitely to Versailles. The apartments are large, numerous, and well contrived. I admired particularly the stone stair-case in the centre of the house, which, being in a double spiral line, contains two distinct stair-cases, one above another, by which means people are going up and down at the same time, without seeing each other. The four apartments in the attic, with arched stone roofs, were in no mean taste. One of these count Saxe turned into a neat well contrived theatre. We were shewn the apartment which that great soldier occupied, and the room in which he died. Whether in his bed or not is yet a problem for ancedote hunters to solve. A report not uncommon in France was, that he was ran through the heart in a duel with the Prince of Conti, who came to Chambord for that purpose; and great care was taken to conceal it from the king (Louis XV.), who had such a friendship for the marechal, that he would certainly have driven the prince out of the kingdom. There are several apartments modernized, either for the marechal or for the governors that have resided here since. In one there is a fine picture of Louis XIV. on horseback. Near the castle are the barracks for the regiment of 1500 horse, formed by marechal de Saxe, and which Louis XV. gave him, by appointing them to garrison Chambord while their colonel made at his residence. He lived here in great splendour, and highly respected by his sovereign, and the whole kingdom.—The situation of the castle is bad; it is low, and without the least prospect that is interesting; indeed the whole country is so flat that a high ground is hardly to be found in it. From the battlements we saw the environs, of which the park or forest forms three-fourths; it contains within a wall about 20,000 arpents, and abounds with all sorts of game to a degree of profusion. Great tracts of this park are waste or under heath, &c. or at least a very imperfect cultivation: I could not help thinking, that if the king of France ever formed the idea of establishing one compleat and perfect farm under the turnip culture of England, here is the place for it. Let him assign the chateau for the residence of the director and all his attendants; and the barracks, which are now applied to no use whatever, for stalls for cattle, and the profits of the wood would be sufficient to stock and support the whole undertaking. What comparison between the utility of such an establishment, and that of a much greater expence applied here at present for supporting a wretched haras (stud), which has not a tendency but to mischief! I may, however, recommend such agricultural establishments; but they never were made in any country, and never will be, till mankind are governed on principles absolutely contrary to those which prevail at present—until something more is thought requisite for a national husbandry than academies and memoirs.—35 miles.
The 12th. In two miles from the park wall regain the high road on the Loire. In discourse with a vigneron, we were informed that it froze this morning hard enough to damage the vines; and I may observe, that for four or five days past the weather has been constantly clear, with a bright sun, and so cold a north-east wind as to resemble much our cold clear weather in England in April; we have all our great coats on the day through. Dine at Clarey, and view the monument of that able but bloody tyrant Louis XI. in white marble; he is represented in a kneeling posture, praying forgiveness, I suppose, which doubtless was promised him by his priests for his basenesses and his murders. Reach Orleans.—30 miles.
The 13th. Here my companions, wanting to return as soon as possible to Paris, took the direct road thither; but, having travelled it before, I preferred that by Petivier in the way to Fountainbleau. One motive for my taking this road was its passing by Denainvilliers, the seat of the late celebrated Mons. du Hamel, and where he made those experiments in agriculture which he has recited in many of his works. At Petivier I was just by, and walked thither for the pleasure of viewing grounds I had read of so often, considering them with a sort of classic reverence. His homme d'affaire, who conducted the farm, being dead, I could not get many particulars to be depended upon. Mons. Fougeroux, the present possessor, was not at home, or I should doubtless have had all the information I wished. I examined the soil, a principal point in all experiments, when conclusions are to be drawn from them; and I also took notes of the common husbandry. Learning from the labourer who attended me that the drill-ploughs, &c., were yet in being, on a loft in one of the offices, I viewed them with pleasure, and found them as well as I can remember, very accurately represented in the plates which their ingenious author has given. I was glad to find them laid up in a place out of common traffic, where they may remain safe till some other farming traveller, as enthusiastic as myself, may view the venerable remains of a useful genius. Here is a stove and bath for drying wheat, which he also has described. In an inclosure behind the house is a plantation of various curious exotic trees, finely grown, also several rows of ash, elm, and poplar along the roads, near the chateau, all planted by Mons. du Hamel. It gave me still greater pleasure to find that Denainvilliers is not an inconsiderable estate. The lands extensive; the chateau respectable; with offices, gardens, &c. that prove it the residence of a man of fortune; from which it appears, that this indefatigable author, however he might have failed in some of his pursuits, met with that reward from his court which did it credit to bestow; and that he was not like others, left in obscurity to the simple rewards which ingenuity can confer on itself. Four miles before Malsherbs a fine plantation of a row of trees on each side the road begins, formed by Mons. de Malsherbs, and is a striking instance of attention to decorating an open country. More than two miles of them are mulberries. They join his other noble plantations at Malsherbs, which contain a great variety of the most curious trees that have been introduced in France.—36 miles.
The 14th. After passing three miles through the forest of Fountainbleau, arrive at that town, and view the royal palace, which has been so repeatedly added to by several kings, that the share of Francis I. its original founder, is not easily ascertained. He does not appear to such advantage as at Chambord. This has been a favourite with the Bourbons, from there having been so many Nimrods of that family. Of the apartments which are shewn here, the king's, the queen's, monsieur's, and madame's, are the chief. Gilding seems the prevalent decoration but in the queen's cabinet it is well and elegantly employed. The painting of that delicious little room is exquisite; and nothing can exceed the extremity of ornament that is here with taste bestowed. The tapestries of Beauvais and the Gobelins, are seen in this palace to great advantage. I liked to see the gallery of Francis I. preserved to its ancient state, even to the andirons in the chimney, which are those that served that monarch. The gardens are nothing; and the grand canal, as it is called, not to be compared with that at Chantilly. In the pond that joins the palace, are carp as large and as tame as the Prince of Condè's. The landlord of the inn at Fountainbleau thinks that royal palaces should not be seen for nothing; he made me pay 10 liv. for a dinner, which would have cost me not more than half the money at the star and garter at Richmond. Reach Meulan. —34 miles.
The 15th. Cross, for a considerable distance, the royal oak forest of Senár. —About Montgeron, all open fields, which produce corn and partridges to eat it, for the number is enormous. There is on an average a covey of birds on every two acres, besides favourite spots, where they abound much more. At St. George the Seine is a much more beautiful river than the Loire. Enter Paris once more, with the same observation I made before, that there is not one-tenth of the motion on the roads around it that there is around London. To the hotel de la Rochefoucauld.—20 miles.
The 16th. Accompanied the count de la Rochefoucauld to Liancourt.—38 miles.
I went thither on a visit for three or four days; but the whole family contributed so generally to render the place in every respect agreeable, that I staid more than three weeks. At about half a mile from the chateau is a range of hill that was chiefly a neglected waste: the duke of Liancourt has lately converted this into a plantation, with winding walks, benches, and covered seats, in the English style of gardening. The situation is very fortunate. These ornamented paths follow the edge of the declivity to the extent of three or four miles. The views they command are every where pleasing, and in some places great. Nearer to the chateau the dutchess of Liancourt has built a menagerie and dairy in a pleasing taste. The cabinet and anti-room are very pretty; the saloon elegant, and the diary entirely constructed of marble. At a village near Liancourt, the duke has established a manufacture of linen and stuffs mixed with thread and cotton, which promises to be of considerable utility; there are 25 looms employed, and preparations making for more. As the spinning for these looms is also established, it gives employment to great numbers of hands who were idle, for they have no sort of manufacture in the country though it is populous. Such efforts merit great praise. Connected with this is the execution of an excellent plan of the duke's for establishing habits of industry in the rising generation. The daughters of the poor people are received into an institution to be educated to useful industry: they are instructed in their religion, taught to write and read, and to spin cotton: are kept till marriageable, and then a regulated proportion of their earnings given them as a marriage portion. There is another establishment of which I am not so good a judge; it is for training the orphans of soldiers to be soldiers themselves. The duke of Liancourt has raised some considerable buildings for their accommodation well adapted to the purpose. The whole is under the superintendance of a worthy and intelligent officer, Mons. le Roux, captain of dragoons, and croix de St. Louis, who sees to every thing himself. There are at present 120 boys, all dressed in uniform.—My ideas have all taken a turn which I am too old to change: I should have been better pleased to see 120 lads educated to the plough, in habits of culture superior to the present; but certainly the establishment is humane, and the conduct of it excellent.
The ideas I had formed, before I came to France, of a country residence in that kingdom, I found at Liancourt to be far from correct. I expected to find it a mere transfer of Paris to the country, and that all the burthensome forms of a city were preserved, without its pleasures; but I was deceived; the mode of living, and the pursuits, approach much nearer to the habits of a great nobleman's house in England, than would commonly be conceived. A breakfast of tea for those that chose to repair to it; riding, sporting, planting, gardening, till dinner, and that not till half after two o'clock, instead of their old fashioned hour of twelve; music, chess, and the other common amusements of a rendezvouz-room, with an excellent library of seven or eight thousand volumes, were well calculated to make the time pass agreeably; and to prove that there is a great approximation in the modes of living at present in the different countries of Europe. Amusements, in truth, ought to be numerous within doors; for, in such a climate, none are to be depended on without: the rain that has fallen here is hardly credible. I have, for five-and-twenty years past, remarked in England, that I never was prevented by rain from taking a walk every day without going out while it actually rains; it may fall heavily for many hours; but a person who watches an opportunity gets a walk or a ride. Since I have been at Liancourt, we have had three days in succession of such incessantly heavy rain, that I could not go an hundred yards from the house to the duke's pavilion, without danger of being quite wet. For ten days more rain fell here, I am confident, had there been a guage to measure it, than ever fell in England in thirty. The present fashion in France, of passing some time in the country is new; at this time of the year, and for many weeks past, Paris is, comparatively speaking, empty. Every body that have country-seats are at them; and those who have none visit others who have. This remarkable revolution in the French manners is certainly one of the best customs they have taken from England; and its introduction was effected the easier, being assisted by the magic of Rousseau's writings. Mankind are much indebted to that splendid genius, who, when living, was hunted from country to country, to seek an asylum, with as much venom as if he had been a mad dog; thanks to the vile spirit of bigotry, which has not yet received its death's wound. Women of the first fashion in France are now ashamed of not nursing their own children; and stays are universally proscribed from the bodies of the poor infants, which were for so many ages tortured in them, as they are still in Spain. The country residence may not have effects equally obvious; but they will be no less sure in the end, and in all respects beneficial to every class in the state.
The duke of Liancourt being president of the provincial assembly of the election of Clermont, and passing several days there in business, asked me to dine with the assembly, as he said there were to be some considerable farmers present. These assemblies, which had been proposed many years past by the French patriots, and especially by the marquis de Mirabeau, the celebrated l'ami des hommes; which had been treated by M. Necker, and which were viewed with eyes of jealousy by certain persons who wished for no better government than one whose abuses were the chief foundation of their fortunes; these assemblies were to me interesting to see. I accepted the invitation with pleasure. Three considerable farmers, renters, not proprietors of land, were members, and present. I watched their carriage narrowly, to see their behaviour in the presence of a great lord of the first rank, considerable property, and high in royal favour; and it was with pleasure that I found them behaving with becoming ease and freedom, and though modest, and without anything like flippancy, yet without any obsequiousness offensive to English ideas. They started their opinions freely, and adhered to them with becoming confidence. A more singular spectacle, was to see two ladies present at a dinner of this sort, with five or six and twenty gentlemen; such a thing could not happen in England. To say that the French manners in this respect, are better than our own, is the assertion of an obvious truth. If the ladies are not present at meetings where the conversation has the greatest probability of turning on subjects of more importance than the frivolous topics of common discourse, the sex must either remain on one hand in ignorance, or, on the other, filled with the foppery of over education, learned, affected, and forbidding. The conversation of men, not engaged in trifling pursuits, is the best school for the education of a woman.
The political conversation of every company I have seen has turned much more on the affairs of Holland than on those of France. The preparations going on for a war with England, are in the mouths of all the world; but the finances of France are in such a state of derangement, that the people best informed assert a war to be impossible; the marquis of Verac, the late French ambassador at the Hague, who was sent thither, as the English politicians assert, expressly to bring about a revolution in the government, has been at Liancourt three days. It may easily be supposed, that he is cautious in what he says in such a mixed company; but it is plain enough, that he is well persuaded that that revolution, change, or lessening the Stadtholder's power; that plan, in a word, whatever it was, for which he negotiated in Holland, had for some time been matured and ready for execution, almost without a possibility of failure, had the count de Vergennes consented, and not spun out the business by refinement on refinement, to make himself the more necessary to the French cabinet; and it unites with the idea of some sensible Dutchmen, with whom I have conversed on the subject.
During my stay at Liancourt, my friend Lazowski accompanied me on a little excursion of two days to Ermenonville, the celebrated seat of the marquis de Girardon. We passed by Chantilly to Morefountain, the country-seat of Mons. de Morefountain, prevost des merchands of Paris; the place has been mentioned as decorated in the English style. It consists of two scenes; one a garden of winding walks, and ornamented with a profusion of temples, benches, grottos, columns, ruins, and I know not what: I hope the French who have not been in England do not consider this as the English taste. It is in fact as remote from it as the most regular stile of the last age. The water view is fine. There is a gaiety and chearfulness in it that contrast well with the brown and unpleasing hills that surround it, and which partake of the waste character of the worst part of the surrounding country. Much has been done here; and it wants but few additions to be as perfect as the ground admits.
Reach Ermenonville, through another part of the prince of Conde's forest, which joins the ornamented grounds of the marquis Girardon. This place, after the residence and death of the persecuted but immortal Rousseau, whose tomb every one knows is here, became so famous as to be resorted to very generally. It has been described, and plates published of the chief views; to enter into a particular description would therefore be tiresome, I shall only make one or two observations, which I do not recollect having been touched on by others. It consists of three distinct water scenes; or of two lakes and a river. We were first shewn that which is so famous for the small isle of poplars, in which reposes all that was mortal of that extraordinary and inimitable writer. This scene is as well imagined, and as well executed as could be wished. The water is between forty and fifty acres; hills rise from it on both sides, and it is sufficiently closed in by tall wood at both ends, to render it sequestered. The remains of departed genius stamp a melancholy idea, from which decoration would depart too much, and accordingly there is little. We viewed the scene in a still evening. The declining sun threw a lengthened shade on the lake, and silence seemed to repose on its unruffled bosom; as some poet says, I forget who. The worthies to whom the temple of philosophers is dedicated, and whose names are marked on the columns, are NEWTON, Lucem.—DESCARTES. Nil in rebus inane.—VOLTAIRE, Ridiculum.—ROUSSEAU, Naturam.—And on another unfinished column, Quis hoc perficiet? The other lake is larger; it nearly fills the bottom of the vale, around which are some rough, rocky, wild, and barren sand hills; either broken or spread with heath; in some places wooded, and in others scattered thinly with junipers. The character of the scene is that of wild and undecorated nature, in which the hand of art was meant to be concealed as much as was consistent with ease of access. The last scene is that of a river, which is made to wind through a lawn, receding from the house, and broken by wood: the ground is not fortunate; it is too dead a flat, and no where viewed to much advantage.
From Ermenonville we went, the morning after, to Brasseuse, the seat of Madame du Pont, sister to the dutchess of Liancourt. What was my surprize at finding this viscountess a great farmer! A French lady, young enough to enjoy all the pleasures of Paris, living in the country and minding her farm, was an unlooked for spectacle. She has probably more lucerne than any other person in Europe—250 arpents. She gave me, in a most unaffected and agreeable manner, both lucerne and dairy intelligence; but of that more elsewhere. Returned to Liancourt by Pont, where there is a handsome bridge, of three arches, the construction uncommon, each pier consisting of four pillars, with a towing-path under one of the arches for the barge-horses, the river being navigable.
Amongst the morning amusements I partook at Liancourt was la chasse. In deer shooting, the sportsmen place themselves at distances around a wood, then beat it, and seldom more than one in a company gets a shot; it is more tedious than is easily conceived: like angling, incessant expectation, and perpetual disappointment. Partridge and hare shooting are almost as different from that of England. We took this diversion in the fine vale of Catnoir, five or six miles from Liancourt; arranging ourselves in a file at about thirty yards from person to person, and each with a servant and a loaded gun, ready to present when his master fires: thus we marched across and cross the vale, treading up the game. Four or five brace of hares, and twenty brace of partridges were the spoils of the day. I like this mode of shooting but little better than waiting for deer. The best circumstance to me of exercise in company (it was not so once) is the festivity of the dinner at the close of the day. To enjoy this, it must not be pushed to great fatigue. Good spirits, after violent exercise, are always the affectation of silly young folks (I remember being that sort of fool myself, when I was young), but with something more than moderate, the exhilaration of body is in unison with the flow of temper, and agreeable company is then delicious. On such days as these we were too late for the regular dinner, and had one by ourselves, with no other dressing than the refreshment of clean linen; and these were not the repasts when the dutchess's champaigne had the worst flavour. A man is not worth hanging that does not drink a little too much on such occasions: mais prenezy-garde: repeat it often; and make it a mere drinking party, the lustre of the pleasure fades, and you become what was an English fox-hunter. One day while we were thus dining à l'Anglais, and drinking the plough, the chace, and I know not what, the dutchess of Liancourt and some of her ladies came in sport to see us. It was a moment for them to have betrayed ill-nature in the contempt of manners not French, which they might have endeavoured to conceal under a laugh:—but nothing of this; it was a good humoured curiosity; a natural inclination to see others pleased and in spirits. Ils ont été de grands chasseurs aujourd'hui, said one. Oh! ils s'applaudissent de leurs exploites. Do they drink the gun? said another. Leurs maitresses certainement, added a third. J'aime a les voir en gaiété; il y a quelque chose d'aimable dans tout ceci. To note such trifles may seem superfluous to many: but what is life when trifles are withdrawn? and they mark the temper of a nation better than objects of importance. In the moments of council, victory, flight, or death, mankind, I suppose, are nearly the same. Trifles discriminate better, and the number is infinite that gives me an opinion of the good temper of the French. I am fond neither of a man nor a recital that can appear only on stilts and dressed in holiday geers. It is every-day feelings that decide the colour of our lives; and he who values them the most plays the best for the stake of happiness. But it is time to quit Liancourt, which I do with regret. Take leave of the good old dutchess, whose hospitality and kindness ought long to be remembered.—51 miles.
The 9th, 10th, and 11th. Return by Beauvais and Pontoise, and enter Paris for the fourth time, confirmed in the idea that the roads immediately leading to that capital are deserts, comparatively speaking, with those of London. By what means can the connection be carried on with the country? The French must be the most stationary people upon earth, when in a place they must rest without a thought of going to another. Or the English must be the most restless; and find more pleasure in moving from one place to another, than in resting to enjoy life in either. If the French nobility went to their country seats only when exiled there by the court, the roads could not be more solitary.—25 miles.
The 12th. My intention was to take lodgings; but on arriving at the hotel de la Rochefoucauld, I found that my hospitable dutchess was the same person at the capital as in the country; she had ordered an apartment to be ready for me. It grows so late in the season, that I shall make no other stay in this capital than what will be necessary for viewing public buildings. This will unite well enough with delivering some letters I brought to a few men of science; and it will leave me the evenings for the theatres, of which there are many in Paris. In throwing on paper a rapid coup d'œil, of what I see of a city, so well known in England, I shall be apt to delineate my own ideas and feelings, perhaps more than the objects themselves; and be it remembered, that I profess to dedicate this careless itinerary to trifles, much more than to objects that are of real consequence. From the tower of the cathedral, the view of Paris is complete. It is a vast city, even to the eye that has seen London from St. Paul's; being circular, gives an advantage to Paris; but a much greater is the atmosphere. It is now so clear, that one would suppose it the height of summer: the clouds of coal-smoke that envelope London, always prevent a distinct view of that capital, but I take it to be one-third at least larger than Paris. The buildings of the parliament-house are disfigured by a gilt and taudry gate, and a French roof. The hotel des Monoies is a fine building; and the facade of the Louvre one of the most elegant in the world, because they have (to the eye) no roofs; in proportion as a roof is seen a building suffers. I do not recollect one edifice of distinguished beauty (unless with domes) in which the roof is not so flat as to be hidden, or nearly so. What eyes then must the French architects have had, to have loaded so many buildings with coverings of a height destructive of all beauty? Put such a roof as we see on the parliament-house or on the Thuilleries, upon the facade of the Louvre, and where would its beauty be?—At night to the opera, which I thought a good theatre, till they told me it was built in six weeks; and then it became good for nothing in my eyes, for I suppose it will be tumbling down in six years. Durability is one of the essentials of building; what pleasure would a beautiful front of painted pasteboard give? The Alceste of Gluck was performed; that part by Mademoiselle St. Huberti, their first singer, an excellent actress. As to scenes, dresses, decorations, dancing, &c. this theatre beats the Haymarket to nothing.
The 13th. Across Paris to the rue des blancs Manteaux, to Mons. Broussonet, secretary of the Society of Agriculture; he is in Burgundy. Called on Mr. Cook from London, who is at Paris with his drill-plough, waiting for weather to shew its performance to the duke of Orleans; this is a French idea, improving France by drilling. A man should learn to walk before he learns to dance. There is agility in cutting capers, and it may be done with grace; but where is the necessity to cut them at all. There has been much rain to day; and it is almost incredible to a person used to London, how dirty the streets of Paris are, and how horribly inconvenient and dangerous walking is without a foot-pavement. We had a large party at dinner, with politicians among them, and some interesting conversation on the present state of France. The feeling of every body seems to be that the archbishop will not be able to do any thing towards exonerating the state from the burthen of its present situation; some think that he has not the inclination; others that he has not the courage; others that he has not the ability. By some he is thought to be attentive only to his own interest; and by others, that the finances are too much deranged to be within the power of any system to recover, short of the states-general of the kingdom; and that it is impossible for such an assembly to meet without a revolution in the government ensuing. All seem to think that something extraordinary will happen; and a bankruptcy is an idea not at all uncommon. But who is there that will have the courage to make it?
The 14th. To the benedictine abbey of St. Germain, to see pillars of African marble, &c. It is the richest abbey in France: the abbot has 300,000 liv. a year (13,125l.) I lose my patience at such revenues being thus bestowed; consistent with the spirit of the tenth century, but not with that of the eighteenth. What a noble farm would the fourth of this income establish! what turnips, what cabbages, what potatoes, what clover, what sheep, what wool!—Are not these things better than a fat ecclesiastic? If an active English farmer was mounted behind this abbot, I think he would do more good to France with half the income than half the abbots of the kingdom with the whole of theirs. Pass the bastile; another pleasant object to make agreeable emotions vibrate in a man's bosom. I search for good farmers, and run my head at every turn against monks and state prisoners.—To the arsenal, to wait on Mons. Lavoisier, the celebrated chemist, whose theory of the non-existence of phlogiston, has made as much noise in the chemical world as that of Stahl, which established its existence. Dr. Priestly had given me a letter of introduction. I mentioned in the course of conversation his laboratory, and he appointed Tuesday. By the Boulevards, to the Place Louis XV. which is not properly a square, but a very noble entrance to a great city. The facades of the two buildings erected are highly finished. The union of the Place Louis XV. with the champs Elisées, the gardens of the Thuilleries and the Seine is open, airy, elegant, and superb; and is the most agreeable and best built part of Paris; here one can be clean and breathe freely. But by far the finest thing I have yet seen at Paris is the Halle aux bleds, or corn market: it is a vast rotunda; the roof entirely of wood, upon a new principle of carpentry, to describe which would demand plates and long explanations; the gallery is 150 yards round, consequently the diameter is as many feet: it is as light as if suspended by the fairies. In the ground area, wheat, pease, beans, lentils, are stored and sold. In the surrounding divisions, flour on wooden stands. You pass by stair-cases doubly winding within each other to spacious apartments for rye, barley, oats, &c. The whole is so well planned, and so admirably executed, that I know of no public building that exceeds it in either France or England. And if an appropriation of the parts to the conveniences wanted, and an adaptation of every circumstance to the end required, in union with that elegance which is consistent with use, and that magnificence which results from stability and duration are the criteria of public edifices, I know nothing that equals it:—it has but one fault, and that is situation; it should have been upon the banks of the river, for the convenience of unloading barges without land carriage. In the evening, to the Comedie Italienne, the edifice fine; and the whole quarter regular and new built, a private speculation of the duke de Choiseul, whose family has a box entailed for ever.—L'Aimant jaloux. Here is a young singer, Mademoiselle Rénard, with so sweet a voice, that if she sung Italian, and had been taught in Italy, would have made a delicious performer.
To the tomb of Cardinal de Richlieu, which is a noble production of genius: by far the finest statue I have seen. Nothing can be wished more easy and graceful than the attitude of the cardinal, nor more expressive nature than the figure of weeping science. Dine with my friend at the Palais Royale, at a coffee-house; well dressed people; every thing clean, good, and well served: but here, as every where else, you pay a good price for good things; we ought never to forget that a low price for bad things is not cheapness. In the evening to l'Ecole des Peres, at the Comedie Francaise, a crying larmoyant thing. This theatre, the principal one at Paris, is a fine building, with a magnificent portico. After the circular theatres of France, how can any one relish our ill contrived oblong holes of London?
The 16th. To Mons. Lavoisier, by appointment. Madame Lavoisier, a lively, sensible, scientific lady, had prepared a dejeuné Anglois of tea and coffee, but her conversation on Mr. Kirwan's Essay on Phlogiston, which she is translating from the English, and on other subjects, which a woman of understanding, that works with her husband in his laboratory, knows how to adorn, was the best repast. That apartment, the operations of which have been rendered so interesting to the philosophical world, I had pleasure in viewing. In the apparatus for ærial experiments, nothing makes so great a figure as the machine for burning inflammable and vital air, to make, or deposit water; it is a splendid machine. Three vessels are held in suspension with indexes for marking the immediate variations of their weights; two that are as large as half hogsheads, contain the one inflammable, the other the vital air, and a tube of communication passes to the third, where the two airs unite and burn; by contrivances, too complex to describe without plates, the loss of weight of the two airs, as indicated by their respective balances, equal at every moment to the gain in the third vessel from the formation or deposition of the water, it not being yet ascertained whether the water be actually made or deposited. If accurate (of which I must confess I have little conception), it is a noble machine. Mons. Lavoisier, when the structure of it was commended, said, Mais oüi monsieur, & même par un artiste Francois! with an accent of voice that admitted their general inferiority to ours. It is well known that we have a considerable exportation of mathematical and other curious instruments to every part of Europe, and to France amongst the rest. Nor is this new, for the apparatus with which the French academicians measured a degree in the polar circle was made by Mr. George Graham. Another engine Mons. Lavoisier shewed us was an electrical apparatus inclosed in a balloon, for trying electrical experiments in any sort of air. His pond of quicksilver is considerable, containing 250lb. and his water apparatus very great, but his furnaces did not seem so well calculated for the higher degrees of heat as some others I have seen. I was glad to find this gentleman splendidly lodged, and with every appearance of a man of considerable fortune. This ever gives one pleasure: the employments of a State can never be in better hands than of men who thus apply the superfluity of their wealth. From the use that is generally made of money, one would think it the assistance of all others of the least consequence in affecting any business truly useful to mankind, many of the great discoveries that have enlarged the horizon of science having been in this respect the result of means seemingly inadequate to the end: the energic exertions of ardent minds, bursting from obscurity, and breaking the bands inflicted by poverty, perhaps by distress. To the hotel des invalids, the major of which establishment had the goodness to shew the whole of it. In the evening to Mons. Lomond, a very ingenious and inventive mechanic, who has made an improvement of the jenny for spinning cotton. Common machines are said to make too hard a thread for certain fabrics, but this forms it loose and spongy. In electricity he has made a remarkable discovery: you write two or three words on a paper; he takes it with him into a room, and turns a machine inclosed in a cylindrical case, at the top of which is an electrometer, a small fine pith ball; a wire connects with a similar cylinder and electrometer in a distant apartment; and his wife, by remarking the corresponding motions of the ball, writes down the words they indicate: from which it appears that he has formed an alphabet of motions. As the length of the wire makes no difference in the effect, a correspondence might be carried on at any distance: within and without a besieged town, for instance; or for a purpose much more worthy, and a thousand times more harmless, between two lovers prohibited or prevented from any better connection. Whatever the use may be, the invention is beautiful. Mons. Lomond has many other curious machines, all the entire work of his own hands: mechanical invention seems to be in him a natural propensity. In the evening to the Comedie Francaise. Mola did the Bourru Bienfaisant, and it is not easy for acting to be carried to greater perfection.
The 17th. To Mons. l'Abbé Messier, astronomer royal, and of the Academy of Sciences. View the exhibition, at the Louvre, of the Academy's paintings. For one history piece in our exhibitions at London here are ten; abundantly more than to balance the difference between an annual and biennial exhibition. Dined to-day with a party, whose conversation was entirely political. Mons. de Calonne'sRequête au Roi is come over, and all the world are reading and disputing on it. It seems, however, generally agreed that, without exonerating himself from the charge of the agiotage, he has thrown no inconsiderable load on the shoulders of the archbishop of Toulouze, the present premier, who will be puzzled to get rid of the attack. But both these ministers were condemned on all hands in the lump; as being absolutely unequal to the difficulties of so arduous a period. One opinion pervaded the whole company, that they are on the eve of some great revolution in the government: that every thing points to it: the confusion in the finances great; with a deficit impossible to provide for without the states-general of the kingdom, yet no ideas formed of what would be the consequence of their meeting: no minister existing, or to be looked to in or out of power, with such decisive talents as to promise any other remedy than palliative ones: a prince on the throne, with excellent dispositions, but without the resources of a mind that could govern in such a moment without ministers: a court buried in pleasure and dissipation; and adding to the distress, instead of endeavouring to be placed in a more independent situation: a great ferment amongst all ranks of men, who are eager for some change, without knowing what to look to, or to hope for: and a strong leaven of liberty, increasing every hour since the American revolution; altogether form a combination of circumstances that promise e'er long to ferment into motion, if some master hand, of very superior talents, and inflexible courage, is not found at the helm to guide events, instead of being driven by them. It is very remarkable, that such conversation never occurs, but a bankruptcy is a topic: the curious question on which is, would a bankruptcy occasion a civil war, and a total overthrow of the government? The answers that I have received to this question, appear to be just: such a measure, conducted by a man of abilities, vigour, and firmness, would certainly not occasion either one or the other. But the same measure, attempted by a man of a different character, might possibly do both. All agree, that the states of the kingdom cannot assemble without more liberty being the consequence; but I meet with so few men that have any just ideas of freedom, that I question much the species of this new liberty that is to arise. They know not how to value the privileges of THE PEOPLE: as to the nobility and the clergy, if a revolution added any thing to their scale, I think it would do more mischief than good.
The 18th. To the Gobelins, which is undoubtedly the first manufacture of tapestry in the world, and such an one as could be supported only by a crowned head. In the evening to that incomparable comedy La Metromanie, of Pyron, and well acted. The more I see of it the more I like the French theatre; and have no doubt in preferring it far to our own. Writers, actors, buildings, scenes, decorations, music, dancing, take the whole in a mass, and it is unrivalled by London. We have certainly a few brilliants of the first water; but throw all in the scales, and that of England kicks the beam. I write this passage with a lighter heart than I should do were it giving the palm to the French plough.
The 19th. To Charenton, near Paris, to see l'Ecole Veterinaire, and the farm of the Royal Society of Agriculture. Mons. Chabert, the directeur-general, received us with the most attentive politeness. Mons. Flandrein, his assistant, and son-in-law, I had had the pleasure of knowing in Suffolk. They shewed the whole veterinary establishment, and it does honour to the government of France. It was formed in 1766: in 1783 a farm was annexed to it, and four other professorships established; two for rural œconomy, one for anatomy, and another for chemistry.—I was informed that Mons. d'Aubenton, who is at the head of this farm with a salary of 6000 liv. a year, reads lectures of rural œconomy, particularly on sheep, and that a flock was for that purpose kept in exhibition. There is a spacious and convenient apartment for dissecting horses and other animals; a large cabinet, where the most interesting parts of all domestic animals are preserved in spirits; and also of such parts of their bodies that mark the visible effect of distempers. This is very rich. This, with a similar one near Lyons, is kept up (exclusive of the addition of 1783), at the moderate expence, as appears by the writings of M. Necker, of about 60,000 liv. (2600l.) Whence, as in many other instances, it appears that the most useful things cost the least. There are at present about one hundred elèves from different parts of the kingdom, as well as from every country in Europe, except England; a strange exception, considering how grossly ignorant our farriers are; and that the whole expence of supporting a young man here does not exceed forty louis a-year; nor more than four years necessary for his complete instruction. As to the farm, it is under the conduct of a great naturalist, high in royal academies of science, and whose name is celebrated through Europe for merit in superior branches of knowledge. It would argue in me a want of judgment in human nature, to expect good practice from such men. They would probably think it beneath their pursuits and situation in life to be good ploughmen, turnip-hoers, and shepherds; I should therefore betray my own ignorance of life, if I was to express any surprize at finding this farm in a situation that—I had rather forget than describe. In the evening, to a field much more successfully cultivated, Mademoiselle St. Huberti, in the Penelope of Picini.
The 20th. To the Ecole Militaire, established by Louis XV. for the education of 140 youths, the sons of the nobility; such establishments are equally ridiculous and unjust. To educate the son of a man who cannot afford the education himself, is a gross injustice, if you do not secure a situation in life answerable to that education. If you do secure such a situation, you destroy the result of the education, because nothing but merit ought to give that security. You educate the children of men, who are well able to give the education themselves, you tax the people who cannot afford to educate their children, in order to ease those who can well afford the burthen; and in such institutions, this is sure to be the case. At night to l'Ambigu Comique, a pretty little theatre, with plenty of rubbish on it. Coffee-houses on the boulevards, music, noise, and filles without end; every thing but scavengers and lamps. The mud is a foot deep; and there are parts of the boulevards without a single light.
The 21st. Mons. de Broussonet being returned from Burgundy, I had the pleasure of passing a couple of hours at his lodgings very agreeably. He is a man of uncommon activity, and possessed of a great variety of useful knowledge in every branch of natural history; and he speaks English perfectly well. It is very rare that a gentleman is seen better qualified for a post than Mons. de Broussonet for that which he occupies, of secretary to a Royal Society.
The 22d. To the bridge of Neuilié, said to be the finest in France. It is by far the most beautiful one I have any where seen. It consists of five vast arches; flat, from the Florentine model; and all of equal span; a mode of building incomparably more elegant, and more striking than our system of different sized arches. To the machine at Marly; which ceases to make the least impression. Madame du Barrés residence, Lusienne, is on the hill just above this machine; she has built a pavilion on the brow of the declivity, for commanding the prospect, fitted up and decorated with much elegance. There is a table formed of Seve porcelain, exquisitely done. I forget how many thousand louis d'ors it cost. The French, to whom I spoke of Lusienne, exclaimed against mistresses and extravagance, with more violence than reason in my opinion. Who, in common sense, would deny a king he amusement of a mistress, provided he did not make a business of his plaything? Mais Frederic le Grand avoit-il une maitresse, lui fasoit-il batir des pavillons, et les meubloit-il de tables de porcelaine? No: but he had that which was fifty times worse: a king had better make love to a handsome woman than to one of his neighbour's provinces. The king of Prussia's mistress cost an hundred millions sterling, and the lives of 500,000 men; and before the reign of that mistress is over, may yet cost as much more. The greatest genius and talents are lighter than a feather, weighed philosophically, if rapine, war, and conquest, are the effects of them.
To St. Germain's, the terrace of which is very fine. Mons. de Broussonet met me here, and we dined with Mons. Breton, at the maréchal duc de Noailles, who has a good collection of curious plants. Here is the fines sophora japonica . I have seen.—10 miles.
The 23d. To Trianon, to view the Queen's Jardin Anglois. I had a letter to Mons. Richard, which procured admittance. It contains about 100 acres, disposed in the taste of what we read of in books of Chinese gardening, whence it is supposed the English style was taken. There is more of Sir William Chambers here than of Mr. Brown —more effort than nature—and more expence than taste. It is not easy to conceive any thing that art can introduce in a garden that is not here; woods, rocks, lawns, lakes, rivers, islands, cascades, grottos, walks, temples, and even villages. There are parts of the design very pretty, and well executed. The only fault is too much crouding; which has led to another, that of cutting the lawn by too many gravel walks, an error to be seen in almost every garden I have met with in France. But the glory of La Petite Trianon is the exotic trees and shrubs. The world has been successfully rifled to decorate it. Here are curious and beautiful ones to please the eye of ignorance; and to exercise the memory of science. Of the buildings, the temple of love is truly elegant.
Again to Versailles. In viewing the King's apartment, which he had not left a quarter of an hour, with those slight traits of disorder that shewed he lived in it, it was amusing to see the blackguard figures that were walking uncontrouled about the palace, and even in his bed-chamber; men whose rags betrayed them to be in the last stage of poverty, and I was the only person that stared and wondered how the devil they got there. It is impossible not to like this careless indifference and freedom from suspicion. One loves the master of the house, who would not be hurt or offended at seeing his apartment thus occupied, if he returned suddenly; for if there was danger of this, the intrusion would be prevented. This is certainly a feature of that good temper which appears to me so visible every where in France. I desired to see the Queen's apartments, but I could not. Is her majesty in it? No. Why then not see it as well as the king's? Ma foi, Mons. c'est un autre chose. Ramble through the gardens, and by the grand canal, with absolute astonishment at the exaggerations of writers and travellers. There is magnificence in the quarter of the orangerie, but no beauty any where; there are some statues good enough to wish them under cover. The extent and breadth of the canal are nothing to the eye; and it is not in such good repair as a farmer's horse-pond. The menagerie is well enough, but nothing great. Let those who desire that the buildings and establishments of Louis XIV. should continue the impression made by the writings of Voltaire, go to the canal of Languedoc, and by no means to Versailles.—Return to Paris.—14 miles.
The 24th. With Mons. de Broussonet to the King's cabinet of natural history and the botanical garden, which is in beautiful order. Its riches are well known, and the Politeness of Mons. Thouin, which is that of a most amiable disposition, renders this garden the scene of other rational pleasures besides those of botany. Dine at the Invalides, with Mons. Parmentier, the celebrated author of many œconomical works, particularly on the boulangerie of France. The gentleman, to a considerable mass of useful knowledge, adds a great deal of that fire and vivacity for which his nation has been distinguished, but which I have not recognized so often as I expected.
The 25th. This great city appears to be in many respects the most ineligible and inconvenient for the residence of a person of small fortune of any that I have seen; and vastly inferior to London. The streets are very narrow, and many of them crouded, nine tenths dirty, and all without foot-pavements. Walking, which in London is so pleasant and so clean, that ladies do it every day, is here a toil and a fatigue to a man, and an impossibility to a well dressed woman. The coaches are numerous, and, what are much worse, there are an infinity of one-horse cabriolets, which are driven by young men of fashion and their imitators alike fools, with such rapidity as to be real nuisances, and render the streets exceedingly dangerous, without an incessant caution. I saw a poor child run over and probably killed, and have been myself many times blackened with the mud of the kennels. This beggarly practice of driving a one-horse booby hutch about the streets of a great capital, flows either from poverty or wretched and despicable œconomy; nor is it possible to speak of it with too much severity. If young noblemen at London were to drive their chaises in streets without foot-ways, as their brethren do at Paris, they would speedily and justly get very well threshed, or rolled in the Kennel. This circumstance renders Paris an ineligible residence for persons particularly families that cannot afford to keep a coach; a convenience which is as dear as at London. The fiacres, hackney-coaches, are much worse than at that city; and chairs there are none, for they would be driven down in the streets. To this circumstance also it is owing, that all persons of small or moderated fortune, are forced to dress in black, with black stockings; the dusky hue of this in company is not so disagreeable a circumstance as being too great a distinction; too clear a line drawn in company between a man that has a good fortune, and another that has not. With the pride, arrogance, and ill temper of English wealth this could not be borne; but the prevailing good humour of the French eases all such untoward circumstances. Lodgings are not half so good as at London, yet considerably dearer. If you do not hire a whole suite of rooms at an hotel, you must probably mount three, four, or five pair of stairs, and in general have nothing but a bedchamber. After the horrid fatigue of the streets, such an elevation is a delectable circumstance. You must search with trouble before you will be lodged in a private family, as gentlemen usually are at London, and pay a higher price. Servants wages are about the same as at that city. It is to be regretted that Paris should have these disadvantages, for in other respects I take it to be a most eligible residence for such as prefer a great city. The society for a man of letters, or who has any scientific pursuit, cannot be exceeded. The intercourse between such men and the great, which, if it is not upon an equal footing, ought never to exist at all, is respectable. Persons of the highest rank pay an attention to science and literature, and emulate the character they confer. I should pity the man who expected, without other advantages of a very different nature, to be well received in a brilliant circle at London, because he was a fellow of the Royal Society. But this would not be the case with a member of the Academy of Sciences at Paris; he is sure of a good reception every where. Perhaps this contrast depends in a great measure on the difference of the governments of the two countries. Politics are too much attended to in England to allow a due respect to be paid to any thing else; and should the French establish a freer government, academicians will no be held in such estimation, when rivalled in the public esteem by the orators who hold forth liberty and property in a free parliament.
The 28th. Quit Paris, and take the road to Flanders. Mons. de Broussonet was so obliging as to accompany me to Dugny, to view the farm of Mons. Creté de Palieul, a very intelligent cultivator. Take the road to Senlis: at Dammertin, I met by accident a French gentleman, a Mons. du Pré du St. Cotin. Hearing me conversing with a farmer on agriculture, he introduced himself as an amateur, gave me an account of several experiments he had made on his estate in Champagne, and promised a more particular detail; in which he was as good as his word.—22 miles.
The 29th. Pass Nanteul, where the Prince of Condé has a chateau, to Villes-Coterets, in the midst of immense forests belonging to the duke of Orleans. The crop of this country, therefore, is Princes of the blood; that is to say, hares, pheasants, deer, boars!—26 miles.
The 30th. Soissons seems a poor town, without manufactures, and chiefly supported by a corn-trade, which goes hence by water to Paris and Rouen.—25 miles.
The 31st. Coucy is beautifully situated on a hill, with a fine vale winding beside it. At St. Gobin, which is in the midst of great woods, I viewed the fabric of plate-glass the greatest in the world. I was in high luck, arriving about half an hour before they begun to run glasses for the day. Pass La Fere. Reach St. Quintin, where are considerable manufactures that employed me all the afternoon, From St. Gobin, are the most beautiful slate roofs I have any where seen.—30 miles.
NOVEMBER1. Near Belle Angloise I turned aside half a league to view the canal of Picardy, of which I had heard much. In passing from St. Quintin to Cambray the country rises so much, that it was necessary to carry it in a tunnel under ground for a considerable depth, even under many vales as well as hills. In one of these vallies there is an opening for visiting it by an arched stair-case, on which I descended 134 steps to the canal, and, as this valley is much below the adjacent and other hills, the great depth at which it is dug, may be conceived. Over the door of the descent, is the following inscription:—L'ann. 1781.—Mons. Le Comte d'Agay etant intendant de cette province, Mons. Laurent de Lionni etant directeur de l'ancien & nouveau canal de Picardie, & Mons. de Champrosé inspecteur, Joseph II. Empereur Roi des Romaines, a parcourru en batteau le canal sous terrain depuis cet endroit jusques au puit, No. 20. le 28, & a temoiqnê sa satisfaction d'avoir vu cet ouvrage ences termes: "Je suis fier d'etre homme, quand je vois qu'un de mes semblables a ose imaginer & executer un ouvrage aussi vaste et aussi hardie. Cette idea me leve l'ame."—These three Messieurs lead the dance here in a very French style. The great Joseph follows humbly in their train; and as to poor Louis XVI. at whose expence the whole was done, these gentlemen certainly thought that no name less than that of an emperor ought to be annexed to theirs. When inscriptions are fixed to public works, no names ought to be permitted but those of the king, whose merit patronizes, and the engineer or artist whose genius executes the work. As to a mob of intendants, directors, and inspectors, let them go to the devil! The canal at this place is ten French feet wide and twelve high, hewn entirely out of the chalk rock, imbedded, in which are many flints—no masonry. There is only a small part finished of ten toises long for a pattern, twenty feet broad and twenty high. Five thousand toises are already done in the manner of that part which I viewed; and the whole distance under ground, when the tunnel will be complete, is 7020 toises (each six feet) or about nine miles. It has already cost 1,200,000 liv. (52,500l.) and there wants 2,500,000 liv. (109,375l.) to complete it; so that the total estimate is near four millions. It is executed by shafts. At present there is not above five or six inches of water in it. This great work has stood still entirely since the administration of the archbishop of Toulouze. When we see such works stand still for want of money, we shall reasonably be inclined to ask, What are the services that continue supplied? and to conclude, that amongst kings, and ministers, and nations, œconomy is the first virtue:—without it, genius is a meteor; victory a sound; and all courtly splendour a public robbery.
At Cambray, view the manufacture. These frontier towns of Flanders are built in the old style, but the streets broad, handsome, well paved, and lighted. I need not observe, that all are fortified, and that every step in this country has been rendered famous or infamous according to the feelings of the spectator, by many of the bloodiest wars that have disgraced and exhausted Christendom. At the hotel de Bourbon I was well lodged, fed, and attended: an excellent inn.—22 miles.
The 2d. Pass Bouchaine to Valenciennes, another old town, which, like the rest of the Flemish ones, manifests more the wealth of former than of present times.—18 miles.
The 3d. To Orchees; and the 4th to Lisle, which is surrounded by more windmills for expressing the oil of coleseed, than are to be seen any where else I suppose in the world. Pass fewer drawbridges and works of fortification here than at Calais; the great strength of this place is in its mines and other souteraines. In the evening to the play.
The cry here for a war with England amazed me. Every one I talked with said, it was beyond a doubt the English had called the Prussian army into Holland; and that the motives in France for a war were numerous and manifest. It is easy enough to discover, that the origin of all this violence is the commercial treaty, which is execrated here, as the most fatal stroke to their manufactures they ever experienced. These people have the true monopolizing ideas; they would involve four-and-twenty millions of people in the certain miseries of a war, rather than see the interest of those who consume fabrics, preferred to the interest of those who make them. The advantages reaped by four-and-twenty millions of consumers are lighter than a feather compared with the inconveniences sustained by half a million of manufacturers. Meet many small carts in the town, drawn each by a dog: I was told by the owner of one, what appears to me incredible, that this dog would draw 700lb. half a league. The wheels of these carts are very high, relative to the height of the dog, so that his chest is a good deal below the axle.
The 6th. In leaving Lisle, the reparation of a bridge made me take a road on the banks of the canal, close under the works of the citadel. They appear to be very numerous, and the situation exceedingly advantageous, on a gently rising ground, surrounded by low watry meadows, which may with ease be drowned. Pass Darmentiers, a large paved town. Sleep at Mont. Cassel. —30 miles.
The 7th. Cassel is on the summit of the only hill in Flanders. They are now repairing the bason at Dunkirk, so famous in history for an imperiousness in England, which she must have paid dearly for. Dunkirk, Gibraltar, and the statue of Louis XIV. in the Place de Victoire, I place in the same political class of national arrogance. Many men are now at work on this bason, and, when finished, it will not contain more than twenty or twenty-five frigates; and appears to an unlearned eye, a ridiculous object for the jealousy of a great nation, unless it professes to be jealous of privateers.—I made enquiries concerning the imports of wool from England, and was assured that it was a very trifling object. I may here observe, that when I left the town, my little cloak-bag was examined as scrupulously as if I had just left England, with a cargo of prohibited goods, and again at a fort two miles of Dunkirk being a free port, the custom-house is at the gates. What are we to think of our woollen manufacturers in England, when suing for their wool-bill, of infamous memory, bringing one Thomas Wilkinson from Dunkirk quay, to the bar of the English House of Lords to swear that wool passes from Dunkirk without entry, duty, or any thing being required, at double custom-houses, for a check on each other, where they examine even a cloak-bag. On such evidence, did our legislature, in the true shop-keeping spirit, pass an act of fines, pains, and penalties against all the wool-growers of England. Walk to Rossendal near the town, where Mons. le Brun has an improvement on the Dunes, which he very obligingly shewed me. Between the town and that place are a great number of neat little houses, built with each its garden, and one or two fields inclosed of most wretched blowing dune sand, naturally as white as snow, but improved by industry. The magic of PROPERTY turns sand to gold.—18 miles.
The 8th. Leave Dunkirk, where the concierge, a good inn, as indeed I have found all in Flanders. Pass Gravel-line, which, to my unlearned eyes, seems the strongest place I have yet seen, at least the works above ground are more numerous than at any other. Ditches, ramparts, and drawbridges without end. This is a part of the art military I like: it implies defence, and leaving rascality to neighbours. If Gengischan or Tamerlane had met with such places as Gravelline or Lisle in their way, where would their conquests and extirpations of the human race have been?—Reach Calais. And here ends a journey which has given me a great deal of pleasure, and more information than I should have expected in a kingdom not so well cultivated as our own. It has been the first of my foreign travels; and has with me confirmed the idea, that to know our own country well, we must see something of others. Nations figure by comparison; and those ought to be esteemed the benefactors of the human race, who have most established public prosperity on the basis of private happiness. To ascertain how far this has been the case with the French, has been one material object of my tour. It is an enquiry of great range, and no trifling complexity; but a single excursion is too little to trust to. I must come again and again before I venture conclusions.—25 miles.
Wait at Desseins three days for a wind (the duke and dutchess of Gloucester are in the same inn and situation) and for a pacquet. A captain behaved shabbily: deceived me, and was hired by a family that would admit nobody but themselves:—I did not ask what nation this family was of.—Dover—London—Bradfield;—and have more pleasure in giving my little girl a French doll, than in viewing Versailles.