HotFreeBooks.com
A Bibliographical, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour in France and Germany, Volume Two
by Thomas Frognall Dibdin
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

I ought to add, that M. Denon's collection of CALLOT'S WORKS, in three large folio volumes,—bound in calf—also once the property of Zanetti—and than which a finer set is supposed never to have been exhibited for sale—produced 1000 francs: certainly a moderate sum, if what Zanetti here says of it (in a letter to his friend Gaburri, of the date of 1726) be true. "If ever you do this country (Venice) the honour of a visit, you will see in my little cabinet a collection of CALLOTS, such as you will not see elsewhere—not in the royal collection at Paris, nor in the Prince Eugene's, at Vienna—where the finest and rarest impressions are supposed to be collected. I possess every impression of the plates which Callot executed; many of them containing first proofs, retouched and corrected by the engraver himself in red chalk. I bought this Collection at Paris, and it cost me 1950 francs. They say it was formed by the engraver himself for his friend M. Gerard an Amateur of Prints." "It should seem that Zanetti's description was a little overcharged; but in his time there was no complete catalogue of the artists." Cat. p. 153.

[H] It formed No. 345 of the Catalogue; where it is described as being "a magnificent proof upon India paper, with a margin of 15 lines all round it. It was with the bur, and before the cross-hatchings upon the mane of the Ass." The finest copy of this subject, sold in this country, was that formerly in the collection of M. Bernard; and recently purchased by T. Wilson, Esq. Will the reader object to disporting himself with some REMBRANDTIANA, in the Bibliomania p. 680-2.?

[175] One of those pictures (No. 188 in the Catalogue) produced 3015 francs: the other, only 180 francs. The Sebastian Bourdon (No. 139,) was sold for 67 francs, and the Parmegiano, (No. 34) for 288 francs.

[176] See the Bibliographical Decameron; vol. i. p. clvii. &c. [M. Denon's Missal was purchased by an English amateur, and sold at the sale of the Rev. Theodore Williams's Library for L143. 17s.]

[177] [Ere we take leave of this distinguished Frenchman, let us dwell for two seconds on his autograph.

[Autograph: Denon]

[178] There has been recently struck (I think, in 1819) a medal with the same obverse and reverse, of about the size between an English farthing and halfpenny. The statue of Henry is perhaps the MIRACLE OF ART: but it requires a microscopic glass to appreciate its wonders. Correctly speaking, probably, such efforts are not in the purest good taste. Simplicity is the soul of numismatic beauty.

[179] The Artist who struck the series of medals to commemorate the campaigns of the Duke of Wellington, from his landing in Portugal to the battle of Waterloo.

[180] [See the OPPOSITE PLATE, which represents the upper part of the Picture.]

[181] [I sent a commission for it, for a friend, at the sale of Mr. Craufurd's effects, but lost it.]

[182] [Purchased by myself: and now at Hodnet.]

[183] [This picture was purchased for the gallery at ALTHORP. There is an exquisite drawing of it by Wright, for the purpose of a stipling engraving.]

[184] It was purchased by the late King of France for 10,000 francs.

[185] [Purchased for the gallery at ALTHORP.]

[186] The above quotation is incomplete; for the passage alluded to runs thus.—"Where is the painter so well sorting his colours, that could paint these faire eyes that are the windows of the body, and glasses of the soul." The continuation is in a very picturesque style. See the Theatre or Rule of the World, p. 236-7, quoted in a recent (1808) edition of More's Utopia, vol. ii. p. 143. But Primaudaye's French Academy, Lond. 1605, 4to. runs very much in the same strain.

[187] A little graphic history belongs to this picture. I obtained a most beautiful and accurate copy of it by M. Le Coeure, on a reduced scale: from which Mr. J. Thomson made an Engraving, as a PRIVATE PLATE, and only 75 copies were struck off. The plate was then destroyed; the impressions selling for a guinea. They are now so rare as to be worth treble that sum: and proofs upon India paper, before the letter, may be worth L5. 5s. Three proofs only were struck off of the plate in its mutilated state; of which my friends Mr. Haslewood and Mr. G. H. Freeling rejoice in their possession of a copy. The drawing, by Coeure, was sold for 20 guineas at the sale of my drawings, by Mr. Evans, in 1822, but it has been subsequently sold for only nine guineas; and of which my worthy friend A. Nicholson, Esq.—"a good man, and a true"—is in the possession.

Subsequently, the ABOVE ORIGINAL picture was sold; and I was too happy to procure it for the gallery at Althorp for twelve guineas only!

[188] [A magnificent whole length portrait of this first DUKE DE GUISE, painted by PORBUS—with a warmth and vigour of touch, throughout, which are not unworthy of Titian—now adorns the very fine gallery at Althorp: where is also a whole length portrait of ANNE OF AUSTRIA, by Mignard. Both pictures are from the same Collection; and are each probably the masterpiece of the artist. They are of the size of life.]

[189] [Mr. Craufurd died at Paris in 1821.]

[190] ["Amateurs, connaisseurs, examinateurs, auteurs de revues du Salon, parodistes meme, vous n'entendez rien a ce genre de critique; prenez M. Dibdin pour modele: voila' la bonne ecole!" CHAPELET, vol. iv. p. 200. My translator shall here have the full benefit of his own bombastical nonsense.]



LETTER XI.

NOTICE OF M. WILLEMIN'S MONUMENS FRANCAIS INEDITS. MISCELLANEOUS ANTIQUITIES. PRESENT STATE OF THE FINE ARTS. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS UPON THE NATIONAL CHARACTER.

July 8, 1818.

I rejoice that it is in my power once more—and certainly for the last time, from hence—to address you upon a few subjects, which, from your earlier replies to my Paris letters, you seem to think that I have lost sight of. These subjects, relate chiefly to ANTIQUITIES. Be assured that I have never, for one moment, been indifferent to them; but in the vast bibliographical field which the public libraries of this place held out for my perambulation, it was impossible, in the first instance, not to take advantage of the curious, and probably useful information, to be derived from thence.

I must begin therefore by telling you that I had often heard of the unassuming and assiduous author of the Monumens Francais Inedits, and was resolved to pay him a visit. I found him in the Rue Babile towards the eastern end of the Rue St. Honore, living on the third floor. Several young females were in the ante-room, colouring the plates of that work; which are chiefly in outline and in aqua-tint. Each livraison contains six plates, at twelve francs the livraison. The form is folio, and about twenty-eight numbers are printed.[191] There is something in them of every thing: furniture, dresses, houses, castles, churches, stained glass, paintings, and sculpture. Illuminated MSS. are as freely laid under contribution as are the outsides and insides of buildings, of whatsoever description. Indeed I hardly ever visited the Public Library without finding M. Willemin busied, with his pencil and tracing paper, with some ancient illuminated MS. The style of art in the publication here noticed, is, upon the whole, feeble; but as the price of the work is moderate, no purchaser can reasonably complain. The variety and quantity of the embellishments will always render M. Willemin's work an acceptable inmate in every well-chosen library. I recommend it to you strongly; premising, that the author professedly discards all pretension to profound or very critical antiquarian learning.

For himself, M. Willemin is among the most enthusiastic, but most modest, of his antiquarian brethren. He has seen better days. His abode and manners afford evidence that he was once surrounded by comparative affluence and respectability. A picture of his deceased wife hung over the chimney-piece. The back-ground evinced a gaily furnished apartment. "Yes, Sir, (said M.W.—on observing that I noticed it) such was once my room, and its chief ornament"—Of course I construed the latter to be his late wife. "Alas! (resumed he) in better days, I had six splendid cabinets filled with curiosities. I have now—not a single one! Such is life." He admitted that his publication brought him a very trifling profit; and that, out of his own country, he considered the London market as the most advantageous to him. A large broken phial, containing water and a fleur-de-lis in full bloom, was the only, ornament of his mantle piece. "Have you no curiosities of any kind—(said I to him) for sale?" "None—" replied he; but he had drawings of a few. "Have the kindness to shew me some of these drawings"—and forthwith appeared the case and pocket-knife of Diane de Poictiers, drawn from the original by Langlois. "Where is the original?" observed I, hastily. "Ha, Sir, you are not singular in your question. A nobleman of your country was almost losing his wits because he could not purchase it:—and yet, this original was once to be obtained for twenty louis!" I confess I was glad to obtain the drawing of Langlois for two napoleons. It is minutely and prettily executed, and apparently with great fidelity.

M. Willemin proceeded to shew me a few more drawings for his national work, telling me precisely what he meant, and what he did not mean, to publish. His own drawings with a pen are, some of them, of a masterly execution; and although of a less brilliant and less classical style than those of LE NOIR, M. Willemin is still an artist of whom his country will always have reason to be proud. I bought several drawings of him.[192] One represents the sculptured figures upon the outside of the grand portal of the Cathedral of Chartres. These figures seem to be of the thirteenth century. The other drawing is of a rich piece of fayence, or of painted and glazed earthenware dish, and about the middle of the sixteenth century: of which I remember to have seen some very curious specimens at Denon's. But nothing can be more singular, and at the same time more beautiful of its kind, than the present specimen—supposed to be the work of the famous Bernard Palissy. Paris is full of such treasures.

Of all cities, PARIS is probably that which abounds with rich and curious relics of ancient art. Its churches, its palaces, its public buildings— sometimes grotesque and sometimes magnificent—furnish alike subjects for admiration and materials for collection. But the genius of the French does not lie in this pursuit. From the commencement of the sixteenth century, the ANTIQUITIES OF PARIS might have supplied a critical antiquary with matter for a publication which could have been second only to the immortal work of Piranesi. But with the exception of Montfaucon, (which I admit to be a most splendid exception) and recently of MILLIN and LE NOIR, France hardly boasts of an indigenous Antiquary. In our own country, we have good reason to be proud of this department of literature. The names of Leland, Camden, Cotton, Dugdale, Gibson, Tanner, Gough, and Lysons, place us even upon a level with the antiquarians of Italy. It was only the other day that M. Willemin was urging me, on my return to England, to take Beauvais in my way, in order to pay a visit to Madame la Comtesse de G., living at a chateau about three leagues from that place. She possesses a collection of carved wood, in bas-reliefs, porches, stair-cases, &c. all from a neighbouring dilapidated abbey; and, among other things, one singular piece of sculpture, descriptive of the temptation of St Anthony. He had reason to think that the Countess might be more successfully tempted than was the Saint just mentioned; in other words, that these things were to be had rather for "money" than for "love."

For specimens of the costume of the lower classes, the south side of the Seine must be chiefly visited. The great streets which lead thither are those of St. Victor, St. Jaques, and De La Harpe. Mr. Lewis had frequently strolled to this quarter of Paris; and his attention was one morning particularly directed to a group of Blanchisseuses—who were halting beneath their burdens to have a little gossip with each other. See how characteristically he has treated the subject.



One of the causes of the want of encouragement in NATIONAL ANTIQUITIES, among the French, may arise from the natural love of the people for what is gay and gaudy, rather than for what is grave and instructive. And yet, when will nations learn that few things tend so strongly to keep alive a pure spirit of PATRIOTISM as such a study or pursuit? As we reverence the past, so do we anticipate the future. To love what our forefathers have done in arts, in arms, or in learning, is to lay the surest foundation for a proper respect for our own memories in after ages. But with Millin, I fear, the study of Archaeology will sleep soundly, if not expire, among the Parisians. VISCONTI has doubtless left a splendid name behind him here; but Visconti was an Italian. No; my friend—the ARTS have recently taken an exclusive turn for the admiration, even to adoration, of portrait and historical painters: No LYSONSES, no BLORES, no MACKENZIES are patronised either at Paris or in the other great cities of France. I must however make an honourable exception in favour of the direction given to the splendid talents of MADAME JAQUOTOT. And I cannot, in common justice, omit, on this occasion, paying a very sincere tribute of respect to the PRESENT KING[193]—who has really been instrumental to this direction. I have lately paid this clever lady a morning visit, with a letter of introduction from our common friend M. Langles. As I was very courteously received, I begged that I might only see such specimens of her art as would give her the least possible trouble, and afford me at the same time an opportunity of judging of her talents.

Madame Jaquotot was as liberal in the display of her productions, as she was agreeable and polite in her conversation. I saw all her performances. Her copies of Leonardo da Vinci and Guido, in black crayons, are beautiful of their kind; but her enamel copies, upon porcelaine, of the Portraits of the more celebrated Characters of France—executed at the desire and expense of his Majesty—perfectly delighted me. The plan is as excellent as its execution is perfect. But such performances have not been accomplished without a heavy previous expense, on the score of experiments. I was told that the artist had sunk a sum little short of five or six hundred pounds sterling, in the different processes for trying and fixing her colours. But she seems now to walk upon firm ground, and has nothing but an abundant harvest to look forward to. Indeed, for every portrait, square, or oval, (although scarcely more than three inches in height) she receives a hundred louis d'or. This is a truly princely remuneration: but I do not consider it overpaid. Some of the earlier portraits are taken from illuminated manuscripts; and, among them, I quickly recognised that of my old friend Anne of Brittany,—head and shoulders only: very brilliant and characteristic—but Mr. Lewis is "yet a painter."

As all these bijoux (amounting perhaps to twelve or fifteen in number) were displayed before me, I fancied I was conversing with the very Originals themselves. The whole length of Henri IV., of the same size as the original in the Louvre, is probably the chef d'oeuvre of Madame Jaquotot. It is exquisitely perfect. When she comes down to the reign of Louis XIV., she has necessarily recourse to the originals of PETITOT; of which the Louvre contains a precious glazed case, enclosing about four or five dozen, of them. Here again the copyist treads closely upon the heels of her predecessor; while her portrait of Anne of Austria comes fully up to every thing we discover in the original. Upon the whole, I spent a pleasant and most instructive hour with this accomplished lady; and sincerely wish that all talents, like hers, may receive a similar direction and meet with an equally liberal reward. You must not fail to bear in mind that, in my humble judgment, this department of art belongs strictly to NATIONAL ANTIQUITIES.

For one, who would turn his horse's head towards Madame Jaquotot's dwelling, in the Rue Jacob, fifty would fly with rapture to view a whole length by GERARD, or a group by DAVID. In portrait painting, and historical composition, these are the peculiar heroes. None dare walk within their circle: although I think GIRODET may sometimes venture to measure swords with the latter. Would you believe it? The other day, when dining with some smart, lively, young Parisians, I was compelled to defend RAFFAELLE against David? the latter being considered by them superior to the Italian artist in a knowledge of drawing. Proh pudor! This will remind you of Jervas's celebrated piece of nonsensical flattery to himself—when, on Pope's complimenting that artist upon one of his portraits, he compassionately exclaimed "Poor little Tit!"—Surely all these national prejudices are as unwise as they are disgusting. Of Gerard, I would wish to speak with respect; but an artist, who receives from fifteen to twenty thousand francs for the painting of a whole length portrait, stands upon an eminence which exposes him to the observation of every man. In the same degree, also, does his elevation provoke the criticism of every man. But, however respectfully I may wish to speak of Gerard, I do not, in my conscience, consider him superior to what may be called the second rate class of portrait-painters in England.[194] His outline is often hard, and full of affectation of a knowledge of drawing: his colouring is as frequently severe and metallic, and there is rarely any expression of mind or soul in his faces. I saw at Laugier's the other day, his portrait of Madame de Stael—painted from recollection. He certainly had forgotten how to colour when he executed it. Forster (a very clever, sensible, and amiable young man) is busied, or rather has just finished, the engraving of a portrait of the Duke of Wellington, by the same painter. What has depended upon him has been charmingly done: but the figure of the great Original—instead of giving you the notion of the FIRST CAPTAIN OF HIS AGE[195]—is a poor, trussed-up, unmeaning piece of composition: looking-out of the canvas with a pair of eyes, which, instead of seeming to anticipate and frustrate (as they have done) the movements of his adversary, as if by magic, betray an almost torpidity or vacancy of expression! The attitude is equally unnatural and ungraceful. Another defect, to my eye, in Gerard's portraits, is, the quantity of flaunting colour and glare of varnish with which his canvas is covered.

The French cognoscenti swear by "the swearing of the Horatii" of David. I saw a reduced copy of the large picture at the Luxembourg, by the artist himself—at Didot's: and it was while discussing the comparative merits and demerits of this famous production, that I ventured to observe that Raffaelle would have drawn the hands better. A simultaneous shout of opposition followed the remark. I could scarcely preserve common gravity or decorum: but as my antagonists were serious, I was also resolved to enact a serious part. It is not necessary to trouble you with a summary of my remarks; although I am persuaded I never talked so much French, without interruption, for so long a space of time. However, my opponents admitted, with a little reluctance, that, if the hands of the Horatii were not ill drawn, the position of them was sufficiently affected. I then drew their attention, to the Cupid and Psyche of the same master, in the collection of the Marquis of Sommariva, (in the notice of which my last letter was pretty liberal) but I had here a less obstinate battle to encounter. It certainly appeared (they admitted) that David did not improve as he became older.

Among the Painters of eminence I must not forget to mention LAURENT. The French are not very fond of him, and certainly they under-rate his talents. As a colourist, some of his satins may vie with those of Vanderwerf. He paints portraits, in small, as well as fancy-subjects. Of the former, that of his daughter is beautifully executed. Of the latter, his Young Falconer is a production of the most captivating kind. But it is his Joan of Arc which runs away with the prize of admiration. The Government have purchased the house in which that celebrated female was born,[196] and over the door of which an ancient statue of her is to be seen. Laurent's portrait is also purchased to be placed over the chimney-piece of the room; and it is intended to supply furniture, of the character which it originally might have possessed.

But if France cannot now boast her Mignard, Rigaud, or the Poussins, she has reason to be proud of her present race of Engravers. Of these, DESNOYERS evidently takes the lead. He is just now in Italy, and I shall probably not see him—having twice called in vain. I own undisguisedly that I am charmed with all his performances; and especially with his sacred subjects from Raffaelle:—whom, it is just possible, he may consider to be a somewhat better draftsman than David. There is hardly any thing but what he adorns by his touch. He may consider the whole length portrait of Bonaparte to be his chef-d'oeuvre; but his Vierge au Linge, Vierge dite la Belle Jardiniere,—and perhaps, still finer, that called au Donataire—are infinitely preferable, to my taste. The portrait has too much of detail. It is a combination of little parts; of flowered robes, with a cabinet-like background: every thing being almost mechanical, and the shield of the ex-Emperor having all the elaborate minutiae of Grignion. I am heretic enough to prefer the famous whole length of poor Louis XVI, by Bervic after Callet: there is such a flow of line and gracefulness of expression in this latter performance! But Desnoyers has uncommon force, as well as sweetness and tenderness, in the management of historical subjects: although I think that his recent production of Eliezer and Rebecca, from Nicolo Poussin, is unhappy—as to choice. His females have great elegance. His line never flows more freely than in the treatment of his female figures; yet he has nothing of the style of finishing of our STRANGE. His Francis I, and Marguerite de Valois is, to my eye, one of the most finished, successful, and interesting of his performances. It is throughout a charming picture, and should hang over half the mantle pieces in the kingdom. His portrait of Talleyrand is brilliant; but there are parts very much too black. It will bear no comparison with the glorious portrait of our John Hunter, by Sharp—from Sir J. Reynolds. Desnoyers engraves only for himself: that is to say, he is the sole proprietor of his performances, and report speaks him to be in the receipt of some twenty-five thousand francs per annum. He deserves all he has gained—both in fortune and reputation.

MASSARD works in the same school with Desnoyers. He is harder in his style of outline as well as of finishing; but he understands his subject thoroughly, and treats it with skill and effect. ANDOUIN is lately come out with a whole length portrait of the present king: a palpable copy, as to composition, of that of his late brother. There are parts of the detail most exquisitely managed, but the countenance is rather too severely marked. LIGNON is the prince of portrait-engravers. His head of Mademoiselle Mars—though, upon the whole, exhibiting a flat, and unmeaning countenance, when we consider that it represents the first comic actress in Europe—is a master-piece of graphic art. It is wrought with infinite care, brilliancy, and accuracy. The lace, over the lady's shoulder, may bid defiance even to what Drevet and Masson have effected of the like kind. The eyes and the gems of Mademoiselle Mars seem to sparkle with a rival lustre; but the countenance is too flat, and the nose wants elevation and beauty. For this latter, however, neither Gerard nor Lignon are amenable to criticism. Upon the whole, it is a very surprising performance. If I were called upon to notice Lignon's chef d'oeuvre, I would mention the frontispiece to the magnificent impression of Camoens' Lusiad, containing the head of the author, surrounded by an arabesque border of the most surprising brilliancy of composition and execution. You must however remember, that it is in the splendid work entitled LE MUSEE FRANCAIS, that many fine specimens of all the artists just mentioned are to be found. There is no occasion to be more particular in the present place.

I must not omit the notice of FORSTER and LAUGIER: both of whom I have visited more than once. At the same time, I beg it may be distinctly understood that the omission of the names of other engravers is no implication that they are passed over as being unworthy of regard. On the contrary, there are several whom I could mention who might take precedence even of the two last noticed. Some of Forster's academic figures, which gained him the prize, are very skilfully treated; both as to drawing and finishing. His print of Titian's Mistress exhibits, in the face and bosom of the female, a power and richness of effect which may contend with some of the best efforts of Desnoyers's burin. The reflex-light, in the mirror behind, is admirably managed; but the figure of Titian, and the lower parts of his Mistress—especially the arms and hands—are coarse, black, and inharmonious. His Wellington is a fine performance, as to mechanical skill. M. Benard, the well-known print-seller to his Majesty, living on the Boulevards Italiens, laughed with me the other day at the rival Wellington—painted by Lawrence, and engraved by Bromley,—as a piece of very inferior art! But men may laugh on the wrong side of the face. I consider, however, that what has depended upon Forster, has been done with equal ability and truth. Undoubtedly the great failing of the picture is, that it can hardly be said to have even a faint resemblance of the original.

M. Laugier has not yet reached his full powers of maturity; but what he has done is remarkable for feeling and force. His Daphne and Chloe, and Hero and Leander are early performances, but they are full of promise, and abound in excellences. Colour and feeling are their chief merit. The latter print has the shadows too dark. The former is more transparent, more tender, and in better keeping. The foreground has, in some parts, the crispness and richness of Woollett. They tell me that it is a rare print, and that only 250 copies were struck off—at the expense of the Society of Arts. Laugier has recently executed a very elaborate print of Leander, just in the act of reaching the shore—(where his mistress is trembling for his arrival in a lighted watch-tower) but about to be buried in the overwhelming waves. The composition of the figure is as replete with affectation, as its position is unnatural, if not impossible. The waves seem to be suspended over him—on purpose to shew off his limbs to every degree of advantage. He is perfectly canopied by their "gracefully-curled tops." The engraving itself is elaborate to excess: but too stiff, even to a metallic effect. It can never be popular with us; and will, I fear, find but few purchasers in the richly garnished repertoire of the worthy Colnaghi. Indeed it is a painful, and almost repulsive, subject. Laugier's portrait of Le Vicomte de Chateaubriand exhibits his prevailing error of giving blackness, rather than depth, to his shadows. Black hair, a black cravat, and black collar to the coat—with the lower part of the background almost "gloomy as night"—are not good accessories. This worthy engraver lives at present with his wife, an agreeable and unaffected little woman, up four pair of stairs, in the Rue de Paradis. I told him—and as I thought with the true spirit of prediction—that, on a second visit to Paris I should find him descended—full two stories: in proportion as he was ascending in fortune and fame.

The French are either not fond of, or they do not much patronise, engraving in the stippling manner: "au poinctilliet"—as they term it. Roger is their chief artist in this department. He is clever, undoubtedly; but his shadows are too black, and the lighter parts of his subjects want brilliancy. What he does "en petit," is better than what he does upon a larger scale." In mezzotint the Parisians have not a single artist particularly deserving of commendation. They are perhaps as indifferent as we are somewhat too extravagantly attached, to it. Speaking of the FRENCH SCHOOL OF ENGRAVING, in a general and summary manner—especially of the line engravers—one must admit that there is a great variety of talent; combined with equal knowledge of drawing and of execution; but the general effect is too frequently hard, glittering, and metallic. The draperies have sometimes the severity of armour; and the accessories, of furniture or other objects, are frequently too highly and elaborately finished. Nor is the flesh always free from the appearance of marble. But the names I have mentioned, although not entirely without some of these defects, have great and more than counter-balancing excellences.

In the midst of all the graphic splendour of modern Paris, it was delightful music to my ears to hear WILKIE and RAIMBACH so highly extolled by M. Benard. "Ha, votre Wilkie—voila un genie distingue!" Who could say "nay?" But let BURNET have his share of graphic praise; for the Blind Fiddler owes its popularity throughout Europe to his burin. They have recently copied our friend Wilkie's productions on a small scale, in aqua-tint; cleverly enough—for three francs a piece. I told Benard that the Duke of Wellington had recently bespoke a picture from Mr. Wilkie's pencil. "What is the subject to be?"—demanded he, quickly. I replied, in the very simplicity of my heart, "Soldiers regaling themselves, on receiving the news of the victory of Waterloo." Mons. Benard was paralised for one little moment: but rallying quickly, he answered, with perfect truth, as I conceive "Comment donc, TOUT EST WATERLOO, chez vous!" M. Benard spoke very naturally, and I will not find fault with him for such a response; for he is an obliging, knowing, and a very pleasant tradesman to do business with. He admits, readily and warmly, that we have great artists, both as painters and engravers; and pointing to Sharpe's John Hunter and The Doctors of the Church—which happened to be hanging just before us—he observed that "these, efforts had never been surpassed by his own countrymen." I told him (while conversing about the respective merits of the British and French Schools of Engraving) that it appeared to me, that in France, there was no fine feeling for LANDSCAPE ENGRAVING; and that, as to ANTIQUARIAN art, what had been produced in the publications of Mr. Britton, and in the two fine topographical works—Mr. Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire," and. Mr. Surtees' Durham—exhibited such specimens of the burin, in that department, as could scarcely be hoped to be excelled.[197] M. Benard did not very strenuously combat these observations. The great mart for Printselling is the Boulevards; and more especially that of the Boulevards Italiens. A stranger can have no conception of the gaiety and brilliance of the print-shops, and print-stalls, in this neighbourhood. Let him first visit it in the morning about nine o'clock; with the sun-beams sparkling among the foliage of the trees, and the incessant movements of the populace below, who are about commencing another day's pilgrimage of human life. A pleasant air is stirring at this time; and the freshness arising from the watering of the footpath—but more particularly the fragrance from innumerable bouquets, with mignonette, rose trees, and lilacs—extended in fair array—is altogether quite charming and singularly characteristic. But my present business is with prints. You see them, hanging in the open air—framed and not framed—for some quarter of a mile: with the intermediate space filled by piles of calf-bound volumes and sets of apparently countless folios. Here are Moreri, Bayle, the Dictionnaire de Trevoux, Charpentier, and the interminable Encyclopedie: all very tempting of their kind, and in price:—but all utterly unpurchasable—on account of the heavy duties of importation, arising from their weight.

However—again I say—my present business is with Prints. Generally speaking, these prints are pleasing in their manner of execution, reasonable in price, and of endless variety. But the perpetual intrusion of subjects of studied nudity is really at times quite disgusting. It is surprising (as I think I before remarked to you) with what utter indifference and apathy, even females, of respectable appearance and dress, will be gazing upon these subjects; and now that the art of lithography is become fashionable, the print-shops of Paris will be deluged with an inundation of these odious representations, which threaten equally to debase the art and to corrupt morals. This cheap and wholesale circulation of what is mischievous, and of really most miserable execution, is much to be deplored. Even in the better part of art, lithography will have a pernicious effect. Not only a well-educated and distinguished engraver will find, in the long run his business slackening from the reduced prices at which prints. are sold, but a bad taste will necessarily be the result: for the generality of purchasers, not caring for comparative excellence in art, will be well pleased to give one franc, for what, before, they could not obtain under three or five. Hence we may date the decline and downfall of art itself. I was surprised, the other day, at hearing DENON talk so strongly in favour of lithography. I told him "it was a bastard art; and I rejoiced, in common with every man of taste or feeling, that that art had not made its appearance before the publication of his work upon Egypt." It may do well for

"The whisker'd pandour and the fierce hussar"—

or it may, in the hands of such a clever artist as VERNET, be managed with good effect in representations of skirmishes of horse and foot—groups of banditti—a ruined battlement, or mouldering tower—overhanging rocks— rushing torrents—or umbrageous trees—but, in the higher department of art, as connected with portrait and historical engraving, it cannot, I apprehend, attain to any marked excellence.[198] Portraits however—of a particular description—may be treated with tolerable success; but when you come to put lithographic engraving in opposition to that of line—the latter will always and necessarily be

... velut inter ignes LUNA minores!

I cannot take leave of A CITY, in which I have tarried so long, and with so much advantage to myself, without saying one word about the manners, customs, and little peculiarities of character of those with whom I have been recently associating. Yet the national character is pretty nearly the same at Rouen and at Caen, as at Paris; except that you do not meet with those insults from the canaille which are but too frequent at these first-mentioned places. Every body here is busy and active, yet very few. have any thing to do—in the way of what an Englishman would call business. The thoughtful brow, the abstracted, look, the hurried step.. which you see along Cheapside and Cornhill ... are here of comparatively rare appearance. Yet every body is "sur le pave." Every body seems to live out of doors. How the menage goes on—and: how domestic education is regulated—strikes the inexperienced eye of an Englishman as a thing quite inconceivable. The temperature of Paris is no doubt very fine, although it has been of late unprecedentedly hot; and a French workman, or labourer, enjoys, out of doors—from morning till night those meals, which, with us, are usually partaken of within. The public places of entertainment are pretty sure to receive a prodigious proportion of the population of Paris every evening. A mechanic, or artisan, will devote two thirds of his daily gains to the participation of this pleasure. His dinner will consist of the most meagre fare—at the lowest possible price—provided, in the evening, he can hear Talma declaim, or Albert warble, or see Pol leap, or Bigotini entrance a wondering audience by the grace of her movements, and the pathos of her dumb shew, in Nina.

The preceding strikes me as the general complexion of character of three fourths of the Parisians: but then they are gay, and cheerful, and apparently happy. If they have not the phlegm of the German, or the thoughtfulness of ourselves, they are less cold, and less insensible to the passing occurrences of life. A little pleases them, and they give in return much more than they receive. One thing, however, cannot fail to strike and surprise an attentive observer of national character. With all their quickness, enthusiasm, and activity, the mass of French people want that admirable quality which I unfeignedly think is the particular characteristic of ourselves:—I mean, common sense. In the midst of their architectural splendor—while their rooms are refulgent with gilding and plate-glass; while their mantle-pieces sparkle with or-molu clocks; or their tables are decorated with vases, and artificial flowers of the most exquisite workmanship—and while their carpets and curtains betray occasionally all the voluptuousness of eastern pomp ... you can scarcely obtain egress or ingress into the respective apartments, from the wretchedness of their locks and keys! Mechanical studies or improvements should seem to be almost entirely uncultivated—for those who remember France nearly half a century ago, tell me that it was pretty much then as it is now. Another thing discomposes the sensitive nerves of the English; especially those of our notable housewives. I allude to the rubbishing appearance of their grates—and the dingy and sometimes disgusting aspect of carpets and flowered furniture. A good mahogany dining table is a perfect rarity[199]—and let him, who stands upon a chair to take down a quarto or octavo, beware how he encounter a broken shin or bruised elbow, from the perpendicularity of the legs of that same chair.

The same want of common-sense, cleanliness, and convenience—is visible in nearly the whole of the French menage. Again, in the streets—their cabriolet drivers and hackney coachmen are sometimes the most furious of their tribe. I rescued, the other day, an old and respectable gentleman— with the cross of St. Louis appendant to his button-hole—from a situation, in which, but for such a rescue, he must have been absolutely knocked down and rode over. He shook his cane at the offender; and, thanking me very heartily for my protection, observed, "these rascals improve daily in their studied insult of all good Frenchmen." The want of trottoirs is a serious and even absurd want; as it might be so readily supplied. Their carts are obviously ill-constructed, and especially in the caps of the wheels; which, in a narrow street—as those of Paris usually are—unnecessarily occupy a foot of room, where scarcely an inch can be spared. The rubbish piled against the posts, in different parts of the street, is as disgusting as it is obviously inconvenient. A police "ordonnance" would obviate all this in twenty-four hours.

Yet in many important respects the Parisian multitude read a lesson to ourselves. In their public places of resort, the French are wonderfully decorous; and along the streets, no lady is insulted by the impudence of either sex. You are sure to walk in peace, if you conduct yourself peaceably. I had intended to say a word upon morals: and religion; but the subject, while it is of the highest moment, is beyond the reach of a traveller whose stay is necessarily short, and whose occupations, upon the whole, have been confined rather among the dead than the living.

Farewell, therefore, to PARIS. I have purchased a very commodious travelling carriage; to which a pair of post-horses will be attached in a couple of days—and then, for upwards of three hundred miles of journey—towards STRASBOURG! No schoolboy ever longed for a holiday more ardently than I do for the relaxation which this journey will afford me. A thousand hearty farewells!

[191] [The work is now perfect in 3 volumes.]

[192] [I here annex a fac-simile of his autograph from the foot of the account for these drawings.]



[193] Then, Louis XVIII.

[194] ["Sir T. Lawrence, who painted the portrait of the late Duke de Richlieu, which was seen at the last exhibition, is undoubtedly of the first class of British Portrait painters; but, according to Mr. Dibdin's judgment, many artists would have preferred to have sided with our Gerard." CRAPELET. vol. iv. 220. I confess I do not understand this reasoning: nor perhaps will my readers.]

[195] [Here, Mons. Crapelet drily and pithily says, "Translated from the English." What then? Can there be the smallest shadow of doubt about the truth of the above assertion? None—with Posterity.]

[196] At Domremi, in Lorraine.

[197] When Desnoyers was over here, in 1819, he unequivocally expressed his rapture about our antiquarian engravings—especially of Gothic churches. Mr. Wild's Lincoln Cathedral produced a succession of ecstatic remarks. "When your fine engravings of this kind come over to Paris we get little committees to sit upon them"—observed Desnoyers to an engraver—who communicated the fact to the author.

[198] [The experience of ten years has confirmed THE TRUTH of the above remark.]

[199] [Not so now! Mahogany, according to M. Crapelet, is every where at Paris, and at the lowest prices.]



LETTER XII.

PARIS TO STRASBOURG.

Hotel de l'Esprit, Strasbourg, July 20, 1818.

I can hardly describe to you the gratification I felt on quitting the "trein-trein".of Paris for the long, and upon the whole interesting, journey to the place whence I date this despatch. My love of rural sights, and of rural enjoyments of almost every kind, has been only equalled by my admiration of the stupendous Cathedral of this celebrated city. But not a word about the city of Strasbourg itself, for the present. My description, both of that and of its curiosities, will be properly reserved for another letter; when I shall necessarily have had more leisure and fitter opportunities for the execution of the task. On the eleventh of this month, precisely at ten o'clock, the rattling of the hoofs of two lusty post horses—together with the cracking of an experimental flourish or two of the postilion's whip—were heard in the court-yard of the Hotel des Colonies. Nothing can exceed the punctuality of the Poste Royale in the attendance of the horses at the precise hour of ordering them. Travellers, and especially those from our own country, are not quite so punctual in availing themselves of this regularity; but if you keep the horses for the better part of an hour before you start, you must pay something extra for your tardiness. Of all people, the English are likely to receive the most useful lesson from this wholesome regulation. By a quarter past ten, Mr. Lewis and myself having mounted our voiture, and given the signal for departure, received the "derniers adieux" of Madame the hostess, and of the whole corps of attendants. On leaving the gates of the hotel, the postilion put forth all his energies in sundry loud smackings of his whip; and as we went at a cautious pace through the narrower streets, towards the Barriers of St. Martin, I could not but think, with inward satisfaction, that, on visiting and leaving a city, so renowned as Paris, for the first time, I had gleaned more intellectual fruit than I had presumed to hope for; and that I had made acquaintances which might probably ripen into a long and steady friendship. In short, my own memoranda, together with the drawings of Messrs. Lewis and Coeure, were results, which convinced me that my time had not been mispent, and that my objects of research were not quite undeserving of being recorded. Few reflections give one so much pleasure, on leaving, a city—where there are so many thousand temptations to abuse time and to destroy character.

The day of our departure was very fine, tending rather to heat. In a little half hour we cleared the barrier of St. Martin, and found ourselves on the broad, open, route royale—bordered by poplars and limes. To the right, was the pretty village of Belleville: to the left, at the distance of some six or eight English miles, we observed Montmorenci, St. Germain en Laye, and, considerably nearer, St. Denis. All these places, together with Versailles, I had previously visited—Montmorenci and St. Denis twice— and intended to have given you an account of them; but you could have received from me scarcely any thing more than what the pages of the commonest tour would have supplied you with. We first changed horses at Bondy, the forest of which was once very extensive and much celebrated. You now behold little more than a formal avenue of trees. The Castle of Raincy, situated in this forest, is to the right, well-wooded—and the property of the Duke of Orleans. Ville-Parisis was the next prettiest spot, in our route to Claye, where we again changed horses. The whole route, from Ville-Parisis to Meaux, was exceedingly pleasing and even picturesque. At Meaux we dined, and have reason to remember the extravagant charges of the woman who kept the inn. The heat of the day was now becoming rather intense. While our veal-cutlet was preparing, we visited the church; which had frequently, and most picturesquely, peeped out upon us during our route. It is a large, cathedral-like looking church, without transepts, Only one tower (in the west front), is built—with the evident intention of raising another in the same aspect. They were repairing the west front, which is somewhat elaborately ornamented; but so intensely hot was the sun—on our coming out to examine it—that we were obliged to retreat into the interior, which seemed to contain the atmosphere of a different climate. A tall, well-dressed, elderly priest, in company with a middle-aged lady, were ascending the front steps to attend divine service. Hot as it was, the priest saluted us, and stood a half minute without his black cap—with the piercing rays of the sun upon a bald head. The bell tolled softly, and there was a quiet calm about the whole which almost invited, us to postpone our attack upon the dinner we had ordered.

Ten francs for a miserable cutlet—and a yet more wretchedly-prepared fricandeau—with half boiled artichokes, and a bottle of undrinkable vin ordinaire—was a charge sufficiently monstrous to have excited the well known warmth of expostulation of an English traveller—but it was really too hot to talk aloud! The landlady pocketed my money, and I pocketed the affront which so shameful a charge may be considered as having put upon me. We now rolled leisurely on towards La Ferte-sous-Jouarre: about five French-leagues from Meaux—not without stopping to change horses at St. Jean, &c. The heat would not even allow of the exercise of the postilion's whip. Every body, and every thing seemed to be oppressed by it. The labourer was stretched out in the shade, and the husbandman slept within the porch of his cottage. We had no sooner entered the little town of La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, and driven to the post-house, when not fewer than four blacksmiths came rushing out of their respective forges, to examine every part of the carriage. "A nail had started here: a screw was wanting there: and a fracture had taken place in another direction: even the perch was given way in the centre!" "Alas, for my voiture de voyage!" exclaimed I to my companion. Meanwhile, a man came forward with a red-hot piece of iron, in the shape of a cramp, to fix round the perch—which hissed as the application was made. And all this—before I could say wherefore! or even open my mouth to express astonishment! They were absolutely about to take off the wheels of the carriage; to examine, and to grease them—but it was then for the first time, that I opened a well-directed fire of expostulation; from which I apprehend that they discovered I was not perfectly ignorant either of their language or of their trickery. However, the rogues had four francs for what they had the impudence to ask six; and considering my vehicle to be now proof against the probability of an accident, I was resolved to leave the town in the same good humour in which I had entered it.

On quitting, we mounted slowly up a high ascent, and saw from thence the village of Jouarre, on a neighbouring summit, smothered with trees. It seemed to consist of a collection of small and elegant country houses, each with a lawn and an orchard. At the foot of the summit winds the unostentatious little stream of Le Petit Morin The whole of this scenery, including the village of Montreuil-aux-Lions—a little onwards—was perfectly charming, and after the English fashion: and as the sky became mellowed by the rays of the declining sun, the entire landscape assumed a hue and character which absolutely refreshed our spirits after the heat of the previous part of the journey. We had resolved to sleep at Chateau-Thierry, about seven leagues off, and the second posting-place from where we had last halted. Night was coming on, and the moon rose slowly through a somewhat dense horizon, as we approached our rendezvous for the evening. All was tranquil and sweet. We drove to the inn called the Sirene, situated in the worst possible part of the town: but we quickly changed our determination, and bespoke beds for the night, and horses for the following morning, at the Poste Royale. The landlady of the Inn was a tartar—of her species. She knew how to talk civilly; and, for her, a more agreeable occupation—how to charge! We had little rest, and less sleep. By a quarter past five I was in the carriage; intending to breakfast at Epernay, about twenty-five miles off.

The first post-station is Parois. It is a beautiful drive thither, and the village itself is exceedingly picturesque. From Parois to Dormans, the next post village, the road continues equally interesting. We seemed to go each post like the wind; and reached Epernay by nine o'clock. The drive from Dormans to Epernay is charming; and as the sky got well nigh covered by soft fleecy clouds when we reached the latter place, our physical strength, as well as animal spirits, seemed benefited by the change. I was resolved to bargain for every future meal at an inn: and at Epernay I bespoke an excellent breakfast of fruit, eggs, coffee and tea, at three francs a head. This town is the great place in France for the manufacture of Vin de Champagne. It is here where they make it in the greatest quantities; although Sillery, near Rheims, boasts of champagne of a more delicate quality. I learnt here that the Prussians, in their invasion of France in 1814, committed sad havoc with this tempting property. They had been insulted, and even partially fired upon—as they passed through the town,—and to revenge themselves, they broke open the cellars of M ..., the principal wine merchant; and drank the contents of only—one hundred thousand bottles of champagne!" "But," said the owner of these cellars, (beyond the reach of the hearing of the Prussians, as you may be well assured!) "they did not break open my largest vault ... where I had half as much again!. "Indeed, I was told that the wine vaults of Epernay were as well worth inspection, as the catacombs of Paris.

I should observe to you that the river Marne, one of the second-rate rivers, of France, accompanies you pretty closely all the way from Chateau Thierry to Chalons—designated as Chalons-sur-Marne. From Epernay to Chalons you pass through nothing but corn fields. It is a wide and vast ocean of corn—with hardly a tree, excepting those occasionally along the road, within a boundary of ten miles. Chalons is a large and populous town; but the churches bear sad traces of revolutionary fury. Some of the porches, once covered with a profusion of rich, alto-relievo sculpture, are absolutely treated as if these ornaments had been pared away to the very quick! Scarcely a vestige remains. It is in this town where the two great roads to STRASBOURG—one by Metz, and the other by Nancy—unite. The former is to the north, the latter to the south. I chose the latter; intending to return to Paris by the former. On leaving Chalons, we purposed halting to dine at Vitry-sur-Marne—distant two posts, of about four leagues each. La Chaussee, which we reached at a very smart trot, was the first post town, and is about half way to Vitry. From thence we had "to mount a huge hill"—- as the postilion told us; but it was here, as in Normandy—these huge hills only provoked our laughter. However, the wheel was subjected to the drag-chain—and midst clouds of white dust, which converted us into millers, we were compelled to descend slowly. Vitry was seen in the distance, which only excited our appetite and made us anxious to increase our pace.

On reaching Vitry, I made my terms for dinner with the landlady of the principal inn—who was literally as sharp as a razor. However, we had a comfortable room, a good plain dinner, with an excellent bottle of Vin de Beaune, for three francs each. "Could Monsieur refuse this trifling payment?" He could not. Before dinner I strolled to the principal church— which is indeed a structure of a most noble appearance—like that of St. Sulpice in form, and perhaps of a little more than half its size. It is the largest parish church which I have yet seen; but it is comparatively modern. It was Sunday; and a pleasing spectacle presented itself on entering. A numerous group of young women, dressed almost entirely in white, with white caps and veils, were singing a sort of evening hymn— which I understood to be called the Chaplet of the Virgin. Their voices, unaccompanied by instrumental music, sounded sweetly from the loftiness of the roof; and every singer seemed to be touched with the deepest sense of devotion. They sang in an attitude with the body leaning forward, and the head gently inclined. The silence of the place—its distance from the metropolis—the grey aspect of the heavens—and the advanced hour of the day ... all contributed to produce in our minds very pleasing and yet serious sensations. I shall not easily forget the hymn called THE CHAPLET OF THE VIRGIN, as it was sung in the church of Vitry.

After leaving this place we successively changed horses at Longchamp and at St. Dizier. To our great comfort, it began to threaten rain. While the horses were being changed at the former place, I sat down upon a rough piece of stone, in the high road, by the side of a well dressed paysanne, and asked her if she remembered the retreat of Bonaparte in the campaign of 1814—and whether he had passed there? She said she remembered it well. Bonaparte was on horseback, a little in advance of his troops—and ambled gently, within six paces of where we were sitting. His head was rather inclined, and he appeared to be very thoughtful. St. Dizier was the memorable place upon which Bonaparte made a rapid retrograde march, in order to get into the rear of the allied troops, and thus possess himself of their supplies. But this desperate movement, you know, cost him his capital, and eventually his empire. St. Dizier is rather a large place, and the houses are almost uniformly white. Night and rain came on together as we halted to change horses. But we were resolved upon another stage—to Saudrupt: and were now about entering the department of LORRAINE.

The moon struggled through a murky sky, after the cessation of rain, as we entered Saudrupt: which is little better than a miserable village. Travellers seldom or never sleep here; but we had gone a very considerable distance since five in the morning, and were glad of any thing in the shape of beds. Not an inn in Normandy which we had visited, either by day or by night, seemed to be more sorry and wretched than this, where we—stretched our limbs, rather than partook of slumber. At one in the morning, a young and ardent lover chose to serenade his mistress, who was in the next house, with a screaming tune upon a half-cracked violin—which, added to the never-ceasing smacking of whips of farmers, going to the next market town— completed our state of restlessness and misery. Yet, the next morning, we had a breakfast ... so choice, so clean, and so refreshing—in a place of all others the least apparently likely to afford it—that we almost fancied our strength had been recruited by a good night's sleep. The landlord could not help his miserable mansion, for he was very poor: so I paid him cheerfully and liberally for the accommodation he was capable of affording, and at nine o'clock left Saudrupt in the hope of a late dinner at NANCY— the capital of Lorraine.

The morning was fresh and fair. In the immediate neighbourhood of Saudrupt is the pretty village of Brillon, where I noticed some stone crosses; and where I observed that particular species of domestic architecture, which, commencing almost at Longchamps, obtains till within nearly three stages of Strasbourg. It consists in having rather low or flat roofs, in the Italian manner, with all the beams projecting outside of the walls: which gives it a very unfinished and barbarous look. And here too I began to be more and more surprised at the meagreness of the population of the country. Even on quitting Epernay, I had noticed it to my companion. The human beings you see, are chiefly females—ill-featured, and ill complexioned— working hard beneath the rays of a scorching sun. As to that sabbath-attire of cleanliness, even to smartness among our own country people, it is a thing very rarely to be seen in the villages of France. At Brillon, we bought fine cherries, of a countrywoman for two sous the pound.

Bar-le Duc is the next post-town. It is a place of considerable extent and population: and is divided into the upper and lower town. The approach to it, along hilly passes, covered with vineyards, is pleasant enough. The driver wished to take us to the upper town—to see the church of St. Peter, wherein is contained "a skeleton perforated with worm-holes, which was the admiration of the best connoisseurs." We civilly declined such a sight, but had no objection to visit the church. It was a Saint's day: and the interior of the church was crowded to excess by women and lads. An old priest was giving his admonition from the high altar, with great propriety and effect: but we could not stay 'till the conclusion of the service. The carriage was at the door; and, reascending, we drove to the lower town, down a somewhat fearful descent, to change horses. It was impossible to avoid noticing the prodigious quantity of fruit—especially of currants and strawberries. Ligny was our next halting place, to change horses. The route thither was sufficiently pleasant. You leave the town through rather a consequential gateway, of chaste Tuscan architecture, and commence ascending a lofty hill. From hence you observe, to the left, an old castle in the outskirts of the town. The road is here broad and grand: and although a very lively breeze was playing in our faces, yet we were not insensible to the increasing heat of the day. We dined at St. Aubin. A hearty good-humoured landlady placed before us a very comfortable meal, with a bottle of rather highly-flavoured vin ordinaire. The inn was little better than a common ale house in England: but every thing was "tres propre." On leaving, we seemed to be approaching high hills, through flat meadows—where very poor cattle were feeding. A pretty drive towards Void and Laye, the next post-towns: but it was still prettier on approaching Toul, of which the church, at a distance, had rather a cathedral-like appearance. We drank tea at Toul—but first proceeded to the church, which we found to be greatly superior to that of Meaux. Its interior is indeed, in parts, very elegant: and one lancet-shaped window, in particular, of stained glass, may even vie with much of what the cathedral of this place affords.

At Toul, for the first time since quitting Paris, we were asked for our passports; it being a fortified town. Our next stage was Dommartin; behind which appeared to be a fine hilly country, now purpled by the rays of a declining sun. The church of Toul, in our rear, assumed a more picturesque appearance than before. At Velaine, the following post-town, we had a pair of fine mettlesome Prussian horses harnessed to our voiture, and started at a full swing trot—through the forest of Hayes, about a French league in length. The shade and coolness of this drive, as the sun was getting low, were quite refreshing. The very postilion seemed to enjoy it, and awakened the echoes of each avenue by the unintermitting sounds of numberless flourishes of his whip. "How tranquil and how grand!" would he occasionally exclaim. On clearing the forest, we obtained the first glimpse of something like a distant mountainous country: which led us to conclude that we were beginning to approach the VOSGES—or the great chain of mountains, which, running almost due north and south, separates France from ALSACE. Below, glittered the spires of Nancy—as the sun's last rays rested upon them. A little distance beyond, shot up the two elegant towers of St. Nicholas; but I am getting on a little too fast.... The forest of Hayes can be scarcely less than a dozen English miles in breadth. I had never before seen so much wood in France. Yet the want of water is a great draw-back to the perfection of rural scenery in this country. We had hardly observed one rivulet since we had quitted the little glimmering stream at Chateau-Thierry.

We now gained fast upon NANCY, the capital of Lorraine. It is doubtless among the handsomest provincial towns in Europe; and is chiefly indebted for its magnificence to Stanislaus, King of Poland, who spent the latter part of his life there, and whose daughter was married to Louis XV. The annexation of Lorraine to France has been considered the masterpiece of Louis's policy. Nancy may well boast of her broad and long streets: running chiefly at right angles with each other: well paved, and tolerably clean. The houses are built chiefly of stone. Here are churches, a theatre, a college, a public library—palace-like buildings—public gardens— hospitals, coffee houses, and barracks. In short, Nancy is another Caen; but more magnificent, although less fruitful in antiquities. The Place de la Liberte et d'alliance et de la Carriere may vie with the public buildings of Bath; but some of the sculptured ornaments of the former, exhibit miserable proofs of the fury of the Revolutionists. Indeed Nancy was particularly distinguished by a visit of the Marseillois gentry, who chose to leave behind pretty strong proofs of their detestation of what was at once elegant and harmless. The headless busts of men and women, round the house of the governor, yet prove the excesses of the mob; and the destruction of two places of worship was the close of their devastating labours.

Nancy is divided into the Old and the New Town. The four principal streets, dividing the latter nearly at right angles, are terminated by handsome arches, in the character of gateways. They have a noble appearance.

On the first evening of our arrival at Nancy, we walked, after a late cup of tea, into the public garden—at the extremity of the town. It was broad moon light; and the appearance of the Caffes, and several Places, had quite a new and imposing effect; they being somewhat after the Parisian fashion. After a day of dust, heat, and rapid motion, a seat upon one of the stone-benches of the garden—surrounded by dark green trees, of which the tops were tipt with silver by the moon beam—could not fail to refresh and delight me: especially as the tranquillity of the place was only disturbed by the sounds of two or three groups of bourgeoises, strolling arm in arm, and singing what seemed to be a popular, national air—of which the tune was somewhat psalm-like. The broad walks abounded with bowers, and open seats; and the general effect was at once singular and pleasing. The Hotel-Royal is an excellent inn; and the owners of it are very civil people.

My first visits were paid to churches and to bookseller's shops. Of churches, the Cathedral is necessarily the principal. It is large, lofty, and of an elegant construction, of the Grecian order: finished during the time of Stanislaus. The ornamental parts are too flaunting; too profuse, and in bad taste. This excess of decoration pervades also the house of the Governor; which, were it not so, might vie with that of Lord Burlington; which it is not unlike in its general appearance. In the Cathedral, the monument of Stanislaus, by Girardon, is considered to be a chef-d'ouvre. There was a Girardet—chief painter to Stanislaus, who is here called "the rival of Apelles:" a rival with a vengeance! From thence I went to an old church—perhaps of the thirteenth, but certainly of the fourteenth century. They call it, I think, St. Epreuve. In this church I was much struck with a curious old painting, executed in distemper, upon the walls of a side aisle, which seemed to be at least three hundred years old. It displayed the perils and afflictions of various Saints, on various emergencies, and how they were all eventually saved by the interposition of the Virgin. A fine swaggering figure, in the foreground, dressed out in black and yellow-striped hose, much delighted me. Parts of this curious old picture were worth copying. Near to this curiosity seemed to be a fine, genuine painting, by Vandyke, of the Virgin and Child—the first exhibition of the kind which I had seen since leaving Paris. It formed a singular contrast to the picture before described. On quitting this old church, I could not help smiling to observe a bunch of flowers, in an old mustard pot—on which was inscribed "Moutarde Fine de Nageon, a Dijon—" placed at the feet of a statue of the Virgin as a sacred deposit!

On leaving the church, I visited two booksellers: one of them rather distinguished for his collection of Alduses—as I was informed. I found him very chatty, very civil, but not very reasonable in his prices. He told me that he had plenty of old books—Alduses and Elzevirs, &c.—with lapping-over vellum-bindings. I desired nothing better; and followed him up stairs. Drawer after drawer was pulled out. These M. Renouard had seen: those the Comte d'Ourches had wished to purchase; and a third pile was destined for some nobleman in the neighbourhood. There was absolutely nothing in the shape of temptation—except a Greek Herodian, by Theodore Martin of Louvain, and a droll and rather rare little duodecimo volume, printed at Amsterdam in 1658, entitled La Comedie de Proverbes. The next bookseller I visited, was a printer. "Had he any thing old and curious?" He replied, with a sort of triumphant chuckle, that he "once had such a treasure of this kind!" "What might it have been?" "A superb missal—for which a goldsmith had offered him twelve sous for each initial letter upon a gold ground—but which he had parted with, for 100 francs, to the library of a Benedictin monastery—now destroyed. It had cost him twelve sous." "But see, Sir, (continued he) is not this curious?" "It is a mere reprint, (replied I) of what was first published three hundred years ago." "No matter—buy it, and read it—it will amuse you—and it costs only five sous." I purchased two copies, and I send you here the title and the frontispiece. "Le Dragon Rouge, ou l'art de commander les Esprits Celestes, Aeriens, Terrestres, Infernaux. Avec le vrai Secret de faire parler les Morts; de gagner toutes les fois qu'on met aux Lotteries; de decouvrir les Tresors," &c.



The bookseller told me that he regularly sold hundreds of copies of this work, and that the country people yet believed in the efficacy of its contents! I had been told that it was in this very town that a copy of the Mazarine Bible had been picked up for some half dozen francs!—and conveyed to the public library at Munich.

Towards the evening, I visited the public library by appointment. Indeed I had casually met the public librarian at the first Bouquiniste's: and he fixed the hour of half-past six. I was punctual almost to the minute; and on entering the library, found a sort of BODLEY in miniature: except that there was a great mass of books in the middle of the room—placed in a parallelogram form—which I thought must have a prodigiously heavy pressure upon the floor. I quickly began to look about for Editiones Principes; but, at starting, my guide placed before me two copies of the celebrated Liber Nanceidos:[200] of which one might be fairly said to be large paper. On continuing my examination, I found civil and canon law— pandects, glosses, decretals, and commentaries—out of number: together with no small sprinkling of medical works. Among the latter was a curious, and Mentelin-like looking, edition of Avicenna. But Ludolphus's Life of Christ, in Latin, printed in the smallest type of Eggesteyn, in 1474, a folio, was a volume really worth opening and worth coveting. It was in its original monastic binding—large, white, unsullied, and abounding with rough marginal edges.

It is supposed that the library contains 25,000 volumes. Attached to it is a Museum of Natural History. But alas! since the revolution it exhibits a frightful picture of decay, devastation, and confusion. To my eye, it was little better than the apothecary's shop described by Romeo. It contained a number of portraits in oil, of eminent Naturalists; which are palpable copies, by the same hand, of originals ... that have probably perished. The museum had been gutted of almost every thing that was curious or precious. Indeed they want funds, both for the museum and the library. It was near night-fall when I quitted the library, and walked with the librarian in a pleasant, open space, near one of the chief gates or entrances before mentioned. The evening was uncommonly sweet and serene: and the moon, now nearly full, rose with more than her usual lustre ... in a sky of the deepest blue which I had yet witnessed. I shall not readily forget the conversation of that walk. My companion spoke of his own country with the sincerity of a patriot, but with the good sense of an honest, observing, reflecting man. I had never listened to observations better founded, or which seemed calculated to produce more beneficial results. Of our country, he spoke with an animation approaching to rapture. It is only the exercise of a grateful feeling to record this—of a man—whose name I have forgotten, and whose person I may never see again. On quitting each other, I proceeded somewhat thoughtfully, to an avenue of shady trees, where groups of men and women were sitting or strolling—beneath the broad moon beam—and chanting the popular airs of their country.

The next morning I quitted Nancy. The first place of halting was St. Nicholas—of which the elegant towers had struck us on the other side of Nancy. It was no post town: but we could not pass such an ecclesiastical edifice without examining it with attention. The village itself is most miserable; yet it could once boast of a press which gave birth to the Liber Nanceidos.[201] The space before the west front of the church is absolutely choked by houses of the most squalid appearance—so that there is hardly getting a good general view of the towers. The interior struck us as exceedingly interesting. There are handsome transepts; in one of which is a large, circular, central pillar; in the other, an equally large one, but twisted. One is astonished at finding such a large and beautiful building in such a situation; but formerly the place might have been large and flourishing. The west front of this church may rival two-thirds of similar edifices in France.

Domballe was the next post: the drive thither being somewhat picturesque. Luneville is the immediately following post town. It is a large and considerable place; looking however more picturesque at a distance than on its near approach: owing to the red tiles of which the roofs are composed. Here are handsome public buildings; a fountain, with eight jets d'eau— barracks, a theatre, and the castle of Prince Charles, of Lorraine. A good deal of business is carried on in the earthenware and cotton trade—of both which there is a manufactory—together with that of porcelaine. This place is known in modern history from the Treaty of Luneville between the Austrians and French in 1801. From hence we went to Benamenil, the next stage; and in our way thither, we saw, for the first time since leaving Paris, a flock of geese! Dined at Blamont—the succeeding post town. While our cutlets were preparing we strolled to the old castle, now in a state of dilapidation. It is not spacious, but is a picturesque relic. Within the exterior walls is a fine kitchen garden. From the top of what might have been the donjon, we surveyed the surrounding country—at that moment rendered hazy by an atmosphere of dense, heated, vapour. Indeed it was uncommonly hot. Upon the whole, both the village and Castle of Blamont merit at least the leisurely survey of an entire day.

On starting for Heming, the next post, we were much pleased by the sight of a rich, verdant valley, fertilized by a meandering rivulet. The village of Richeval had particular attractions; and the sight of alternate woods and meadows seemed to mitigate the severity of the heat of the day. At Heming we changed horses, opposite a large fountain where cattle were coming to drink. The effect was very picturesque; but there was no time for the pencil of Mr. Lewis to be exercised. In less than five minutes we were off for Sarrebourg. Evening came on as we approached it. Here I saw hops growing, for the first time; and here, for the first time, I heard the German language spoken—and observed much of the German character in the countenances of the inhabitants. The postilion was a German, and could not speak one word of French. However, he knew the art of driving—for we seemed to fly like the wind towards Hommarting—which we reached in half an hour. It was just two leagues from Sarrebourg. We stopped to change horses close to what seemed to be a farm house; and as the animals were being "yoked to the car," for another German Phaeton, I walked into a very large room, which appeared to be a kitchen. Two long tables were covered with supper; at each of which sat—as closely wedged as well could be—a great number of work-people of both sexes, and of all ages. Huge dogs were moving backwards and forwards, in the hope of receiving some charitable morsel;, and before the fire, on a littered hearth, lay stretched out two tremendous mastiffs. I walked with fear and trembling. The cooks were carrying the evening meal; and the whole place afforded such an interior—as Jan Steen would have viewed with rapture, and Wilkie have been delighted to copy. Meanwhile the postilion's whip was sounded: the fresh horses were neighing: and I was told that every thing was ready. I mounted with alacrity. It was getting dark; and I requested the good people of the house to tell the postilion that I did not wish him to sleep upon the road.

The hint was sufficient. This second German postilion seemed to have taken a leaf out of the book of his predecessor: for we exchanged a sharp trot for a full swing canter—terminating in a gallop; and found ourselves unexpectedly before the gates of Phalsbourg. Did you ever, my dear friend, approach a fortified town by the doubtful light of a clouded moon, towards eleven of the clock? A mysterious gloom envelopes every thing. The drawbridge is up. The solitary centinel gives the pass-word upon the ramparts; and every footstep, however slight, has its particular echo. Judge then of the noise made by our heavy-hoofed coursers, as we neared the drawbridge. "What want you there?" said a thundering voice, in the French language, from within. "A night's lodging," replied I. "We are English travellers, bound for Strasbourg." "You must wait till I speak with the sub-mayor." "Be it so." We waited patiently; but heard a great deal of parleying within the gates. I began to think we should be doomed to retrace our course—when, after a delay of full twenty minutes, we heard ... to our extreme satisfaction ... the creaking of the hinges (but not as "harsh thunder") of the ponderous portals—which opened slowly and stubbornly—and which was succeeded by the clanking of the huge chain, and the letting down of the drawbridge. This latter rebounded slightly as it reached its level: and I think I hear, at this moment, the hollow rumbling noise of our horses' feet, as we passed over the deep yawning fosse below. Our passports were now demanded. We surrendered them willingly, on the assurance given of receiving them the following morning. The gates were now closed behind us, and we entered the town in high glee. "You are a good fellow," said I to the gatesman: come to me at the inn, to-morrow morning, and you shall be thanked in the way you like best."

The landlord of the inn was not yet a-bed. As he heard our approach, he called all his myrmidons about him—and bade us heartily welcome. He was a good-looking, sleek, jolly-faced man: civilly spoken, with a ready utterance, which seemed prepared to touch upon all kinds of topics. After I had bespoken tea and beds, and as the boiling water was getting ready, he began after the following fashion: "He bien Mons. Le Comte ... comment vont les affaires en Angleterre? Et votre grand capitaine, le DUC DE VELLINGTON, comment se porte il? Ma foi, a ce moment, il joue un beau role." I answered that "matters were going on very well in England, and that our great Captain was in perfectly good health." "Vous le connoissez parfaitement bien, sans doute?"—was his next remark. I told him I could not boast of that honour. "Neanmoins, (added he) il est connu par-tout." I readily admitted the truth of this observation. Our dialogue concluded by an assurance on his part, that we should find our beds excellent, our breakfast on the morrow delicious—and he would order such a pair of horses (although he strongly recommended four,) to be put to our carriage, as should set all competition at defiance.

His prediction was verified in every particular. The beds were excellent; the breakfast, consisting of coffee, eggs, fruit, and bread and butter, (very superior to what is usually obtained in France) was delicious; and the horses appeared to be perfect of their kind. The reckoning was, to be sure, a little severe: but I considered this as the payment or punishment of having received the title of Count ... without contradiction. It fell on my ears as mere words of course; but it shall not deceive me a second time. We started a little time after nine; and on leaving the place I felt more than usual anxiety and curiosity to catch the first glimpse of the top of Strasbourg Cathedral,—a building, of which I had so long cherished even the most extravagant notions. The next post town was Saverne; and our route thither was in every respect the most delightful and gratifying of any, and even of all the routes, collectively, which we had yet experienced. As you approach it, you cross over a part of the famous chain of mountains which divide OLD FRANCE from Germany, and which we thought we had seen from the high ground on the other side of Nancy. The country so divided, was, and is yet, called ALSACE: and the mountains, just mentioned, are called the Vosges. They run almost due north and south: and form a commanding feature of the landscape in every point of view. But for Saverne. It lies, with its fine old castle, at the foot of the pass of these mountains; but the descent to it—is glorious beyond all anticipation!

It has been comparatively only of late years that this road, or pass, has been completed. In former times, it was almost impassable. As the descent is rapid and very considerable, the danger attending it is obviated by the high road having been cut into a cork-screw-shape;[202] which presents, at every spiral turn (if I may so speak) something new, beautiful, and interesting. You continue, descending, gazing on all sides. To the right, suspended almost in the air—over a beetling, perpendicular, rocky cliff— feathered half way up with nut and beech—stands, or rather nods, an old castle in ruins. It seems to shake with every breeze that blows: but there it stands—and has stood—for some four centuries: once the terror of the vassal, and now ... the admiration of the traveller! The castle was, to my eye, of all castles which I had seen, the most elevated in its situation, and the most difficult of access. The clouds of heaven seemed to be resting upon its battlements. But what do I see yonder? "Is it the top of the spire of Strasbourg Cathedral?" "It is, Sir," replied the postilion. I pulled off my travelling cap, by way of doing homage; and as I looked at my watch, to know the precise time, found it was just ten o'clock. It was worth making a minute of. Yet, owing to the hills before—or rather to those beyond, on the other side of the Rhine, which are very much loftier—the first impression gives no idea of the extraordinary height of the spire. We continued to descend, slowly and cautiously, with Saverne before us in the bottom. To the left, close to the road side, stands an obelisk: on which is fixed, hi gilt letters, this emphatic inscription:

ALSATIA.

Every thing, on reaching the level road, bespoke a distinct national character. It was clear that we had forsaken French costume, as well as the French language, among the common people: so obvious is it, as has been remarked to me by a Strasbourgeois, that "mountains, and not rivers, are the natural boundaries of countries." The women wore large, flat, straw hats, with a small rose at the bottom of a shallow crown; while their throats were covered, sometimes up to the mouth, with black, silk cravats. Their hair was platted, hanging down in two equal divisions. The face appeared to be flat. The men wore shovel hats, of which the front part projected to a considerable distance; and the perpetually recurring response of "yaw yaw"—left it beyond all doubt that we had taken leave of the language of "the polite nation." At length we reached Saverne, and changed horses. This town is large and bustling, and is said to contain upwards of four thousand inhabitants. We did not stop to examine any of its wonders or its beauties; for we were becoming impatient for Strasbourg. The next two intermediate post towns were Wasselonne and Ittenheim—and thence to Strasbourg: the three posts united being about ten leagues. From Ittenheim we darted along yet more swiftly than before. The postilion, speaking in a germanised French accent, told us, that "we were about to visit one of the most famous cities in the world—and such a CATHEDRAL!" The immediate approach to Strasbourg is flat and uninteresting; nor could I, in every possible view of the tower of the cathedral, bring myself to suppose it—what it is admitted to be—the loftiest ecclesiastical edifice in the world!

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse