"Where order in variety we see; And where, tho' all things differ, all agree."
And, in my judgment, it is as far superior to Versailles as its forests of oak are to the elms which surround that boasted palace.
I was permitted to see the royal stables. They are, it is said, sufficiently large to contain 4000 horses, but are at present much out of repair. The city of Versailles is large and well built, but has a melancholy and deserted appearance, having lost nearly half its population since it has ceased to be a royal residence, and the present number of inhabitants does not exceed 30,000. The Grand and Petit Trianons deserve attention from having been the favourite retreats of the late unfortunate Queen of France; but few traces of the taste once displayed in their decoration now remain. They are situated within the limits of the forest of Versailles, which is said to be twenty leagues in circuit. At Sevres, which is celebrated for the beauty of its porcelain manufactory, I observed workmen employed in finishing a new and handsome bridge of nine arches over the Seine, in place of the old one which is hardly passable. Near the barrier of Passy is a carpet-manufactory, which was established there by Henry the Fourth. This barrier is thought to be the most striking entrance to Paris. In my excursions in the vicinity of Paris, I observed that the harvest was extremely abundant, but the majority of those employed in collecting it were women. I was informed that last year the greatest difficulty was experienced in saving the harvest for want of a sufficient number of hands. I saw, at a distance, the castle of Vincennes, where Buonaparte (who had caused the removal of every vestige of the Bastile) had dungeons constructed many feet under ground, and with walls ten feet thick. This place is distinguished for the atrocious murder of the Duke d'Enghien. I had occasion to observe, both in the streets of Paris and on the roads in its vicinity, that there were but few private carriages to be seen, and those by no means handsome; but the roads are covered with cabriolets, of which there are 2,800 in Paris, besides about 2,000 fiacres, or hackney-coaches. The fare for an hour is only thirty sous.
As I had by this time pretty well satisfied my curiosity, in visiting the objects in Paris that principally arrest the attention of a traveller who has not leisure to dwell longer than is indispensable in one place, I began to be impatient to exchange the continual bustle of that city—its
"Fumum opes strepitumque,"
for those romantic and enlivening scenes in which Switzerland stands without a rival, and is, as it were, by acclamation, allowed to surpass the other countries of Europe.
I therefore attended at the office for foreign affairs, and obtained the signature of the Prince of Benevento (for about ten francs) in addition to the signature of our own distinguished minister, Lord Castlereagh. I was told it was necessary also to have my passport visited by the police before leaving Paris; and my landlord offered his services to arrange that affair for me. I however recollected Dr. Franklin's maxim, "If you would have your business clone, go; if not, send," and went accordingly to the office myself.
These affairs being arranged, so as to permit my passing without molestation through the interior of France, I quitted Paris without any sensations of regret at leaving a place which, highly as I had been pleased with many of the great objects which it contains, I cannot but consider, when curiosity is once gratified, to be an unpleasant residence. I took the road to Fontainbleau, distant about thirty-seven English miles; a place formerly only remarkable for its castle, situated in a forest of about 30,000 acres, and often visited by the Kings of France, for the amusements of the chace; but which will hold in history a distinguished page, and be visited in future ages as being the scene where it pleased Providence to terminate a tyranny unexampled in the history of the world. It is worthy of remark, that in this very castle, in which the venerable Head of the Romish Church was so long and so unjustly detained a captive, his once formidable oppressor was obliged to abdicate that authority which he had so long usurped and abused; and the 11th of April 1814, will be long hailed over Europe as the epoch when liberty, peace and good order were restored to its inhabitants, after the long and stormy reign of oppression, war and anarchy had so long precluded the expected time of which it was impossible entirely to despair—when Europe, so long a prey to dissension, should again be united as one common family. These hopes have at last been realized; the evils of the French Revolution (more productive of misfortune than the fabled box of Pandora) have in a manner been surmounted; and we have only further to wish, that the nations who have restored tranquillity to Europe, may continue to act with the moderation for which they have hitherto been distinguished [guess: distinguished].
It was natural, in beholding a place rendered memorable by such great events,—events which are probably destined to fix the fortunes of succeeding centuries, that the mind should dwell with more than common attention on the scene, and give itself up to the reflections it was calculated to produce. My thoughts were principally engaged in considering the very opposite characters of Pius VII. and of Buonaparte.
In the first we see united all that can give dignity to an exalted station, or that is praiseworthy in private life. We see him disposed as much as possible to conciliation, and even persuaded by his cardinals to cross the Alps in the most inclement season notwithstanding his advanced age, to crown the Usurper of France, in the expectation of advancing the interests of religion, by consenting to submit to a power which then appeared but too firmly established. The hopes of the pope were not realized; Buonaparte soon forgetting past services, made demands which he well knew could not be complied with, and amongst them that his holiness should declare war against England, and that too without the slightest motive for such a proceeding on his part, as he stated in his manifesto against the outrages of Buonaparte, a paper which must affect all who peruse it, and excite their regret that the pope was not in a situation effectually to preserve that independence which did such honour to his heart.
The new-made emperor was not, however, to be reasoned with but by force; and in about four years after the pope had placed the diadem on his head, he caused him to be removed from his capital as a prisoner, and united the Ecclesiastical States to the dominions of France. The spirit of the pope was still unsubdued, and he refused, for himself and his cardinals, all offers of subsistence from the usurper of their possessions. When urged to come to some agreement with Buonaparte, he answered that his regret at having accepted the late Concordat, would be a sufficient security against his being again deceived. And when the cardinals represented the evils which might result from his refusal, he answered, "Let me die worthy of the misfortunes I have suffered." On the 23d of January, 1814, the pope was removed from Fontainbleau, as were each of the seventeen cardinals, in custody of a gend'arme, and their destination was kept secret. But on the 5th of April following, the provisional government of France gave orders, that all obstacles to the return of the pope to his states might be removed; and, after five years of confinement and outrage, Pius VII. returned to his capital, to receive the reward of that firmness and moderation, which, blended so happily in his character, will long render it an object of admiration.
I next considered the character of the tyrant, who so long and so successfully triumphed over prostrate Europe, England alone preserving unimpaired that liberty, which she was destined to be the means of diffusing to rival nations. It would be absurd to deny Buonaparte the praise due to the matchless activity, and consummate skill, with which he conducted the enterprizes suggested by his boundless ambition; and which made him the most formidable enemy with whom England ever had to contend; but his cruelty, his suspicion, and his pride, (which made him equally disregard those laws of honour, and those precepts of morality, respected by the general feelings of mankind), as they excited the indignation of thinking men, prevented any pity at his fall. Such a man was destined only to excite astonishment, not admiration; and that astonishment could not fail of being greatly diminished, by his want of extraordinary resources, when placed in a situation, upon the possibility of which he had disdained to calculate.
His continued aggressions raised Europe against him from without, and he was overthrown, because he had completely disgusted the fickle people, whom he had made the instruments of his ambition.
It would surely require the pen of a Tacitus to delineate with accuracy the character of such a man, who, to use the words of the lamented Moreau, "had covered the French name with such shame and disgrace, that it would be almost a disgrace to bear it; and who had brought upon that unhappy country the curses and hatred of the universe."
His ambitious wars are supposed to have occasioned the destruction of nearly four millions of men, whom he considered merely as instruments to accomplish his extravagant views; and he is reported to have said repeatedly, that "it signified little whether or not he reigned over the French, provided he reigned over France."
He delighted in carnage, and speaks in one of his bulletins of "800 pieces of cannon dispersing death on all sides," as presenting "a most admirable spectacle."
On Buonaparte's arrival from Egypt, he found things as favourable for his projected usurpation as his most sanguine hopes could have imagined. In the eighteen months which had preceded his arrival, there had arisen no fewer than four constitutions, and the French might well exclaim, "They have made us so many constitutions, that we have now none remaining!" Wearied out with the succession of sanguinary factions, each endeavouring to establish itself by proscriptions, banishments, and confiscations, France submitted without opposition to the government of a ruler, who seemed sufficiently strong to keep all minor tyrants in subjection; and, despairing of freedom, sought only an interval of repose. This hope was, however, not destined to be realized, for Buonaparte soon pursued all those who presumed to oppose his schemes in the slightest degree with astonishing eagerness, and those who submitted with the most alacrity, were treated only with contempt.
He was hardly seated on his throne, before he spoke of making France a camp, and all the French soldiers. A long series of success made him despise those precautions so necessary to insure it, and rendered his catastrophe the more striking.
The character given by Seneca of the Corsicans, has been quoted as applicable to the most famous character that island has ever produced: he says, "the leading characteristics of these islanders are revenge, theft, lying, and impiety." Over the downfall of such a man, the civilized world must rejoice; but the contemplation of his character affords a salutary lesson to ambition, which, carried to excess, ruins that greatness it would so madly increase.
The last years of his reign were distinguished by the number of plots which were pretended to be discovered, and proved the truth of a remark of Mary de Medicis, "That a false report believed during three days, tended to secure the crown on the head of an usurper."
But neither his guards, nor his police, could insure him a moment of repose.
"Volvilur Ixion, et se sequiturque fugitque."
Modern history has fully demonstrated a truth, which might have been collected from more ancient records, and of which England affords an illustrious example, that the attachment of a free and enlightened people is the only basis on which thrones can rest with security.
Having now sufficiently satisfied my curiosity at Fontainbleau, I determined on continuing my journey (which I fear my reader may regret I did not do sooner), and I accordingly arrived at noon at Montereau, which is an inconsiderable town, but beautifully situated in a fertile plain, at the junction of the rivers Seine and Yonne. The bridges over those rivers had been partly broken down, to impede the progress of the allied troops in the late memorable campaign. They have been repaired with timber in a temporary manner, but cannot be considered as at all sufficiently secure for the passage of heavy carriages. Many of the houses in this town still exhibit abundant marks of bullets, but the country around appears in such a luxuriant state of cultivation, that had I not myself seen the spot where a battle had been fought in the last spring, I could hardly hare persuaded myself it had so lately been the theatre of war.
I next reached Sens, a large and ancient city, but thinly inhabited, and with little marks of activity, although situated in a country abounding with all the conveniences of life, and possessing a situation on the rivers Vanne and Yonne, which seems to shame its inhabitants for their neglect of the commercial advantages they afford.
The Cathedral is a venerable structure, and contains the tomb of the Dauphin, father of the present King, who died in 1765.—About sixteen English miles distant is Joigny, beautifully situated on the Yonne, and surrounded on all skies by vineyards; we now were approaching one of the parts of France most famous for its wines.
The road, which is in excellent repair, follows the windings of the river to Auxerre, which, although much less than Sens, has a more lively appearance, and the inhabitants seem to make more use of the facilities which the river affords of communicating with Paris and the rest of the country. The churches here are handsome, the tower of one of them is said to have been built by the English.
The Vineyards in this neighbourhood are numerous, and the wine is much esteemed.
I waited here for the arrival of the Paris Diligence, in which I proposed to proceed to Dijon, wishing not to leave France without having made trial of one of their public carriages.
The appearance of that which I saw at Calais was much against it; the one I met with here proved a very tedious conveyance, not going in general above three or four English miles an hour; which, however is as much as could be expected from a carriage which is scarcely less laden than many of our waggons. It was drawn by five horses, all managed by one postilion, mounted on one of the wheel horses, and furnished with a vast and unwieldy pair of boots, cased with iron, and a long whip, which he is perpetually employed in cracking. Another important personage is Monsieur le Conducteur, who has the care of the luggage, &c. The French in general adhere to old customs, as well as the postilions to their antiquated boots; their hour of dinner in general being from eleven to twelve o'clock, and seldom so late as one. This in England would be considered only as a Dejeuner a la Fourchette. The hour of supper is from seven to nine, according as the length of the stages may determine.
If the hour of a French dinner is singular to an Englishman, the order in which it is served up is not less so. The soup (that great essential to a Frenchman) is always followed by bouilli, which having contributed to make the soup, is itself very tasteless.—Fricassees and poultry succeed; then follow fish and vegetables, and last of all comes the roti, which, as I before had occasion to observe, is so much done as not to be very palatable. The pastry and desert conclude their dinners, which certainly deserve the praise of being both cheap and abundant. The fruit is astonishingly cheap; I. have seen excellent peaches sell for a sous apiece. A traveller is not, however, in general disposed to criticise these singularities, either in the hour or order of the repast with too much severity, as the remark attributed to Alexander the Great, has probably been made by many of less celebrity, "that night travelling serves to give a better appetite than all the skill of confectioners."
The general price of the Table d'Hote in France, including the vin ordinaire, is about three francs, which are at the present rate of exchange equal to about a shilling each.—Those who call for better wine pay of course extra.
The vin ordinaire, or common wine of Burgundy, is a pleasant beverage, little stronger than cider, but in many parts of France it is by no means palatable. The cider and beer in France are, with few exceptions, extremely indifferent, and consequently little used.
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My first day's journey in the Diligence was short and uninteresting. We arrived to sleep at Avalon, a small town partaking, in common with most others in France, of a degree of gloom occasioned by the want of those shops which enliven most of our country towns. Here a few articles are placed in a window, to indicate that there is a larger supply to be had within. There are few towns in France which have not a public place or walk, which is generally planted with trees, and kept in good order. Whilst supper was preparing, we took a few turns on the promenade of Avalon, and found a considerable number of persons assembled there; but were much shocked at the number and miserable appearance of the beggars, who thronged around us. They are much too numerous in all parts of France, and particularly here.
At an early hour next morning, we were summoned to resume our places in the Diligence; these places are in general numbered, and each person takes his seat in the order in which he has paid his fare, a regulation which prevents any delay, and precludes disputes or ceremony.
We continued our journey through the small towns of Rouvray and Viteaux; the country is diversified with hills, which are not of sufficient magnitude to present any great obstacle to the progress of the traveller.
There are vast numbers of vineyards, but there are few trees. In this, as in all other wine countries, villages and country houses are more numerous than in the districts producing only corn, either because the lands which produce vines are more valuable, and consequently are divided amongst a greater number of owners, or that the culture of the vine requires more people than other species of tillage.
In one district, where corn was the chief crop, I enquired respecting the usual mode of farming, and found that the land, which was this year under corn, was intended to be sown next year with maize (of which there is a vast quantity) and the year following to lie fallow, after which it will be considered as again fit to produce corn.
I found also, that the direct land-tax through France was not less than 20 per cent, exclusive of the other taxes which fall incidentally on landed property. There are also in many provinces customs which regulate the descent of land (often in a manner very different from the disposition which the owner would wish) amongst the relations of the last owner. These customs and the heavy taxes on land may account for the seemingly small price which it in general sells for throughout France.
The approach to Dijon is striking, and the Diligence arrived there sufficiently early to afford us time to survey the city, which is one of the best built and most considerable in France. It was formerly the capital of the province, and the residence of the ancient sovereigns of Burgundy, whose tombs are still to be seen at the Chartreuse, near the city. It is now the chief place in the department of the Cote d'or, and contains a population of about 22,000 inhabitants. It is situated between the small rivers Ouche and Suzon, in a valley, which is one of the most highly cultivated districts in France, and which is worthy of its name of Cote d'or. The churches here are handsome structures, as is also the palace of the Prince of Conde, where the Parliament used to assemble. The square before it is spacious and well-built, and the corn market is worthy of remark. The University of Dijon was formerly one of the most considerable in Prance, but my stay was not sufficient, to enable me to enquire with accuracy into its present state. Our company next day was augmented by two French officers, who were going to Besancon, and who intended proceeding in this carriage as far as Dole, where smaller conveyances were to be had for those going to Geneva, &c. as the Great Voiture went on to Lyons. These officers did not long continue silent, and politics seemed the subject which occupied the first place in their thoughts. They said that Belgium and the Rhine were indispensable to France, and were particularly violent against Austria, for the part she had taken in the late contest. 'One of them did not affect to conceal his attachment to the ex-emperor; but the other, although he agreed with his companion in wishing, for a renewal of the war, did not seem at all pleased with Buouaparte for having said the French nation wanted character. They had both been at Moscow, and acknowledged that the Emperor had committed a capital error in not retreating in time from what he himself acknowledged to be such a frightful climate.
If a public carriage has not all the comfort and expedition of a private one, it certainly has this advantage, that one often meets companions from whom may be derived amusement or information; and I think those who travel with a view to either of those objects, would do well occasionally to go in one of those conveyances. In a foreign country, the attention of the traveller is continually attracted by a variety of objects of a novel nature, which can be best explained to him by the inhabitants of the country: besides, it is impossible to have any correct idea of the manners and customs of foreigners, without constantly associating with them, which, in general, English travellers do not much desire. Whilst abroad, I would wish to accommodate myself as much as possible, to the habits of the country in which I were to reside, but if I found them irksome, I would certainly hasten my departure.
We reached Dole about the French hour of dinner: here our company separated, and, accompanied by a friend, I continued my journey to Geneva. The road which we took is only practicable during four or five months in the year, on account of the snow which is drifted from the mountains of Jura. Near Auxonne we passed a plain, where a battle had been fought between the French and the Allied forces. Many houses had been destroyed, but the agriculture of the country did not seem to have suffered by the contest. We passed through the village of Genlis, and within sight of the Chateau, the property of the lady of that name, well known by her numerous writings and compilations.
We arrived late at Poligny, a small town, surrounded by lofty mountains. On leaving the place, one hill occupies three hours in ascending; but the road is as good as the uneven surface of the country will permit. The people here begin to have quite a different appearance from the French: wooden shoes are generally worn; and the projecting roofs of the houses shew that the climate is more rainy and severe than in the countries we had passed. In this vicinity are some of the finest forests I had yet seen in France, and the views from the road are occasionally interesting. About two leagues from Poligny is Arbois, famous for its white wine. We had a bottle by way of experiment, and thought it not undeserving of the reputation it had acquired. A Frenchman observed, "Le vin nest pas mauvais," which phrase may be taken for a commendation, as they seldom carry their praise so far as to say a thing is positively good. The country between Poligny and Moray exhibits a continued succession of fir-trees, unmixed with any thing to give variety to the scene. The woods, however, seemed to afford shelter to but few birds; and in most parts of the continent, even the singing-birds are not spared, but included in the general proscription to gratify the palate of the epicure.
We arrived to an English breakfast at Moray; they told us its honey was in great repute throughout France, and we thought it deserved more than the ordinary commendation of a Frenchman. Every thing here was neat and clean, and both the town and appearance of its inhabitants brought North Wales strongly to my recollection. This being a frontier place, the French custom-house officers put seals on our portmanteaus, for which favour we paid two francs for each seal; these were cut off with great formality on our arrival at Geneva. After having travelled for many hours amongst a succession of gloomy mountains, which afford nothing that can either interest or enliven, I never recollect feeling a greater sensation of delight and astonishment, than when, from the summit of one of the mountains of Jura, I first beheld the lake and city of Geneva, backed by the mountains of Savoy, and by the Alps, which, even at this vast distance, made all the other mountains we had passed appear but trivial.
It is by contrast that all pleasures are heightened, and even the tour which I afterwards made amongst the Alps, did not lessen the force of that impression which the sudden appearance of this magnificent spectacle had left upon my mind. The road down the mountain is an astonishing work, and is part of the grand line of road made by Buonaparte, to facilitate the passage of troops into Italy over the Grand Simplon. A fountain near the road has an inscription to Napoleon the Great; in one part the road winds through an excavation in the rock. One cannot but here exclaim with the poet,
What cannot Art and Industry perform, When Science plans the progress of their toil!
At Fernay we visited the Chateau, so long celebrated as the residence of Voltaire. It is now the property and residence of M. de Boudet, who, as we were informed, has made great improvements in the place since it has come into his possession.
The saloon and bed-chamber of Voltaire are, however, preserved in exactly the same state as when he occupied them. There are a few portraits of his friends, and under his bust is this inscription:
"Son esprit est partout et son coeur est ici."
"His genius is every where, but his heart is here."
His Cenotaph, as it is called, has a miserably mean appearance, and bears this inscription:
"Mes manes sont consoles puisque mon coeur "Est au milieu de vous."
"My manes are consoled, since my heart is with you."
The formal taste in which the garden is laid out, but ill accords with the stupendous scenery which is seen on all sides. The approach to the Chateau from the road is through a double avenue of trees. Near the house stands the parish-church, and also a Heliconian fountain in the disguise of a pump, of excellent water, which we tasted, but without experiencing any unusual effects. We had not leisure to prolong our researches, as it was necessary for us to reach Geneva before the closing of the gates. If the first and distant appearance of the city of Geneva, of its beautiful lake, and of the lofty mountains by which it is surrounded, produces the strongest sensations of delight in the beholder, a nearer approach is not (as is too frequently the case) calculated to do away, or, at least, greatly to diminish the impression made by the distant view.
Having, after a long descent, at length reached the Plain, the traveller cannot fail of being delighted with the richly cultivated scene which surrounds him, with the neatness of the villages, and with the apparent ease of the inhabitants of a country where property seems pretty equally divided, and where he is not shocked (as he is unhappily too generally throughout Europe) by the melancholy contrast between the splendour of the opulent, and the extreme misery of the peasantry. Here the peasant, as Goldsmith observes,
Sees no contiguous palace rear its head, To shame the meanness of his humble shed; Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose, Breathes the keen air, and carols as he goes.
The situation of Geneva is as striking as can be well imagined. It seems to rise out of the transparent waters of its lake. Some tourists tell us, that, Naples and Constantinople excepted, no city in Europe can be compared to Geneva in point of situation, and those who have ascended the towers of its cathedral, will feel disposed to admit, that the prospect of the lake, the junction of the river Rhone with the Arve, the number of villas dispersed on all sides, the scene of cultivation which the nearer mountains present, almost to their summits, and the imposing effect produced by the more distant Alps, whose bases rest in Italy, and whose tops, covered with perpetual snow, seem to unite with the clouds, present a spectacle which it would be indeed difficult to surpass.
——"While admiration, feeding at the eye "And still unsated, dwells upon the scene."
The lake of Geneva (which, according to M. de Luc, is 187 toises, or 1203 English feet above the level of the Mediterranean Sea) is one of the most considerable in Europe, being about eighteen leagues in length, by about three and a half at its greatest width. Its waters are at this season about six feet higher than in winter, and are of a beautiful blue colour, derived from the nature of the soil beneath. Its depth, near Meillerie, is 190 fathoms, that of the Baltic, according to Dr. Goldsmith, being only 115 fathoms. This lake abounds with fish of various kinds. I myself saw a trout of twenty-three pounds, and there have occasionally been taken of nearly double that weight. These extraordinarily large fish are often presented by the republic to its allies, and are frequently sent as far as Paris or Berlin. The Rhone issuing, with vast rapidity, from the lake forms an island which is covered with houses, and constitutes the lower part of the city, which rises to the summit of a hill, where stand the cathedral and many elegant private houses. The city is, in general, tolerably well built; but many of the streets have domes, or arcades of wood, which are frequently fifty or sixty feet in height, and which have an inelegant appearance, but are useful in the winter, and under some of them are rows of shops, Containing every article of luxury or utility, in equal perfection with those that are to be met with in some of the greatest cities.
Here is every appearance of the activity produced by the revival of commerce, after the long prohibition it suffered during the period whilst Geneva remained united to France.
The chief manufacture of Geneva is that of clocks and watches; in the period of the prosperity of Geneva, this trade was calculated to afford employment to five or six thousand persons, but at present it is much reduced. There are a considerable number of goldsmiths, and the ingenuity of the Genevese, produces very curious musical-watches, snuff-boxes, and seals, many of which are sent to Paris and London, where they find a ready sale; they are sent likewise to Persia and to America, there are considerable manufactures also of calico, muslin, &c. and a good deal of banking business is transacted. Perhaps there is no example of a city so destitute of territory, which has obtained such commercial celebrity, and the persevering industry of its inhabitants, enabled them to place large sums of money in the funds of other nations, particularly of England. The revenues of the state are much exceeded by those of many individuals; but, during the oppressive government of France, the taxes of Geneva were nearly quadrupled.
The population of Geneva and its territory, having been so differently stated as to leave the truth involved in ranch uncertainty, M. Naville, a senator, who possessed every facility for making the necessary enquiries, published a calculation, which assigns to the republic a population of 35,000, of which number 26,000 resided in the city. This is a very large number if we consider that the territory of this little state is so limited as, according to M. Bourritt's Itinerary, to contain only 3 7/100 square leagues; being about 11,400 inhabitants to each square league. But, contracted as their territory certainly is, those citizens of Geneva, with whom I have conversed, do not seem to wish its extension. They fear the introduction of religious dissensions, as the Savoyards, (on which side it could be most easily extended) are Roman Catholics and by no means cordial with their neighbours, the Hugonots of Geneva, as they call them. Nor would the nobility of Savoy wish to be the subjects of so popular a government as that of Geneva. Religious differences have, at all times, been productive of the worst species of civil discord, and the Genevese (although they tolerate most fully all religious sects) are undoubtedly stronger at present, with their limited possessions, than they possibly could be with any increase of territory, accompanied by the chance of such unfortunate dissensions.
All they seem desirous of, at present, is to see their little state consolidated; it being at present intersected by the possessions of France, the Canton of Vaud, &c. in such a manner as to oblige the Genevese to pass over some portion of the territories of those states, in visiting many of their own villages. But more of Geneva hereafter, as although I had so recently arrived there, I was soon to quit it for a short time.
I found at my hotel a party, consisting of two of my countrymen and a French gentleman, who were waiting for a fourth person to join them, in making an excursion to the celebrated scenes of Chamouny and Moutanvert.
This was an opportunity not to be neglected, particularly as my former companion had determined on going into Italy, notwithstanding the very alarming accounts of its disturbed state, given us by some travellers, lately arrived from thence, who had themselves been robbed, and who reported that the banditti, in many of the mountains, amounted to from 500 to 1500 men. The unsettled political state of Italy too, rendered the present, in my opinion, by no means an auspicious moment, for an excursion of curiosity into that country. To see Italy well would occupy a longer portion of time than I had at my disposal, and if once across the Alps it would be almost impossible to return without visiting Rome. Under these circumstances, I resolved to content myself with seeing Chamouny, and Mt. Blanc, and I had every reason to be pleased with my determination, as the party were extremely agreeable, and we had the good fortune of having fine weather for our excursion, an occurrence which is rare amongst such lofty mountains nor were we disposed to complain of the inconvenience of occasional showers, in a country where it is not unusual for the rains to continue without intermission for many days.
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Having made the necessary arrangements in the evening, our carriage was in readiness at an early hour next morning. It was something like an English sociable, but had a leather cover which could occasionally be drawn over our heads, and of which we more than once experienced the utility, in protecting us from the very sudden and violent showers which we sometimes met with. As soon as the rain was over we drew back the cover, and enjoyed the romantic prospects which surrounded us. From Geneva we ascended continually through a wild but not uninteresting country to Bonnevilie, a distance of about five leagues; here we breakfasted, and remained two or three hours to allow our horses to repose from the fatigues of the road. This little town has nothing particularly worthy of remark, and its appearance is dull, although it is the chief place of one of the three divisions which are formed of Savoy. Here is a bridge of stone (which is not usual in this country, where timber abounds, and where many of the rivers are so rapid, as to oblige the inhabitants to remove the bridges, at the commencement of autumn) over the river Arve, the course of which we followed for several leagues through the valley of Cluse, so called from the little town of that name. This long and narrow district is surrounded by lofty mountains, and the traveller is often at a loss to guess which way he can proceed, until some sudden turning discovers an outlet, barely sufficient to admit the passage of a carriage, and by various windings he arrives in the valley of Magi an, which presents a still more interesting variety of objects, amongst others the cascade of Nant d'Arpennas and many other inferior ones, which tumble from the mountains, and increase the rapidity of the Arve. About a league beyond the fall d'Arpennas is an excellent view of Mont Blanc, which crowned with all the horrors of a perpetual winter, presents one of the most sublime, and majestic spectacles, which it is possible to conceive. To describe the contrast between its snowy summit, and the cultivated valley beneath, so as to convey any just idea of the scene, to those who have not themselves seen it, would require all the descriptive powers of a Radcliffe. We arrived to a late dinner at the hotel de Mont Blanc, at St Martin, which is a large single house situated about a quarter of a league from the little town of Salenche, of which I do not recollect having heard any thing remarkable, except that the right of burgership may be purchased for forty-five livres. The windows of our hotel commanded a most astonishing extent of mountain scenery diversified by the windings of the Arve through a well cultivated valley. The hotel was sufficiently comfortable, but the bill was extravagant beyond any precedent in the annals of extortion. We had occasion to remonstrate with our host on the subject, and our French companion exerted himself so much on the occasion, that at last we succeeded in persuading the landlord to make a considerable reduction in his charges, which were out of all reason, making every allowance that his house was so situated, as not to be accessible during the whole year. We were afterwards told that he would have considered himself amply paid by receiving the half of his first demand, and I found it is often the practice to ask of the English at least double of what is charged to travellers of any other nation. Appearances were so much against our landlord, that one might say to him in the words of the epigram, "If thou art honest thou'rt a wondrous cheat."
The carriage road ends at Salenche; and we, therefore, made the necessary arrangements to proceed on mules, and sent back our carriage to Geneva. It was the first time I had travelled in a country only accessible on foot or by mules, and I cannot but add my testimony to that of all those who have ever made excursions into these mountains, respecting the very extraordinary and almost incredible safety with which the mule conveys his rider over tracks, which were any one to see suddenly, coming out of a civilized country, he would think it the height of folly to attempt to pass even on foot. There are, however, places where it is expedient to climb for one's self, but as long as one remains on the back of the mule, it is advisable not to attempt to direct his course, but to submit one's reason for the time to the instinct of the animal. Our guides assured me that they had never known a single instance of any one's having had reason to regret having placed this confidence in them; and, indeed, it is by having the command of his head that the mule is enabled to carry his rider in safety over passes, which one is often afraid to recall to one's memory. Several of the mules in Savoy are handsome, but one of our party, who had crossed the Fyrenean mountains, thought the Spanish mules were much more so; the ordinary price of a mule here, is from fourteen to twenty Louis d'Ors.
The distance between St. Martin and Chamouny, is little more than six leagues, but from the extreme inequality of the ground and the intricacy of the paths, occupied a very long space of time in passing. We still continued to follow the course of the Arve, which, according to the opinions of some writers, is believed to have, at one period, formed a lake between the mountains which encompass this valley; a conjecture which the marshy appearance of the ground seems to render probable.
These mountains abound with an animal which is mostly an inhabitant of the Alps, the marmot, and there are a vast abundance of wild strawberries. The river is most considerable at this season of the year, being supplied with the meltings of the snow and ice. About two hours after our departure from St. Martin we passed over the 'Pont des Chevres, which, from the extreme slightness of its construction, seems hardly secure enough to permit the passage of a goat; and it is rendered more formidable to the nervous traveller by its vast height from the bed of the rocky torrent over which it passes.
We went a little way out of the regular track to see the beautiful cascade of Chede, which is by M. Bourritt ascertained to be sixty-seven feet in height. A number of peasants attended us from a cottage, where we left our mules, and one of them carried a plank to serve as a bridge over a neighbouring stream, and levied toll on us for permission to pass over it. We returned in about a quarter of an hour to the cottage, and paid, as we thought, very liberally for the trouble the peasants had in holding the mules during that short time; but where expectations are unreasonable it is impossible to satisfy them; and that was the case here. One old woman, in particular, exclaimed against us. She said, "We were English, and ought to give gold." Such is the idea entertained, even in these secluded mountains, of the riches of the English, that a sum, which would be received with thanks from the travellers of almost any other country, would be considered as an object of complaint if given by an Englishman; and the thoughtless profusion of some English travellers is a subject of regret to many persons, who, although less opulent, are still desirous of visiting foreign countries, as the inhabitants of the Continent, in general, receive from some of our fellow-subjects such an idea of the opulence of their country, that they think it impossible to charge all who come from thence too extravagantly. We next proceeded to the lake of Chede, which is not far distant. It was first discovered by M. Bourritt, when hunting a wolf amongst these mountains, as he mentions in his Itinerary, which contains much useful information, and is a necessary appendage to the traveller in these wild districts. This lake, considering its limited extent, is a handsome object. Here is a curious species of moss which gives the banks a singular appearance. We stopped to breakfast, as well as to refresh our mules, at a little cottage-inn near the village of Servoy, in the neighbourhood of which are mines of lead and copper, together with many large buildings and furnaces for the preparation of the ore. We here met another party also going to Chamouny. They had preferred travelling in little carriages drawn by mules, which they were obliged to quit continually, by the uneven nature of the road; and they did not arrive till some time after us. We here found that one of our party was mounted on the mule which had lately had the honor of carrying the Ex-Empress Maria Louisa, who passed this way on her tour to Chamouny. She is said to have appeared very thoughtful; but the guides praised both her courage and her beauty.
We breakfasted with the other travellers, under the shade of an orchard, near the inn; and the repast was much more luxurious than we could have supposed from the rustic appearance of the place. As soon as the guides informed us that they were ready to attend us, we continued our journey to Chamouny, making another little detour to visit the glacier des Bossons. Here we were astonished at the singular appearance which was exhibited by a vast number of pyramids and towers of ice, many of them upwards of 100 feet in height, and which remained at this season almost in the centre of a valley richly cultivated and well inhabited.
The definition of the word glacier has given rise to several arguments. I shall therefore insert that given by the celebrated M. de Saussure, in his Tour amongst the Alps, of which he was one of the first and most able explorers. He says, "The word glacier designates any one of those cavities, natural or artificial, which preserve the ice, or guard it from the rays of the sun." This glacier is only three quarters of a league from Chamouny, or the priory, where we soon arrived. The valley of Chamouny is about eighteen English miles long, and hardly one in breadth. It is as varied a scene as can possibly be imagined; and no where can the contrast between nature in its wild and in its cultivated state, make a more forcible impression on the mind.
Many of the farms here are very neat. They sow the grain in May, and reap in August.
We remarked several small chapels and crosses where promises of indulgence for thirty days are held out to those persons who shall repeat there a certain number of prayers. One of these chapels, more spacious than the rest, was constructed by a bishop of Sion. The village of Chamouny is not large, but contains several extremely good inns, which, since the opening of the Continent, have had their full share of English travellers, whose names, in the books of the hotel where we lodged, more than doubled those of all other nations who had visited the various grand scenes with which this country abounds; and the most lucrative employment here is that of a guide. Strangers are often much imposed on by them, and should therefore be careful to get recommended to such as will conduct them safely to all that is curious. We met a party who had been deceived by either the ignorance or laziness of their guides; and who, we found, after spending two or three days in exploring this neighbourhood, had seen but a small portion of what is worthy of attention. The air here is of a very wintry temperature. This, however, is not astonishing, when we consider that this place is situated 500 toises, or 2,040 feet above the lake of Geneva, and 3,168 feet above the level of the sea, but 11,532 feet below the summit of Mont Blanc.
Chamouny is the chief place in the commune to which it gives name, and which is inhabited by a remarkably hardy and intelligent peasantry. I was informed that the Austrians obliged this district to furnish 100 cows, a vast quantity of cheese, butter, &c. &c.; but the inhabitants were so much rejoiced at being released from the French yoke, that they did not complain of these exactions. As far as I could judge, the wish of the young men here seems to be, that Savoy should form a canton of Switzerland; but the old men, who formerly lived under the government of the King of Sardinia, wish for the restoration of the order of things to which they were long accustomed; and it seems most probable that the King of Sardinia will be restored to that part of this ancient patrimony of his family which has not been ceded to France. The Savoyards complain of this division of their country. The part assigned to France is the most valuable district, and forms above a third of the duchy: in it is situated its ancient capital, Chambery. It is, however, not probable that the wishes of the Savoyards will be consulted as to these points, which will be determined by the Allied Powers on the grounds of political expediency.
I also made inquiries concerning the state of taxation in Savoy, and found, that under France the inhabitants were obliged to pay more than three times the sum which they had paid to Sardinia. The imposts were here the same as in the rest of France, no distinction having been made between this mountainous country and the other more productive departments. Doors and windows are amongst the articles taxed, and the stamp duties are very heavy.
Having refreshed ourselves sufficiently to encounter fresh difficulties, we determined to visit Montanvert, and the Mer de Glace, two of the most distinguished objects of curiosity which this place boasts of. Having provided ourselves with guides and mules, we set out accordingly; and, after quickly passing the narrow valley, began to ascend mountains which abound with chamois, and which, by their height and irregularity, seemed to render our arrival on their summit an event not speedily to be expected. We had more reason than ever to be astonished at the extraordinary security with which our mules carried us up such abrupt ascents, which in many places more resembled a flight of steps, hewn roughly in a rock, than a practicable road, and there were in many places hardly any marks to shew which was the preferable way.
After a continual ascent of between two and three hours, we were advised to send back our mules to wait our return in the valley, and to continue our way on foot, which we did accordingly, being provided with long sticks, pointed with iron, to assist us in climbing the remainder of the ascent. Our arrival on the summit amply repaid us for the toil which it had cost us: the view is not to be described;—before us lay the Mer de Glace (sea of ice) extending to the length of four leagues, and being about three quarters of a league in width; which is one of the most sublime spectacles in nature.—Around us were mountains much more elevated than those which cost us so much trouble in ascending, which consisting of granite, dispersed in the most majestic forms, and being the perpetual abode of frosts, storms, and tempests, leave a most awful impression on the mind. It is impossible to behold these stupendous scenes without, in the language of the Psalmist, 'ascribing unto the Lord worship and power.'
Although we had ascended not less than 3000 feet, yet, to our astonishment, Mont Blanc appeared nearly as elevated as when we viewed it from the Galley. It is unquestionably the highest mountain in the three old quarters of the world (being exceeded in height only by the Andes); and I shall insert here the calculations of its elevation, and of that of some other mountains:
Chimboraco, the highest of the Cordilleras 20,608
Mont Blanc, above the level of the Mediterranean, according to Sir G. Shuckburgh 15,662
Ditto, according to M. de Luc 15,302 1/3
Mount Caucasus 15,000
Etna, according to M, de Saussure 10,700
The highest mountain in Scotland is Ben-Nevis, 4,337 feet. In Wales, Snowdon, 3,555. In England, Ingleborough, 3,200 feet. In Ireland, Croagh Patrick, 2,666.
Mont Blanc is easily distinguished from amongst the other mountains (of which Mont Buet; of 9984 feet in height, approaches the nearest to it) when Steen on this side, by the astonishing altitude to which it rises, and by the vast body of snow with which its top and sides are covered to the perpendicular height of above 4000 feet, without the intervention of any rock, to take off from that extreme whiteness that gives name to this mountain, uniting in the circular form of its summit all the majesty that can possibly be imagined. We partook of some refreshment in an apartment on the summit of Montanvert, which the extreme cold of the atmosphere rendered very acceptable. Having enrolled our names in a book kept here for that purpose, which abounds with the praises of all travellers who have viewed these scenes, we descended to the Mer de Glace, which is appropriately so named, from the striking resemblance which its broken masses of ice bear to the waves of the ocean, and the resemblance is still further heightened by the blue appearance which the numerous cavities present to the eye.—We walked a little way on this frozen ocean, the better to contemplate its vast extent, as well as to have it in our power to boast of having walked on a mass of ice in the month of August. The depth of the ice is calculated to be from three to four hundred feet, and the solemnity of this scene of desolation is increased by the sound of several torrents tumbling from the surrounding rocks. We again returned to the summit of Montanvert, and were again lost in astonishment at the scene; which did not fail to recall to my recollection the beautiful lines of Pope, in his Essay on Criticism:
So pleas'd at first the tow'ring Alps we try, Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky, Th' eternal snows appear already past, And the first clouds and mountains seem the last. But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey The growing labours of the lengthen'd way, Th' increasing prospect tires our wand'ring eyes, Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise.
Having sufficiently contemplated the view, we began to think of returning to the valley, which presented a most enlivening appearance after the chaos we had left. The descent was much easier than the ascent, and we were not long before we met our mules, and returned to our inn in great prosperity, although we had, most of us, occasional falls during so difficult a progress.
We had great reason to be pleased with our expedition, and were most fortunate in the clearness of the day, without which our labour would have been lost. The valley is, of course, much more mild in its atmosphere than the mountain, but the weather was autumnal, and a fire was quite indispensable to our comfort. There are no less than five glaciers in this valley, they are separated from each other by forests and by cultivated lands, and this intermixture presents an appearance which, from its singularity, cannot fail to astonish the beholder. These glaciers all lie at the foot of that vast chain of mountains, which supply the sources of many of the greatest rivers in Europe. I observed that the mountains in this vicinity were the first I had seen enlivened by the mixture of the larch with the fir, which produces a very pleasing effect, and continues afterwards to be often seen. The vast quantities of Alpine strawberries that every-where abound on these mountains, have a most excellent flavor, and numbers of children employed in gathering them find ready sale among the numerous strangers, attracted by the wonders of the neighbourhood. These Alps possess great attractions for the botanist, who is surrounded by saxifrage, rhododendrons, and a variety of other plants, which he must highly value, but which I have not sufficient knowledge of the science to distinguish particularly. Nor would the mineralogist find fewer attractions in the rocks themselves, than the botanist in the plants which they produce. We did not witness any of those avalanches which are said to fall so frequently from the mountains, and of the dreadful effects of which such interesting statements have been published. The whole of this valley, however, appears to be continually threatened, by the enormous masses which hang over it, and seem to need the application of but a trifling force, to move them from situations, to which they are to all appearance so slightly attached.
* * * * *
We left Chamouny at an early hour to proceed on our way to Martigny, from which it is nine leagues distant; but as there is nothing which deserves the name of a road, we continued our journey on mules. The morning was so very hazy, that we were prevented from enjoying the prospect from the Col de Balme, and we travelled for several hours amongst mountains, at one moment enveloped in the fog, which was sometimes the next instant carried to a considerable distance from us, by one of those sudden currents of air which are so common in these elevated situations. As we approached Valorsine, the rain began to fall, but fortunately it was not of long continuance, and afterwards the weather became much clearer.
Nothing can surpass the romantic situation of this little village, its valley is one of the most secluded we had yet seen amongst the Alps. The impression which this scene has left on my mind, can never be effaced; every thing presented an appearance of tranquillity, and of extreme simplicity. It was the feast of the patron saint of the village, and the peasants were in their best dresses. The women were of a better appearance than is usual in Savoy; their dress attracted the particular attention of our French companion, who had never before quitted his own country, and who had previously expressed a contempt for Savoy, which he now seemed willing to retract; and certainly it would be difficult to see a spot where primitive simplicity was more conspicuous. We determined to refresh ourselves here, and afterwards went through the village to the church, which was decorated with flowers for the festival; and during our walk we were saluted with the utmost civility by the peasants, who surveyed us with a curiosity which proved they had but little intercourse with strangers. A monk saluted me, and said in Latin he was rejoiced again to see Englishmen. In one of the groups, I observed a fortune-teller, who seemed to have a good deal of custom, but her dialect was one of the most singular I ever heard. The inn where we breakfasted, like most of the houses here, was raised on beams, to allow for the depth of the snow in winter. They are built of timber, and covered with pieces of fir, cut to about the size of tiles. The rooms were very small, and could with difficulty accommodate the unusual number of guests then assembled. Civility was more abundant than provisions, but there was more fruit than one could expect to see amongst these mountains.
If the peasants of Meillerie, which is the part of Savoy Rousseau took so much pleasure in describing, at all resemble those of Valorsine, he cannot there at least be accused of having dealt in fiction. M. de Saussure relates an anecdote which serves to give an idea of the Savoyards in these situations, so remote from the corruption incident to cities. He says, "I was one day prosecuting my researches amongst the Alps, and being without provisions, was induced to take some fruit not far distant from a cottage. I observed a woman coming towards me, as I concluded, to ask payment for the fruit; and I assured her I had no intention of going away without satisfying her. She answered, 'I came out thinking you had lost your way, and that I might be able to set you right. As for the fruit, I will take nothing for it. He who made it, did not intend it for the use of one in particular.'"
We had not yet performed above half our journey, and as it was getting late, we were obliged by the representation of our guides to continue on our road, which lay through a romantic district, abounding with streams and falls of water. Some of the fir trees on the Tete Noire opposite to us, are said to be above 100 feet in height. We were after the first league frequently obliged to dismount, having in some places literally to ascend steps cut in the rock, which I think must have not a little puzzled two gentlemen, who set out on horseback about the same time we did from Chamouny, but who did not reach Martigny for a long time after us, and were greatly tired with the difficulties they had to encounter.
The village of Trient is in a romantic situation, but has not the same attractions as Valorsine. The hill near it is astonishingly difficult of ascent. The guides wished us to let the mules shift for themselves; and we all at last arrived at the summit. An hour afterwards, we reached the Mount Fourcle, from which is seen a vast extent of country. This view is by some travellers considered as surpassing all others in Switzerland, as it embraces the greatest part of the Canton of the Valais, watered by the Rhone; and we could distinctly see its capital city Sion, although above eight leagues distant. Martigny and St. Branchier seemed to lie at our feet; but we had still a long way to descend before we reached them. The city of Sion will be long remembered as the scene of one of the most horrible of those outrages which cast such a just odium on the French name. It was given up to the savage fury of an army irritated by the brave but ineffectual resistance, which its inhabitants attempted to oppose against the invaders of their property and liberty. But here, as in too many other instances, numbers occasioned the worse to prevail over the better cause. A person on whose authority I can confide, assured me he was at Geneva, when a part of the French army arrived there after this glorious exploit, and that rather than return without plunder, they carried away with them the miserable household furniture of these unfortunate people, which sold at Geneva for a sum so trifling as hardly to pay for the expense of conveying them thither. It may seem incredible, but it is however true, that many of the inhabitants of the Valois, regret the recovery of their independence, and would wish again to see their country in the possession of the French. They prefer the advantages which Buonaparte's military road, and the frequent passage of his troops into Italy afforded them of making money, to their present liberty under a government of their own selection.
The country, for about a league before the entrance into Martigny, becomes much more civilized than that we had just passed. The fields are well cultivated, and are divided by hedges from the road: here are some of the largest walnut trees I have ever seen.
On the left we remarked the venerable and extensive remains of la Bathia, an ancient castle, formerly inhabited by the Bishops of Sion. It is boldly situated on a rock, which rises over that impetuous torrent the Dreuse, which a little below falls into the Rhone.
The town of Martigny is situated on the Rhone, in that delightful plain which we had so much admired from the Fourcle, and which did not disappoint the expectations we had formed of it. It is well watered, highly cultivated, and abounds with neat cottages, and seems almost to realize some fancied descriptions of enchanted valleys, being shut out from the surrounding countries by a formidable barrier of snow-clad mountains, and possessing in itself so attractive an aspect. Martigny is a well-built town; and some antiquarians insist, that it is the ancient Octodurum of the Romans. I can give no opinion on a point which has occasioned differences amongst the learned; but the present appearance of the inhabitants was very favourable, it being a holiday here as well as at Valorsine, and although their festivity was not altogether marked by the same simplicity, yet it was sufficiently removed from that which prevails in many other countries to interest us by its singularity. We were here amused with an account of two English gentlemen, who attempted to ascend Mont Blanc, notwithstanding the assurances they received of the impracticability of the attempt under present circumstances, as a chasm had lately been made by the thaw on one side of the mountain; but they were not to be intimidated either by the advice of the inhabitants, or by the accounts of the hardships suffered by M. de Saussure, and judging with Hannibal,
"Nil actum reputans si quid superesset agendum."
"Think nothing gained while ought remains."
They set out on this difficult enterprise, attended by eighteen guides, but were at length obliged to desist, after running many hazards, and after having expended at least L50. If they failed in accomplishing their undertaking, they had at least the satisfaction of exciting much wonder amongst the surrounding peasants, at the curiosity and rashness of the English. Our party were more easily satisfied; and having seen as much as could be accomplished without very great difficulty, we were contented to judge of the rest from the ample descriptions that have been published respecting them.
I could have wished, however, that time and the consent of the majority of the party, would have permitted my ascending to the convent on the Great St. Bernard; but being left in the minority, I did not feel disposed to make the excursion by myself, and I therefore prepared to accompany my friends back to Geneva. At Martigny, we entered on a part of the grand road of the Simplon, and bidding adieu to our mules, and to the mountains over which they had carried us, we proceeded on our journey in a charaban (or light country cart, with seats across it) to Bex. I did not observe that extreme indolence in the inhabitants of the Lower Valais, with which they have been reproached by some travellers. They are no doubt very poor, but their cottages are not devoid of neatness and comfort. Our attention was soon attracted by the famous cascade called the Pisse Vache, the beauty of which consists chiefly in its seeming to issue immediately from a cavity in the rock, which is surrounded by thorns and bushes. Its perpendicular height cannot be estimated at less than 200 feet, although many make it double that, or even more. The country of the Valais is remarkable for the vast numbers of persons it contains, affected with the goitres and also of idiots. The neighbouring provinces are also more or less affected with these maladies.
Many writers have exerted their ingenuity in endeavouring to account for this singularity with greater or less success; but what at Geneva is considered as the best treatise on the subject, is that by Coxe in his Account of Switzerland. A gentleman there lent me a French edition of this valuable work, from which I extracted the following account of the origin of the Goitres, (or extraordinary swellings about the glands of the throat,) which in Switzerland is considered as very satisfactory. Mr. Coxe says,
"The opinion that water derived from the melting of snow, occasions these excrescences, is entirely destitute of foundation, which one cannot doubt if it is considered how generally such water is used in many parts of Switzerland, where the inhabitants are not at all subject to this malady, which is, however, very prevalent in parts where no such water abounds.
"These swellings are also frequently seen near Naples, in Sumatra, &c. where there is little or no snow."
Mr. C. proceeds to shew that this malady is occasioned by a calcareous matter called in Swiss Tuf; and adds, "This stone resembles very much the incrustations at Mallock in Derbyshire, which dissolve so completely in the water as not to lessen its transparency; and I think that the particles of this substance so dissolved, resting in the glands of the throat, occasion the Goitres, and during the course of my travels in different parts of Europe, I have never failed to observe, that where this Tuf, or calcareous deposit is common, Goitres are equally so. I have found an abundance of tuf, and also of goitrous persons in Derbyshire, the Valois, the Valteline, at Lucerne, Berne, Fribourg, in parts of Piedmont, in the valleys of Savoy, at Milan, and at Dresden. I also observed that at Berne and Fribourg, the public fountains are supplied from sources where there is a vast quantity of this calcareous deposit. General Pfiffer has informed me, that there is but one spring at Lucerne, which is free from tuf, and that those who reside in its vicinity, are much less subject to the goitres than the rest of the inhabitants. A surgeon also, whom I met at the baths of Louesch, informed me that he had frequently extracted from different goitres small pieces of tuf, which is also found in the stomachs of cows, and the dogs of this country are also subject to this malady. This gentleman added, that, to complete the cure of young persons attacked by this complaint, he either removed them from waters impregnated with tuf, or recommended them to drink only of water that had been purified. The children of goitrous parents are often born with these swellings; but there are also instances of children born with goitres, whose parents are free from them."
That celebrated naturalist, M. de Saussure, attributes Goitres not to the water, but to the heat of the climate, and to the stagnation of the air, and he informs us, he has never seen Goitres in any place elevated 5 or 6,000 toises above the level of the sea, and that they are most common in valleys where there is not a free circulation of air. "But it may be observed, that in these elevated situations, fountains are too near their sources to dissolve as much calcareous sediment as by the time they reach the plain. Some say, that strangers are never attacked by the Goitres, but the truth is, they are only less subject to them than natives of the country. In fine, we may observe, that if snow water occasions the Goitres wherever they abound, there should also be snow water, which experience proves not to be the fact. If the concentration of heat and stagnation of the air are necessary to their formation, it would follow that they should not abound in those places where the air circulates freely, which is not less contrary to fact than the former supposition. If waters impregnated with tuf, or certain calcareous substances, produce the Goitres, it will follow, that in every place where they abound, the inhabitants should drink of waters so impregnated, which seems consonant to the truth of the fact." The same causes which occasion the Goitres, have probably a considerable operation in producing the number of idiots, as they are always in most abundance where the Goitres prevail. Such is the intimate and inexplicable sympathy between the body and the mind. When the Goitres become large, they produce a difficulty of breathing, and render the person so affected, extremely indolent and languid. These idiots are treated with great regard by the rest of the inhabitants of the country, who even consider them, in some degree, peculiarly favoured by Providence—thinking that they are certain of eternal happiness, as not being capable of forming any criminal intentions. Exaggeration is the common fault of travellers, and, to judge from the accounts given by some who have visited this country, a stranger would be led to suppose, that all its population were either idiots, or afflicted with Goitres. The fact, however, is, that the inhabitants of the Valais are in general a strong and healthy race, but that these two unfortunate maladies are here in greater frequency than in any other country.
Our next stage, after leaving Martigny, was St. Maurice, which derives its name from an abbey, founded by Sigismund, king of Burgundy, about the commencement of the sixth century, in honour of a saint, who is said to have here suffered martyrdom, having refused to abjure Christianity at the command of the Emperor Maximin. Its more ancient name is said by antiquarians to have been Agaunum. This place is very justly considered as the key of the Lower Valais, of which it is the chief town. Its bridge over the Rhone is of one arch, of 130 feet, which is thought to be the work of the Romans, and by its boldness, does not seem unworthy of a people whose edifices are so justly distinguished for their elegance and durability. Here is also a curious Mosaic pavement, and the antiquity of the place is proved incontestably by the many ancient medals and inscriptions which have been found here at different periods. It must, indeed, have been always remarkable as a military position, and it is difficult to imagine one of greater natural strength, or more easily defensible by a small force against superior numbers. The road, which is extremely narrow, passes for a considerable length under a mountain, which is absolutely inaccessible.
Having passed the bridge, we entered the territories of the ancient canton of Berne, but now of Vaud (as I think there appears to be but little doubt that it will be speedily acknowledged as such by the Swiss diet). Here our passports were demanded, but more in compliance with old regulations, than from any mistrust of us; and one of our party having forgotten his passport, the officer was perfectly satisfied with his leaving his name and address.
The Rhone is here of astonishing rapidity, and its waters have quite a milky hue, from the vast quantities of melted snow with which they are supplied. On quitting the lake at Geneva, the river is of a transparent blue colour, which is attributed partly to its having deposited its sediment in the lake, and partly to the nature of the soil over which it there passes. The rest of our stage was through a picturesque country, and the road was excellent.
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We found at Bex an excellent inn, which is not undeserving the reputation it has acquired of being the best in Switzerland. This little town is situated amongst lofty mountains, which the industry of the peasants have cultivated wherever it was practicable, and they often carry their cattle with great labour to little spots of pasture which would otherwise have been lost, as without assistance, they could not have arrived at them. The cottages on the side of the Valais are so placed, as to contribute greatly to enliven the scenery; and they are also remarkable for their singular construction, being mostly built on wooden pillars, several feet above the surface of the ground.
Many of the inhabitants have two or three houses in different parts of their possessions, which they inhabit according as the season of the year requires their attention to the different places where they are situated. These people are said to be descended from the northern tribes, and certainly resemble them in their wanderings; I have seen a whole hamlet deserted, the season not requiring the residence of the people. In countries which boast a larger portion of civilization, the fashion prevails over the division which the seasons seem to point out. An inhabitant of the Valais would no doubt be surprised at the summer being the season in which our fashionables resort to London, from the purer air of the country. The Valais abounds with vineyards, but the wines are by no means palatable to persons who have tasted those of more favoured countries.
In the vicinity of Bex and Aigle are the only salt-springs in Switzerland. They are of vast extent, and the view of the subterranean galleries, and of tin: reservoirs of brine, is very striking. The town of Aigle is principally built of black marble, which is in great abundance in its neighbourhood, and the polishing of which affords employment to a number of persons.
I observed more corn in this district than I had before seen in Switzerland, but was informed, that it did not grow a sufficient quantity for the consumption of its inhabitants, who are said to exceed 10,000. The church of Bex is neat, and has been lately repaired. We next arrived at Villeneuve, which is only remarkable as a place of embarkation on the lake of Geneva. Our plan was to return to Geneva by water, but the violence of the wind, which was against us, and which had greatly ruffled the lake, obliged us to continue our journey along its banks. The length of this lake is about 50 or 53 English miles, and its breadth from 10 to 12. This vast body of water is sometimes so much agitated by sudden storms from the surrounding mountains, as to be covered with waves like the sea. We were highly pleased with the extraordinary scene of cultivation which its banks presented; they are sometimes extremely steep, but are formed by the unceasing industry of the inhabitants into terraces supported by walls, and if their labour in originally making these divisions is calculated to astonish, their perseverance in repairing, and sometimes in rebuilding them, after the torrents have carried them away, is not less worthy of praise. The industry of the inhabitants seems continually threatened by the vast masses of rock which hang over their possessions, and which sometimes cover them with ruin. We saw an enormous mass which had fallen from one of the mountains, and is now in the lake, having been removed thither by the inhabitants after it had for some time completely obstructed the road. We passed near the castle of Chillon, which is singularly situated, being built on some rocks in the lake, by which it is completely surrounded. It consists of a number of circular towers, and was formerly used as a state prison. A more secure position, for such an edifice, it is difficult to conceive. Before our arrival at Vevay, we saw the village of Clarens, so much celebrated by Rousseau. Vevay is a handsome town, with about 4,000 inhabitants; and is, after Lausanne, the principal place in the Canton of Vaud. The principal church is situated on an eminence above the town; from its tower I saw a most magnificent prospect, embracing nearly the whole of the lake, (which is here nearly at its greatest breadth) the entrance of the Rhone through a romantic valley, and the stupendous scenery of the Alps, heightened by the numerous villages on the Savoy side the lake. For the union of wild and cultivated scenery this view stands unequalled. No description of mine could do it justice:
"Car la parole est toujours reprimee Quand le sujet surmonte le disant."
"When we most strongly would delight express, Words often fail in which our thoughts to dress."
In this church is the tomb of the celebrated General Ludlow, who died here in 1693, aged 63. His monument, according to custom, only speaks his praise; and makes no mention of his having been a member of that assembly which condemned the ill-fated Charles to death. Over the door of the house he inhabited, is this motto, 'Omne Solum Forti Patria.' He had resided for some time at Lausanne, but fearing the fate of Lisle, who was assassinated, he retired to this place.
Between Vevay and Lausanne is the vineyard of Vaux, which bears a great reputation. We passed through the village of Cully and Lutri, both situated on the lake, and after mounting a considerable hill arrived at Lausanne, which is the capital of the Canton of Vaud. It stands on three hills, and on the intervening valleys, which being very steep, render its situation more picturesque than convenient. It is situated about 400 feet above the level of the lake, from which it is distant about half a league; the village of Ouchy serves as its port, and carries on a good deal of trade. Lausanne contains several remains which prove its antiquity, and several Roman inscriptions are preserved in the townhouse, which is a handsome building. Here are three churches, one on each of the hills. Of these the cathedral is well worthy of attention. It is said to have been founded by one of the ancient kings of Burgundy, and is certainly superior to any church I had hitherto seen in Switzerland. Its architecture exhibits various specimens of Gothic: there are many windows of painted glass in good preservation, and also several handsome monuments. The choir is handsome, and its pillars are of black marble. Its spire rises to a great height, and from the church-yard there is a fine prospect of the lake, and the surrounding country, with which I should have been more delighted, had I not so recently seen the still grander scene which Vevay commands. The population of Lausanne is computed at 8,000, and they are very industrious; there are manufactories of hats and cottons, and the printing business is carried on to a greater extent than in any other town in Switzerland. There are also several jewellers' shops and watchmakers' warehouses.
Of all the Swiss towns this is considered as the most remarkable for the adoption of French fashions, and there is much more dissipation here than at Geneva, as it is the constant residence of many wealthy families; but, with few exceptions, the houses are neither large nor well built. Near the church is shewn the residence of Gibbon, the historian, and his library is now the property of a gentleman of this town, who purchased it in England.
Lausanne was formerly subject to its bishops, who were princes of the German Empire. A council was held here in 1448, when Pope Felix V., to restore peace to the Romish church, and extinguish the schisms to which it was then a prey, resigned the tiara and retired to the Abbey of Ripaille, in Savoy, a second time. This prince is distinguished by some of the historians of his century by the title of the Solomon of the age. He succeeded to the Dukedom of Savoy by the name of Amadeus VII., and having abdicated that sovereignty, retired to the abbey of Ripaille, which he had long admired as a secluded retreat, and to which he was a great benefactor. His restless disposition having induced him to seek the papal dignity, he, soon after obtaining it, became a second time a recluse but did not subject himself to any great mortification.
This remarkable character died in 1451, aet. 69, at Geneva; he was buried with a Bible under his head, with this inscription, the application of which, I do not exactly understand:
"La ville de Geneva est situee au milieu des montagnes; son territoire est sablonneux, tres-peu etendu, et les habitans sont curieux de nouveautes." "The city of Geneva is situated amongst mountains, its territory is sandy, and of small extent, and its inhabitants are curious concerning novelty."
The reformation was established in the Pays de Vaud, in 1536, after a public controversy had been held between the Protestant and Romish ecclesiastics. The environs of Lausanne present as cheerful and animated a sight as is to be seen in any part of Switzerland, and the view from the public walk, in particular, is enlivened by the bays and promontories, which diversify the sides of the lake.
Our first stage, after leaving Lausanne, was Morges, which is situated on the lake; it consists chiefly of two well built streets, and carries on a good deal of trade, having a secure port with two moles, which, when seen from a distance, have a good effect, being ornamented with turrets. The church is a handsome edifice of Grecian architecture, and is calculated to accommodate a congregation much more numerous than the town affords. But, in general, modern churches are not to be reproached for being on too large a scale. The public walk is near the water; it is shaded by lofty rows of glens, and presented, when we saw it, a very lively appearance, as it was under its shade that the town of Morges entertained at dinner, two companies of infantry, and their officers, sent from Zurich to garrison Geneva. No place could be better adapted for the purpose, during so hot a season. The conviviality and good humour which prevailed were unbounded, and the patriotic tendency of the toasts, given by those at the upper table, was proved by the cheers with which they were received by all the others.
The road from Morges to Rolle does not continue along the banks of the lake, which is, however, occasionally seen, and heightens the beauty of the country, by the effect produced by its waters. We passed near the town of Aubonne, which is chiefly distinguished by the venerable castle, which formerly protected it from attack, and now adds to the beauty of its appearance. Rolle is a charming village: having neither walls, nor gates, it is denied the title of a town, which it certainly merits more than many paltry places, which have no other pretensions to the name, than the circumstance of their being so enclosed. It consists chiefly of one wide and well built street; it is situated on the lake, which is here very wide, and is surrounded by a country inferior to none we had passed.
There is but little trade carried on here. Its mineral waters are, however, an attraction to strangers, and the society is generally pleasant. Many families of distinction reside in this neighbourhood, and their villas are handsome. I was particularly struck with the situation of one, which had been built by a Dutch gentleman; it was of an oval form and crowned with a dome. We found its owner had lately returned to Holland; his house was shut up, and we could not gratify our curiosity in going over it. After dinner we took a turn on the promenade, which is laid out with great taste. From thence we visited the castle, formerly the residence of the Barons of Rolle, but now vested in the commune by purchase, and applied to various purposes. One part is reserved for public meetings, another as a poor house, and a third portion accommodates the school of the district. We entered into conversation with a person whom we met at the gate (who proved to be the master of the school); and who, after having taken several pinches of snuff from the box of one of our party, became extremely communicative, and shewed us some of the apartments of the castle, as well as the garden, where is a terrace washed by the lake, which as the sun had long set, and at its waters presented an unruffled surface, was altogether one of the most tranquillizing scenes which I have ever witnessed, and which was heightened by the venerable and mouldering appearance of this part of the castle. We contemplated the scene for some time in silence, and it was not without regret that we left it. We arrived at an early hour next morning at Nyon, which is also built on the margin of the lake. It is chiefly remarkable for its Porcelain manufactory, and for the handsome appearance of its castle, situated above the town. Very near it is the Chateau de Prangin, which has been purchased within the last few months by Joseph Buonaparte, who proposes to console himself in this retirement for the loss of regal power. His carriage passed us just before we entered Nyon; and we were told he was on his way to another house which he has in this neighbourhood, where he mostly resides, to superintend the alteration he is now carrying on at Prangin. We went to see the chateau, and found a considerable number of men employed about it. It is a large building, with a tower at each angle, and surrounds a paved court. The terrace commands a charming prospect, and no man could desire a more agreeable residence. We entered into conversation with an officer of his titular majesty's household, who said it was very natural we should desire to see one of the members of a family which had of late years acted so distinguished a part in Europe. He told us that King Joseph was extremely fond of hunting, and intended to enclose a large portion of the land he had purchased with a wall, in order to form a chasse pour les betes sauvages. This will be a great novelty in this highly improved country, and the wall must cost a vast sum of money.