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Remarks on the various dramatic performances which I witnessed at Paris, with opinions on the French theatre in general.
In my ideas of dramatic works I am neither rigidly classic nor romantic, and I think both styles may be good if properly managed and the interest well kept up; in a word I am pleased with all genres hors le genre ennuyux, and tho' a great admirer of Shakespeare and Schiller, I am equally so of Voltaire, Racine and Corneille; I take equal delight in the pathos of the sentimental dramas of Kotzebue as in the admirable satire and vis comica of the unrivalled Moliere, so that on my arrival at Paris I was not violently prejudiced either for or against the French stage, but rather pre-occupied, to use a gentler term, in its favour; and I have not been at all disappointed, for I think I can pronounce it with safety the first, perhaps the only stage in Europe.
I now mean to speak not of Operas, nor of Operas-comiques, nor of melodrames, nor of vaudevilles; all these have their respective merits; but when I speak of the French stage, I confine myself to the regular theatre of tragedy and comedy, of their classical pieces; in a word, to the dramatic performances usually given at the Theatre Francais.
The first piece I saw performed was Manlius; but I was too far off from the stage to judge of the acting, and could do little more than catch the sounds. The parterre and the whole house was full. I was in the fourth tier of boxes, yet I could distinguish at intervals the finest and most prominent traits, of Talma's acting, particularly in that scene where he upbraids his friend with having betrayed him. This he gave with uncommon energy and effect. The plot of this piece is very similar to that of Venice preserved.
The next piece I saw represented was the Avare of Moliere, which to me was one of the greatest dramatic treats I had ever witnessed. Every part was well supported. The next was Athalie of Racine. Here too I was highly gratified. Mlle Georges performed the part of Athalie and gave me the perfect ideal of the haughty Queen. Her narration of the dream was given with the happiest effect, and in her attempt to conceal her uneasiness and her affected contempt of the dream in these lines:
Un songe, me devrois—je inquieter d'un songe?
she seemed in reality to labour under all the anxiety and fatigue arising from it. That fine scene between Joad and Joas was well given, and the little girl who did the part of Joas performed with a good deal of spirit. The actor who played Joad recited in a most impressive manner the advice to the young prince terminating in these lines:
Vous souvenant, mon fils, que cache sous ce lin, Comme eux vous futes pauvre et comme eux orphelin.
The interrogating scene between Athalie and Joad was given spiritedly, but the rather abrupt and uncourtierlike reply to the Queen's remark, "Ils sont deux puissans dieux"—"Lui seul est dieu, Madame, et le votre n'est rien"— excited a laugh and I fancy never fails to do so, every time the piece is performed.
Racine has several passages in his tragedies which perhaps have rather too much naivete for the dignity of the cothurnus; for instance in the answer of Agamemnon to Achille in the tragedy of Iphigenie:
Puisque vous le savez, pourquoi le demander?
A poet of to-day would be quizzed for a line like the above, but who dare venture to point out any defect in an author of whom Voltaire has said and with justice too, that the only criticism to be made of him (Racine) would be to write under every page: "Admirable, harmonieux, sublime!"
The costume and the decorations at the Theatre francais are so strictly classical and appropriate in every respect, that it is to me a source of high delight to witness the representation of the favourite pieces of Racine, Corneille, Moliere and Voltaire, which I have so often read with so much pleasure in the closet and no small quantity of which I have by heart.
The next piece I saw was the Cinnna of Corneille; and here it was that I beheld Talma for the second time. I was of course highly pleased, tho' I was rather far off to hear very distinctly; this was, however, no very great loss, as I was perfectly well acquainted with the tragedy. Talma's gestures, his pause's, his natural mode of acting gave a great relief to the long declamation with which this tragedy abounds. When this tragedy was given it was during the time that poor Labedoyere's trial was going on, and the allusions to Augustus' clemency were eagerly seized and applauded. It was hoped that Louis XVIII would imitate Augustus. Vain hope!
I have seen Phedre; the part of Phedre by that admirable actress Mlle Duchesnois, who performs the part so naturally and with so much passion that we entirely forget the extreme plainness of the person. She acts with far more feeling and pathos than Mlle Georges. I shall never be able to forget Mlle Duchesnois in Phedre. She gave me a full idea of the impassioned Queen, nor were it possible to depict with greater fidelity the "Venus toute entiere a sa proie attachee," as in that beautiful speech of Phedre to Oenone wherein she reveals her passion for Hippolyte and pourtrays the terrible struggle between duty and female delicacy on the one hand, and on the other a flame that could not be overcome, convinced as it were of the complete inutility of further efforts of resistance and invoking death as her only refuge. I was moved even to tears. I am so great an admirer of the whole of this speech beginning "Mon mal vient de plus lorn" etc., and ending "Un reste de chaleur tout pret a s'exhaler," that I think in it Racine has not only united the excellencies of Euripides, Sappho and Theocritus in describing the passion of love, but has far surpassed them all; that speech is certainly the masterpiece of French versification and scarcely inferior to it is that beautiful and ingenuous confession of love by Hippolyte to Aricie. What an admirable pendant to the love of Phedre! In Hippolyte you behold the innocence, simplicity and ingenuousness of a first and pure attachment: in Phedre the embrasement, the ungovernable delirium of a criminal passion.
I have seen Mlle Duchesnois again in the Merope of Voltaire and admire her more and more. This is an admirable play. The dialogue is so spirited; the agitation of maternal tenderness, and the occasional bursts of feelings impossible to be restrained, render this play one of the most interesting perhaps on the French stage, and Mlle Duchesnois gave with the happiest effect her part in those two scenes; the first wherein she supposes Egisthe to be the person who has killed her son; in the other where having discovered the reality of his person, she is obliged to dissemble the discovery, but on Egisthe being about to be sacrificed she exclaims "Barbare, c'est mon fils!" The part of Egisthe was given by a young actor who made his appearance at this theatre for the first tune, and he executed his part with complete success (Firmin, I think, was his name). Lafond did the part of Polyphonte and did it well. At this tragedy many allusions were caught hold of by the audience according as they were Bourbonically or Napoleonically inclined; at that part of Polyphonte's speech wherein he says:
Le premier qui fut Roi fut un soldat heureux. Qui sert bien son pays n'a pas besoin d'ayeux.
Thunders of applause proceeded from those who applied it to Napoleon. At the line:
Est il d'autre parti que celui de nos rois?
a loud shout and clapping proceeded from the Royalists; but I fancy if hands had been shown these last would have been in a sad minority. I have often amused myself with comparing the Merope of Voltaire with that of Maffei and am puzzled to which to give the preference. Maffei has made Polyphonte a more odious and perhaps on that account a more theatrical character, while Voltaire's Polyphonte is more in real life. In the play of Voltaire he is a rough brutal soldier, void of delicacy of feeling and not very scrupulous, but not that praeternatural deep designing villain that he is represented in the piece of Maffei. In fact Maffei's Polyphonte appears too outre; but then on the stage may not a little exaggeration be allowed, just as statues which are destined to be placed in the open air or on columns appear with greater effect when larger than the natural size? Alfleri seems to have given the preference to the Merope of Voltaire.
I have seen Talma a second time in the part of Nero in the Britannicus of Racine; Mlle Georges played the part of Agrippina. Talma was Nero from head to foot; his very entry on the stage gave an idea of the fiery and impatient character of the tyrant, and in the scene between him and his mother Agrippina nothing could be better delineated. The forced calm of Agrippina, while reproaching her son with his ingratitude, and the impatience of Nero to get rid of such an importunate monitress, were given in a style impossible to be surpassed. Talma's dumb show during this scene was a masterpiece of the mimic art. If Talma gives such effects to his roles in a French drama, where he is shackled by rules, how much greater would he give on the English or German stages in a tragedy of Shakespeare or Schiller!
Blank verse is certainly better adapted to tragedy than rhymed alexandrines, but then the French language does not admit of blank verse, and to write tragedies in prose, unless they be tragedies in modern life, would deprive them of all charm; but after all I find the harmonious pomp and to use a phrase of Pope's "The long majestic march and energy divine" of the French alexandrine, very pleasing to the ear. I am sure that the French poets deserve a great deal of credit for producing such masterpieces of versification from a language, which, however elegant, is the least poetical in Europe; which allows little or no inversion, scarce any poetic license, no enjambement, compels a fixed caesura; has in horror the hiatus; and in fine is subject to the most rigorous rules, which can on no account be infringed; which rejects hyperbole; which is measured by syllables, the pronunciation of which is not felt in prose; compels the alternative termination of a masculine or feminine rhyme; and with all this requires more perhaps than any other language that cacophony be sedulously avoided. Such are the difficulties a French poet has to struggle with; he must unite the most harmonious sound with the finest thought. In Italian very often the natural harmony of the language and the music of the sound conceal the poverty of the thought; besides Italian poetry has innumerable licenses which make it easy to figure in the Tuscan Parnassus, and where anyone who can string together rime or versi sciolti is dignified with the appellation of a poet; whereas from French poetry, a mediocrity is and must be of necessity banished. Neither is it sufficient for an author to have sublime ideas; these must be filed and pruned. Inspiration can make a poet of a German, an Italian or an Englishman, because he may revel in unbounded license of metre and language, but in French poetry inspiration is by no means sufficient; severe study and constant practise are as indispensable as poetic verve to constitute a French poet. The French poets are sensible of this and on this account they prefer imitating the ancients, polishing their rough marble and fitting it to the national taste, to striking out a new path.
The Abbe Delille, the best poet of our day that France has produced, has gone further; he had read and admired the best English poets such as Milton, Pope, Collins and Goldsmith, and has not disdained to imitate them; yet he has imitated them with such elegance and judgment that he has left nothing to regret on the part of those of his countrymen who are not acquainted with English, and he has rendered their beauties with such a force that a foreigner Versed in both languages who did not previously know which was the original, and which the translation, might take up passages in Pope, Thomson, Collins and Goldsmith and read parallel passages in Delille and be extremely puzzled to distinguish the original: for none of the beauties are lost in these imitations. And yet, in preferring to imitate, it must not be inferred that he was deficient in original thoughts.
To return to the theatre, I have seen Mlle Mars in the role of Henriette in the Femmes Savantes of Moliere. Oh! how admirable she is! She realizes completely the conception of a graceful and elegant Frenchwoman of the first society. She does not act; she is at home as it were in her own salon, smiling at the silly pretensions of her sister and at the ridiculous pedantry of Trissotin; her refusing the kiss because she does not understand Greek was given with the greatest naivete. In a word Mlle Mars reigns unrivalled as the first comic actress in Europe.
I have seen too, Les Plaideurs of Racine and Les fourberies de Scapin of Moliere, both exceedingly well given; particularly the scene in the latter wherein it is announced to Geronte that his son had fallen into the hands of a Turkish corsair, and his answer "Que diable allait-il faire dans la galere?"
I have seen also Andromaque, Iphigenie and Zaire. Mlle Volnais did the part of Andromaque; but the monotonous plaintiveness of her voice, which never changes, wearies me. In Iphigenie I was more gratified; for Mlle Georges did the part of Clytemnestre, and her sister, a young girl of seventeen, made her debut in the part of Iphigenie with great effect. The two sisters supported each other wonderfully well, and Lafond did Agamemnon very respectably.
Mlle Georges the younger, having succeeded in Iphigenie, appeared in the part of Zaire, a bold attempt, and tho' she did it well and with much grace, yet it was evidently too arduous a task for her. The whole onus of this affecting piece rests on the role of Zaire. In the part where naivete was required she succeeded perfectly and her burst: "Mais Orosmane m'aime et j'ai tout oublie" was most happy; but she was too faint and betrayed too little emotion in portraying the struggle between her love for Orosmane and the unsubdued symptoms of attachment to her father and brother and to the religion of her ancestors. In short, where much passion and pathos was required, there she proved unequal to the task; but she has evidently all the qualities and dispositions towards becoming a good actress, and with more study and practise I have no doubt that three or four years hence, she will be fully equal to the difficult task of giving effect to and portraying to life, the exquisitely touching and highly interesting role of Zaire. She was not called for to appear on the stage after the termination of the performance, tho' frequently applauded during it. The actor who did the part of Orosmane, in that scene wherein he discovers he has killed Zaire unjustly, gave a groan which had an unhappy effect; it was such an awkward one, that it made all the audience laugh; no people catch ridicule so soon as the French.
What I principally admire on the French stage is that the actors are always perfect in their parts and all the characters are well sustained; the performance never flags for a moment; and I have experienced infinitely more pleasure in beholding the dramas of Racine and Voltaire than those of Shakespeare, and for this reason that, on our stage, for one good actor you have the many who are exceedingly bad and who do not comprehend their author: you feel consequently a hiatus valde deflendus when the principal actor or actress are not on the stage. I have been delighted to see Kemble, and Mrs Siddons and Miss O'Neil, and while they were on the stage I was all eyes and ears; but the other actors were always so inferior that the contrast was too obvious and it only served to make more conspicuous the flagging of interest that pervades the tragedies of Shakespeare, Macbeth alone perhaps excepted. I speak only of Shakespeare's faults as a dramaturgus and they are rather the faults of his age than his own; for in everything else I think him the greatest litterary genius that the world ever produced, and I place him far above any poet, ancient or modern; yet in allowing all this, I do not at all wonder that his dramatic pieces do not in general please foreigners and that they are disgusted with the low buffoonery, interruption of interest and want of arrangement that ought of necessity to constitute a drama; for I feel the same objections myself when reading Shakespeare, and often lose patience; but then when I come to some sublime passage, I become wrapt up in it alone and totally forget the piece itself. In order to inspire a foreigner with admiration for Shakespeare, I would not give him his plays to read entire, but I would present him with a recueil of the most beautiful passages of that great poet; and I am sure he would be so delighted with them that he would readily join in the "All Hail" that the British nation awards him. Thus you may perceive the distinction I make between the creative genius who designs, and the artist who fills up the canvas; between the Poet and the Dramaturgus. I am probably singular in my taste as an Englishman, when I tell you that I prefer Shakespeare for the closet and Racine or Voltaire or Corneille for the stage: and with regard to English tragedies, I prefer as an acting drama Home's Douglas to any of Shakespeare's, Macbeth alone excepted; and for this plain reason that the interest in Douglas never flags, nor is diverted.
In giving my mite of admiration to the French stage, I am fully aware of its faults, of the long declamation and the fade galanterie that prevailed before Voltaire made the grand reform in that particular: and on this account I prefer Voltaire as a tragedian to Racine and Corneille. The Phedre and Athalie of Racine are certainly masterpieces, and little inferior to them are Iphigenie, Andromaque and Britannicus, but in the others I think he must be pronounced inferior to Voltaire; as a proof of my argument I need only cite Zaire, Alzire, Mahomet, Semiramis, l'Orphelin de la Chine, Brutus. Voltaire has, I think, united in his dramatic writings the beauties of Corneille, Racine and Crebillon and has avoided their faults; this however is not, I believe, the opinion of the French in general, but I follow my own judgment in affairs of taste, and if anything pleases me I wait not to ascertain whether the "master hath said so."
It shows a delicate attention on the part of the directors of the Theatre Francais, now that so many foreigners of all nations are here, to cause to be represented every night the masterpieces of the French classical dramatic authors, since these are pieces that every foreigner of education has read and admired; and he would much rather go to see acted a play with which he was thoroughly acquainted than a new piece of one which he has not read; for as the recitation is extremely rapid it would not be so easy for him to seize and follow it without previous reading.
Of Moliere I had already seen the Avare, the Femmes savantes and the Fourberies de Scapin. Since these I have seen the Tartuffe and George Dandin both inimitably performed; how I enjoyed the scene of the Pauvre homme! in the Tartuffe and the lecture given to George Dandin by M. and Mme de Sotenville wherein they recount the virtues and merits of their respective ancestors. Of Moliere indeed there is but one opinion throughout Europe; in the comic line he bears away the palm unrivalled and here I fully agree with the "general."
I must not quit the subject of French theatricals without speaking of the Opera comique at the Theatre Faydeau. It is to the sort of light pieces that are given here, that the French music is peculiarly appropriate, and it is here that you seize and feel the beauty and melody of the national music; these little chansons, romances and ariettas are so pleasing to the ear that they imprint themselves durably on the memory, which is no equivocal proof of their merit. I cannot say as much for the tragic singing in the Opera seria at the Grand French Opera, which to my ear sounds a perfect psalmody. There is but one language in the world for tragic recitative and that is Italian. On the other hand, in the genre of the Opera comique, the French stage is far superior to the Italian. In the French comedy everything is graceful and natural; the Italians cannot catch this happy medium, so that their comedies and comic operas are mostly outre, and degenerate into downright farce and buffoonery.
 Major James Grant, of the 18th Light Dragoons, was made a Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on 18th June, 1815.—ED.
 A phrase in prose, often quoted as a verse, from Voltaire's preface to the Enfant Prodigue: Tous les genres sont bons, hors le genre ennuyeux.—ED.
 A tragedy often acted by Talma, the work of Antoine d'Aubigny de Lafosse (1653-1708).—ED.
 Thomas Otway's once celebrated tragedy, 1682.—ED.
 The Tragedy of Douglas, by John Home (1722-1808).—ED.
From Paris to Milan through Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saone, Lyons, Geneva and the Simplon—Auxerre—Dijon—Napoleon at Chalon-sur-Saone—The army of the Loire—Macon—French grisettes—Lyons—Monuments and theatricals— Geneva—Character and opinions of the Genevois—Voltaire's chateau at Ferney—The chevalier Zadera—From Geneva to Milan—Crossing the Simplon—Arona—The theatres in Milan—Rossini—Monuments in Milan—Art encouraged by the French—Mr Eustace's bigotry—Return to Switzerland— Clarens and Vevey—Lausanne—Society in Lausanne—Return to Paris—The Louvre stripped—Death of Marshal Ney.
I left Paris on the 17th Sept., in the diligence of Auxerre, The company was as follows: a young Genevois who had served in the National Guard at Paris, and had been wounded in a skirmish against the Prussians near that city; a young Irish Templar; a fat citizen of Dijon and an equally fat woman going to Dole. We arrived the following day at 11 o'clock at Auxerre, a town situated on the banks of the Seine. Water conveyance may be had from Paris to Auxerre, price 12 francs the person: the price in the diligence is 28 francs. We had during our journey much political conversation; the Bourbons and the English government were the objects of attack, and neither my friend the barrister nor myself felt the least inclined to take up their cause. The Genevois had with him Fouche's expose of the state of the nation, wherein he complains bitterly of the conduct of the Allies. All France is now disarmed and no troops are to be seen but those in foreign uniform. The face of the country between Paris and Auxerre is not peculiarly striking; but the soil appears fertile and the road excellent. After breakfast we started from Auxerre and stopped to sup and sleep the same night at Avallon. At Semur, which we passed on the following day, there is a one arched bridge of great boldness across the river Armancon. We arrived in the evening at Dijon. The country between Auxerre and Dijon is very undulating in gentle hill and dale, but for the want of trees and inclosures it has a bleak appearance. As you leave Avallon and approach Dijon, the hills covered with vines indicate your arrival in a wine country. I put up at the Chapeau rouge at Dijon and remained there one day, in order to visit the Chartreuse which is at a short distance from the town and commands an extensive view. It was devastated during the Revolution. The view from it is fine and extensive and that is all that is worth notice. The country about it is rich and cultivated, and the following lines of Ariosto might serve for its description:
Culte pianure e delicati colli, Chiare acque, ombrose ripe e prati molli.
'Mid cultivated plain, delicious hill, Moist meadow, shady bank, and crystal rill.
—Trans. W.S. ROSE.
The city of Dijon is large, handsome and well built. It has an appearance of industry, comfort and airiness. There are several mustard manufactories in this town. A dinner was given yesterday by the municipality to the National Guard, and an immense quantity of mustard was devoured on the occasion in honor of the staple manufactory of Dijon. From Dijon I put myself in the diligence to go to Chalon and after stopping two hours at Beaune, arrived at Chalon at 5 o'clock p.m. The country between Dijon and Chalon is flat, but cultivated like a garden. It is likewise the wine country par excellence. I do not know a wine more agreeable to palate than the wine of Beaune.
At Chalon I put up at the Hotel du Parc. Chalon is beautifully situated on the banks of the Saone. The Quai is well constructed and forms an agreeable promenade. There is an Austrian garrison in Chalon. The hostess of the inn told me that Napoleon stopped at her house on his way from Lyons to Paris, when he returned from Elba, and she related to me with great eagerness many anecdotes of that extraordinary man: she said that such was the empressement on the part of the inhabitants to see him, and embrace him by way of testifying their affection, that the Emperor was obliged to say: "Mais vous m'etouffez, mes enfans!" In fact, had the army remained neutral, the peasantry alone would have carried the Emperor on their shoulders to Paris. It is quite absurd to say that a faction did this and that it was effectuated merely by the disaffection of the Army. The Army did its duty in the noblest manner, for it is the duty of every army to support the national cause and the voice of the people, and by no means to become the blind tools of the Prince; for it is absurd, as it is degrading to humanity, it is impious to consider the Prince as the proprietor of the country and the master of the people; he is, or ought to be, the principal magistrate, the principal soldier paid by the people, like any other magistrate or soldier, and like them liable to be cashiered for misconduct or breach of faith. This is not a very fashionable doctrine nowadays, and there is danger of it being forgotten altogether in the rage for what is falsely termed legitimacy; it becomes therefore the bounden duty of every friend of freedom to din this unfashionable doctrine into the ears of Princes and unceasingly to exclaim to them and to their ministers:
Discite justitiam moniti et non temnere gentes.
In their conduct on this occasion the French soldiers proved themselves far more constitutional than those of any other army in Europe; let despots, priests and weak-headed Tories say what they please to the contrary.
I embarked the following morning at 12 o'clock in the coche d'eau for Lyons. There was a very numerous and motley company on board: there were three bourgeois belonging to Lyons returning thither from Paris; a quiet good-humoured sort of woman not remarkable either for her beauty nor vivacity; a young Spaniard, an adherent of King Joseph Napoleon, very taciturn and wrapped up in his cloak tho' the weather was exceeding hot; he seemed to do nothing else but smoke cigarros and drink wine, of which he emptied three or four bottles in a very short time—a young Piedmontese officer, disbanded from the army of the Loire, who no sooner sat down on deck than he began to chaunt Filicaja's beautiful sonnet, "Italia, Italia, O tu cui feo la sorte," etc.—a merchant of Lyons who had been some time in England, and spoke English well—a Lyonnese Major of Infantry, also of the army of the Loire, who had served in Egypt in the 32nd Demi-brigade; three Austrian officers of Artillery with their servants. A large barge which followed and was towed by the coche d'eau was filled with Austrian soldiers, and on the banks of the river were a number of soldiers of the Army of the Loire returning to their families and homes.
The peaceable demeanour and honourable conduct of this army is worthy of admiration, and can never be sufficiently praised: not a single act of brigandage has taken place. The Austrian officers expressed to me their astonishment at this, and said they doubted whether any other army in Europe, disbanded and under the same circumstances, would behave so well. I told them the French soldier was a free-man and a citizen and drawn from a respectable class of people, which was not the case in most other countries. Yes, these gallant fellows who had been calumniated by furious Ultras, by the base ministerial prints of England, and the venal satellites of Toryism, who had been represented as brigands or as infuriated Jacobins with red caps and poignards, these men, in spite, of the contumely and insult they met with from servile prefects, and from those who never dared to face them in the field, are a model of good conduct and they preserve the utmost subordination, tho' disbanded: they respect scrupulously the property of the inhabitants and pay for everything. Mr. L., the young Irish barrister, told me at Dijon that he left his purse by mistake in a shop there in which were 20 napoleons in gold, when a soldier of the army of the Loire, who happened to be in the shop, perceived it and came running after him with it, but refused to accept of anything, tho' much pressed by Mr. L., who wished to reward him handsomely for his disinterested conduct. Yes, the French soldier is a fine fellow. I have served against them in Holland and in Egypt and I will never flinch from rendering justice to their exemplary conduct and lofty valour. No! it is not the French soldiery who can be accused of plundering and exaction, but what brought the French name in disrepute was the conduct of certain prefects and administrators in Germany who were promoted to these posts for no other reason than because they were of the old noblesse or returned Emigrants, whom Napoleon favoured in preference to the Republicans whom he feared. These emigrants repaid his favours with the basest ingratitude; after being guilty of the grossest and most infamous concussions on the inhabitants of those parts of Germany where their jurisdiction extended, they had the hypocrisy after the restoration to declaim against the oppression of the Usurper's government and its system: but Napoleon richly deserved to meet with this ingratitude for employing such unprincipled fellows. I believe he was never aware of the villany they carried on, or they would have met with his severest displeasure in being removed from office, as was the case with Wirion at Verdun.
I do not find that the French soldiers with whom I have conversed are so much attached to the person of the Emperor as I was led to believe; but they are attached to their country and liberty; and in serving him, they conceived they were serving the man par excellence of the People.
The French army too was beloved by the people, instead of being dreaded by them as the armies of most other European nations are. In short, whenever I met with and held conversation with soldiers of this army, I was always tempted to address them in the words of Elvira to Pizarro when she seeks to console him for his defeat:
Yet think another morning shall arise, Nor fear the future, nor lament the past.
The French Major was very much inclined to take up a quarrel with an Austrian officer, on my account, but I dissuaded him. The cause was as follows. A young Austrian boy, servant to one of the officers of Artillery, had entered the coche d'eau at Chalon, some minutes before his master, and began to avail himself of the right of conquest by taking possession of the totality of one of the cabins and endeavouring to exclude the other passengers; among other things he was going to thrust my portmanteau out of its place. I called to him to let it alone, when the French Major stepped forward and said that if he dared to touch any of the baggage belonging to the passengers, he would punish him on the spot and his master also, for that he longed to measure swords with those "Jean F—— d'Autrichiens." Fearful of a serious quarrel between them and being unwilling that any dispute should occur on my account, I requested the Major not to meddle with the business, for that I was sure the Austrian officer would check the impertinence of his servant when he came on board; and that if he did not, I was perfectly able and willing to defend my own cause. The Austrian officers came on board a few minutes after, when I addressed them in German, and explained to them the behaviour of the boy; they scolded him severely for his impertinence to us and threatened him with the Schlag, should it occur again. The rest of the journey passed without any incident. I found that my friend the Major had served in the French army in Egypt in the division Lanusse in the battle of the 21st March, 1801, (30 Ventose) and that consequently we were opposed to each other in that battle, as I was then serving as a Lieutenant in the Queen's Regiment, commanded by that excellent and amiable officer the Earl of D[alhousie] in General Doyle's brigade.
The voyage on the Saone presents some pleasing and picturesque points of view; the coteaux on the banks of the river are covered with vines. We arrived at 8 o'clock in the evening to sup and sleep at Macon and put up at the Hotel des Sauvages. We had a most sumptuous repast, fish, flesh, fowls, game, fruit and wine in profusion, for all which, including our beds, we had only to pay 2-1/2 francs the person.
There is a spacious Quai at Macon, which always adds to the beauty of a city, and there are some fine buildings, public and private. I need not enlarge on the excellence of the Macon wine. The country girls we observed on the banks of the river as we floated along, and the grisettes of the town who were promenading on the Quai when we arrived, wore a peculiarly elegant costume and their headdress appeared to me to be something Asiatic.
The voyage on the subsequent day was more agreeable than the preceding one. The country between Macon and Lyons is much more beautiful and diversified than that which we have hitherto seen and resembles much the picturesque scenery of the West-Indian landscape. One part between Macon and Trevoux resembles exactly the island of Montserrat.
Within two miles of Trevoux we were hailed by some grisettes belonging to the inns at that place, in order to invite us to dine at their respective inns. There was one girl exceedingly beautiful whose name was Sophie, daughter of the proprietor of the Hotel des Sauvages at Trevoux. She, by her grace and coquetry, obtained the most recruits and when we disembarked from the boat, she led us in triumph to her hotel. From her beauty and graceful manner, Sophie, in a country where so much hommage is paid to beauty, must be a most valuable acquisition to the interests of the inn, and tho' she smiles on all, she takes care not to make herself cheap, and like Corisca in the Pastor Fido she holds put hopes which she does not at all intend to gratify. After passing by the superb scenery on the banks of the river (which increases in interest as you approach Lyons), the Isle Barbe and la Tour de la belle Allemande, we arrived at Lyons at 5 p.m. and debarked on the Quai de la Saone. A fiacre took me up and deposited me safe at the Hotel du Nord situated on the Place St Claire and not many yards distant of the Quai du Rhone.
LYONS, 26th Sept.
Lyons is situated on a tongue of land at the junction of the Saone and Rhone, and there is a fine bridge on the spot where the streams unite, called le pont du Confluent, which joins the extremity of the tongue of land with the right bank of the Saone. There is besides a large bridge across the Rhone, higher up, before it joins the Saone, leading in a right line from the Hotel de Ville; and two other bridges across the Saone. The Quai du Rhone is by far the finest and most agreeable part of the city. It is spacious, well paved, aligned with trees, and boast the finest edifices public and private in the whole city; it is the favourite promenade of the beaux and belles of Lyons. The sight of the broad and majestic Rhone itself is a grand object, and on a fine day the prospect is augmented by the distant view of the fleecy head of Mont Blanc. On this Quai and within a 100 yards of the bridge on the Rhone are the justly celebrated bains du Rhone, fitted up in a style of elegance even superior to those called les Bains Vigier on the Seine at Paris. The grand Hospital is also on the Quai; the facade is beautiful; its architecture is of the Ionic order and the building itself as well as its interior economy has frequently elicited the admiration of travellers. Among the Places in this city the finest is that of Bellecour.
The scenery is extremely diversified in the environs of Lyons, and in the city there is great appearance of wealth and splendour. Lyons flourished greatly during the time of the continental blockade, as it was the central depot of the commerce between France and Italy. Napoleon is much respected and regretted here, and with reason, as he was a great benefactor to this city. The Lyonnese are too frank, too open in their sentiments and too grateful not to render justice to his great talents and good qualities, while they blame and deplore his ambition. In fact an experience of a few days and some acquaintance I made here has given me a very favourable impression of the inhabitants of this city. The men are frank in their manners, polite, well informed, and free from all frivolity. The women are in general handsome, well shaped, and have much grace and are exceedingly well educated; they seem totally free from the Petite-maitressism of the Parisian women, and both sexes seem to possess a good deal of what the French term caractere. Had the Parisians resembled the Lyonnese, Paris would never have fallen twice into the hands of the enemy, nor would the Lyonnese women have welcomed the entry of the invaders into their city with waving handkerchiefs, etc. These qualities of the inhabitants, the beauty of the country, and the cheapness of all the comforts and luxuries of life, would make Lyons one of the most agreeable places of residence to a foreigner of liberal sentiments and principles.
Cloth and silk are the staple manufactures of Lyons, particularly the latter; I accompanied my friend Mr M—— to see his fabrique of silk which is of considerable extent and importance, and everything appeared to me, as far as one totally ignorant of the business and its process could judge, admirably regulated and rapid in its execution. The tournure of the grisettes of Lyons is very striking and they possess completely the grata protervitas, the vultus nimium lubricus aspici which Horace so much admires in Glycera.
I visited both the theatres here, viz.: the Grand Theatre, situated near the Hotel de Ville, and the smaller one called the Theatre des Celestins. At the former was some good dancing, and at the latter I was engaged in a conversation which I cannot forbear citing as it will serve to show the dislike the people have to the feudal system and the dread they have of its re-establishment, tho' they can know nothing about it except by tradition. The piece performed was called Le petit Poucet (Tom Thumb and the Ogre); but I missed my old acquaintance the Ogre and his seven-league boots of Mother Goose, and found that in this melodrama he was transformed into a tyrannical and capricious Seigneur Feodal. There was a very pretty young lady about 16 years of age accompanied by her father in the same box with me, and I observed to her, "Ou est donc l'Ogre? il parait que l'on en a fait un Seigneur feodal." "Oui, monsieur (she replied), et avec raison, car ils etaient bien les Ogres de ce temps la." I entered into a long conversation with my fair neighbour and found her well informed and well educated, with great good sense and knowledge of the world far beyond her years. She told me that she had begun to study English and that her father was a miniature painter. I took leave of her not without feeling much affected and my heart not a little "percosso dall' amoroso strale."
I must not forget to mention that there is a most spacious and magnificent building on the Quai du Rhone to the North of the bridge, which serves as a cafe and ridotto or assembly room for balls, etc. I am afraid to say how many feet it has in length; but it is the most superb establishment of the kind I have ever met with.
Fortunately for the city of Lyons, the famous decree of Robespierre for its destruction, and the column with the inscription, "Lyon a porte les armes contre la liberte; Lyon n'est plus," which was to occupy its place, was never put in execution and tho' this city suffered much from revolutionary vandalism yet it soon recovered and has flourished ever since in a manner unheard of at any former period. No people are more sensible than the Lyonnese of the great benefits produced by the Revolution, and no people more deprecate a return to the ancien regime.
Oct. 2nd, GENEVA.
I started in the diligence for Geneva on the 28th Sept. and found it exceedingly cold on ascending the mountain called the Cerdon; the scenery is savage and wild, and the road in many parts is on the brink of precipices. We stopped at Nantua for supper and partook of some excellent trout. There is a large lake near the town, and 'tis here that the Swiss landscape begins. Commanding a narrow pass stands the fort of L'Ecluse. The Austrians lost a great many men in attempting to force it. From this place you have a noble view of the Alps and Mont-Blanc towering above them. As this was the first time I beheld these celebrated mountains I was transported with delight and my mind was filled with a thousand classical and historical recollections! The scenery, the whole way from Fort l'Ecluse to Geneva, is most magnificent and uncommonly varied. Mountain and valley, winter and summer, on the same territory. Descending, the city of Geneva opens gradually; you behold the lake Leman and the Rhone issuing from it. We entered the city, which is fortified, and after crossing the double bridge across the Rhone, we arrived at the Hotel de l'Eau de Geneve at 12 o'clock. The most striking thing in the city of Geneva to the traveller's eye as he enters it, is the view of the arcades on each side of the street, excellent for pedestrians and for protection against sun and rain, but which give a heavy and gloomy appearance to the city. An immense number of watch-makers is another distinguishing feature in this city. The first thing shewn to me by my valet de place was the house where Jean Jacques Rousseau was born; I then desired him to shew me the spot where that barbarian Calvin caused to be burnt the unhappy Servetus for not having the same religious opinions as himself.
The most agreeable promenades of the city are on the bastions and ramparts, a place called La Treille and a garden or park of small extent called Plain Palais. In this park stands on a column the bust of J.J. Rousseau. This park was the scene of a great deal of bloodshed in 1791 on account of political disputes between the aristocratic and democratic parties, or rather between the admirers and imitators of the French Revolution and those who dreaded such innovations. This affair excited so much horror, and the recollection of it operated so powerfully on the imagination of the inhabitants, that the place became entirely abandoned as a public promenade, and avoided as a polluted spot for many years. Very likely however a sort of lustration has taken place; an oration was pronounced and the place again declared worthy of contributing to the recreation of the inhabitants. It is now become the favourite promenade of the citizens of Geneva, tho' there are still some who cannot get over their old prejudices and never set their foot in it. There is likewise a pleasant walk as far as the town of Carrouge in Savoy, which town has been lately ceded by the King of Sardinia to the republic of Geneva. In Geneva the sentiments of the inhabitants do not seem to be favourable either to the French Revolution, or to Napoleon. Their political ideas accord very much with those professed by the government party in England, and they make a great parade of them just now, as a means of courting the favour of England and of the Allied Sovereigns. The government here have shewn a great disposition to second the views of the Allied Powers in persecuting those Frenchmen who have been proscribed by the Bourbon government.
This state lost its independence during the revolutionary wars and was incorporated with France. As the citizens were suspected of being more favourable to the English than suited the policy of the French government of that time, they were viewed with a jealous eye and I believe some individuals were harshly treated; but what most vexed and displeased them was the enforcement of the conscription among them, for the Genevois do not like compulsion; they are besides more pacific than war-like and tho' like the Dutch they have displayed great valour where their interest is at stake, yet Mercury is a deity far more in veneration among them than Bellona. The natural talent of this people is great, and it has been favoured and developed by the freedom of their institutions; and this republic has produced too many eminent men for that talent to be called in question; they seem to have decided talents and dispositions for financial operations. A Genevois has the aptitude of great application united to a very discerning, natural genius, and he generally succeeds in everything he undertakes. Literature is much cultivated here, and the females, who are in general handsome and graceful, excel not only in the various feminine accomplishments, such as music, dancing and drawing, but they carry their researches into the higher branches of litterature and science and acquire with great facility foreign languages. It is true that you now and then meet with a little pedantry on the part of the young men and some of the young women are tant soit feu precieuses; and you may guess from their conversation, which is sometimes forced, that the person who speaks has been learning his discourse by heart from some book in the morning, with the intention of sporting it as a natural conversation in the evening. In short, one does not meet with that abandon in society that is to be met with in Paris; you must measure your words well to shine in a Genevese society. This, however, is a very pardonable sort of coxcombry; and tho' it appear sometimes pedantic, and occasionally laughable, yet it tends to encourage learning and science, and compels the young men to read in order to shine and captivate the fair.
The Genevese women make excellent wives and mothers; and many strangers, struck with their beauty and talent, as well as with the agremens of the country in general, marry at Geneva and settle themselves there for life. It is observed that the Genevoises are so attached to their country that on forming a matrimonial connection with foreigners, they always stipulate that they shall not be removed from it. On the dismemberment of the Empire of Napoleon, Geneva was agrege to the Helvetic Confederation, as an independent Canton of which there are now twenty-two. Three, viz. Geneva, Vaud, and Neufchatel, are French in language and manners. One, the Tessino, is Italian, and the remaining eighteen are all German. It is a great advantage to Geneva to belong to the Helvetic Confederacy, as formerly, when she was an isolated independent state, she was in continual dread of being swallowed up by one or other of her two powerful neighbours, France and the King of Sardinia, and only existed by their forbearance and mutual jealousy.
I walked out one morning to Ferney in order to visit the chateau of Voltaire and to do hommage to the memory of that great man, the benefactor of the human race. It was he who gave the mortal blow to superstition and to the power of the clergy. It is the fashion for priests, Ultras and Tories to rail against him, but I judge him by his works and the effect of his works. His memory is held in reverence by the inhabitants of Ferney as their father and benefactor. He spent his whole fortune in acts of the most disinterested charity; he saved entire families from ruin and portioned off many a young woman who was deprived of the gifts of fortune and enabled them to form happy matrimonial connections; in short, doing good seems to have been one of the most ardent passions of his soul. In three memorable instances he shewed his hatred of cruelty and injustice, and unmasked triumphantly ecclesiastical imposture and fanaticism. He has been reproached with vanity, but surely that may be pardoned in a man who received the hommage of the whole literary world, who was considered as an oracle, and whose every sentence was recorded; whose talent was so universal, that he excelled in every branch of litterature that he undertook.
Ferney, which was only a miserable village when Voltaire first took up his residence there, is now a large flourishing and opulent town.
I found Voltaire's Chateau occupied by a fat heavy Swiss Officer who was on duty there, Ferney being at this moment occupied by the troops of the Swiss confederation. He was at breakfast, but on my stating to him that I was come to see the apartments of Voltaire he directed the housekeeper to shew them to me. On the left hand side after ascending a flight of steps, before you come into the Chateau, is a Chapel built by Voltaire with this simple inscription: "Deo erexit Voltaire." In the apartment usually occupied by him for the purpose of composition, are preserved his chair, table, inkstand and bed as sacred relics; and in the Salon are to be seen the portraits of several public characters, his contemporaries, and which were constantly appended there in his life time. Among these portraits I distinguished those of Frederick the Great of Prussia, Catherine II of Russia, Lekain, Diderot, Alembert, Franklin, Helvetius, Marmontel and Washington, besides many others. There is nothing remarkable either in the Chateau, or in the gardens appertaining to it; but as it stands on an elevation, it commands a fine view, which is so well described in that ode which begins:
O maison d'Aristippe, o jardins d'Epicure!
I returned to Geneva and dined with my friend M. Picot the banker, who presented me to his brother's family, which I found a very amiable one, and I was particularly delighted with his father, a fine venerable old man, who is a pastor of the Church of Geneva and a great admirer of our poets Thomson and Milton.
I have made acquaintance at the Ecu de Geneve with a very gallant and accomplished officer, the Chevalier Zadera, a Pole by birth and a Colonel in the French army. He had been on the staff of the Prince d'Eckmuehl at Hamburgh and had served previously in St Domingo, in Germany and in Italy. He had just quitted the French service, having a great repugnance to serve under the Bourbon dynasty, and he is about to go to Italy on private business. He seems a very well informed man and well versed in French, Italian and German litterature. He also understands well to read and write English and speaks it, but not at all fluently. He acquired his English in the United States of America, whither he went when he escaped from the horrors of St Domingo. By the Americans he was received with open arms and unbounded hospitality as the compatriot of Pulaski who fell gloriously fighting in their cause, the cause of liberty, at the battle of Savannah. He was liberally supplied with money by several individuals without the smallest expectation or chance of repayment at the time, and was forwarded in this manner from town to town and from state to state throughout the whole Union; so that the tour he made and the time he passed in that land of liberty, he reckons as far the most agreeable epoch of his life. One evening at the Ecu de Geneve I found Zadera in altercation on political subjects with two French Ultras who had been emigrants, a Genevois and a Bernois, both anti-liberal. This was fearful odds for poor Zadera to be alone against four acharnes. I sat down and espoused his cause and we maintained our argument gloriously. The dispute began on the occasion of Zadera condemning the harshness shewn by the government of Geneva towards the Conventionnels and others who were banished from France on the second restoration of Louis XVIII by a vote of the Chambre introuvable in refusing them an asylum in the Republic and compelling them to depart immediately in a very contumelious manner. I said it was inconsistent and unworthy of the Genevese who called themselves republicans to persecute or join in the persecution of the republicans of France in order to please foreign despots. The others then began to be very violent with me. I replied, "Messieurs, vous avez beau parler; les Genevois sont de tres bons cambistes et les meilleurs banquiers de l'Europe, mais il ne sont pas bons republicains."
Geneva has been so often described by tourists that I shall not attempt any description except to remark that there are several good Cabinets and collections of pictures belonging to individuals. There is a magnificent public library. The manufactures are those of watches and models of the Alps which are exceedingly ingenious. There are no theatrical amusements here; and during divine service on Sunday the gates of the city are shut, and neither ingress nor egress permitted; fortunately their liturgy (the Calvinistic) is at least one hour shorter than the Anglican. Balls and concerts take place here very often and the young Genevois of both sexes are generally proficient in music. They amuse themselves too in summer with the "tir de l'arc" in common with all the Swiss Cantons.
I have been in doubt whether I should go to Lausanne, return to Paris or extend my journey into Italy; but I have at length decided for the latter, as Zadera, who intends to start immediately for Milan, has offered me a place in his carriage a frais communs. I found him so agreeable a man and possessing sentiments so analogous to my own that I eagerly embraced the offer, and we are to cross the Simplon, so that I shall behold a travel over that magnificent chausee made by Napoleon's orders, which I have so much desired to see and which everybody tells me is a most stupendous work and exceeding anything ever made by the Romans. As the Chevalier has served in Italy and was much repandu in society there, I could not possibly have a pleasanter companion. He has with him Dante and Alfieri, and I have Gessner's Idylls and my constant travelling companion Ariosto, so that we shall have no loss for conversation, for when our native wits are exhausted, a page or two from any of the above authors will suggest innumerable ideas, anecdotes, and subjects of discourse.
MILAN, 10th Oct.
We started from Geneva at seven in the morning of the 4th October, and in half an hour entered the Savoyard territory, of which douaniers with blue cockades (the cockade of the King of Sardinia) gave us intimation. The road is on the South side of the lake Leman. In Evian and Thonon, the two first villages we passed thro', we do not find that aisance, comfort and cleanliness that is perceivable on the other side of the lake, in the delightful Canton de Vaud. The double yoke of priestcraft and military despotism presses hard upon the unhappy Savoyard and wrings from him his hard-earned pittance, while no people are better off than the Vaudois; yet the Savoyards are to the full as deserving of liberty as the Swiss. The Savoyard possesses honesty, fidelity and industry in a superior degree, and these qualities he seldom or ever loses, even when exposed to the temptations of a great metropolis like Paris, to which they are compelled to emigrate, as their own country is too poor to furnish the means of subsistence to all its population. When in Paris and other large cities, the Savoyards contrive, by the most indefatigable industry and incredible frugality, to return to their native village after a certain lapse of time, with a little fortune that is amply sufficient for their comfort. The poorest Savoyard in Paris never fails to remit something for the support of his parents. Both Voltaire and Rousseau have rendered justice to the good qualities of this honest people. It is a thousand pities that this country (Savoy) is not either incorporated with France, or made to form part of the Helvetic confederacy.
On passing by La Meillerie we were reminded of "La nouvelle Heloise" and the words of St Preux: "Le rocher est escarpe: l'eau est profonde et je suis au desespoir." On the opposite side of the lake is to be seen the little white town of Clarens, the supposed residence of the divine Julie. A little beyond St Gingolph, which lies at the eastern extremity of the lake, we quit Savoy and enter into the Valais, which now forms, a component part of the Helvetic confederacy. German is the language spoken in the Valais. As the high road into Italy passes thro' the whole length of this Canton, Napoleon caused it to be separated from the Helvetic union and to form a Republic apart, with the ulterior view and which he afterwards carried into execution of annexing it to the French Empire. The Valais forms a long and exceedingly narrow valley, thro' the whole length of which the Rhone flows and falls into the lake Leman at St Gingolph. The breadth of this valley in its widest part is not more probably than 1,000 yards, and in most places considerably narrower, and it is enclosed on each side, or rather walled up by the immense mountains of the higher Alps which rise here very abruptly and seem to shut out this valley from the rest of the world. The high road runs nearly parallel to the course of the Rhone and is sometimes on one side of the river and sometimes on the other, communicating by bridges; from the sinuosity of the road and the different points of view presented by the salient and re-entering angles, of the mountains the scenery is extremely picturesque, grand and striking, and as sometimes no outlet presents itself to view, you do not perceive how you are ever to get out of this valley but by a stratagem similar to that of Sindbad in the Valley of Diamonds. At St Maurice is a remarkable one-arched bridge built by the Romans. We stopped at Martigny to pass the night; within one mile of Martigny and before arriving at it, we perceived the celebrated waterfall called the Pissevache; and the appellation, though coarse, is perfectly applicable. From Martigny a bridle road branches off which leads across the Grand St Bernard to Aoste. The next morning we arrived at Sion, called in the language of the country Sitten, the metropolis of the Valais; it is a neat-looking and tolerably large town, and which from its position might be made a most formidable military post, as there is a steep hill close to it which rises abruptly from the centre of the valley, and commands an extensive view east and west. Works erected on this height would enfilade the whole road either way and totally obstruct the approach of an enemy. There is besides a large castle on the southern paroi of mountains which hem in this valley, which would expose to a most galling fire and take in flank completely those who should attempt to force the passage whether coming from St Maurice or Brieg. We stopped two hours at Sion to mend a wheel and this gave me time to ascend the mountain on which the castle stands. There were several masons and workmen employed in the construction of a church which they are erecting at the request and entire expense of His Sardinian Majesty. I could not ascertain what were the reasons that induced the King to build a church in a foreign territory. I did not observe either on the road or in any of the village thro' which we passed any striking specimen of Valaisan female beauty; but I often remarked the prominent bosom that Rousseau describes as frequent among them. We met with several cretins or idiots, all of whom had goitres in a greater or less degree. These souls of God without sin, as the cretins are called, are very merry souls; they always appear to be laughing. They seem to have adopted and united three systems of philosophy: they are Diogenes as to independence and neglect of decency and cleanliness; Democriti as to their disposition to laugh perpetually; and Aristippi inasmuch as they seem to be perfectly contented with their state. They are in general fat and well fed, for the poorest inhabitants give them something. They have a good deal of cunning, and many curious anecdotes are related of them which shews that they are endowed with a sort of sagacity resembling the instinct of animals. I recollect one myself mentioned by Zimmermann in his Essay on Solitude, of a cretin who was accustomed to imitate with his voice the sound of the village clock whenever it struck the hours and quarters; one day, by some accident, the clock stopped; yet the cretin went through the chimes of the hours and quarters with the same regularity as the clock would have done had it been going.
We arrived at night at the village of Brieg at the foot of the Simplon and put up at a very comfortable inn. Brieg and Glisse are two small villages lying within a quarter of a mile distance from each other. The direct road runs thro' Brieg and is a great advantage to this town; while Glisse lost this benefit from the opposition shewn by its inhabitants to the annexation of the Valais to the French Empire. They now deeply regret this refusal as few travellers chuse to stop at Glisse.
Passage of the Simplon.
Chi mi dara la voce e le parole Convenienti a si nobil soggetto?
Who will vouchsafe me voice that shall ascend As high as I would raise my noble theme?
—Trans. W.S. ROSE.
How shall I describe the Simplon and the impressions that magnificent piece of work, the chaussee across it, made on my mind? On arrival at the village of the Simplon, which lies at nearly the greatest elevation off the road and is more than half-way across, I wrote in my enthusiasm for the author of this gigantic work, the following lines:
O viaggiator, se avessi tu veduto Quel monte, pria che fosse il cammin fatto, Leveresti le mani, e stupefatto Diresti, "chi l'avrebbe mai creduto? Son come quel d'Alcide i tuoi miracoli! Vincesti, Napoleon', piu grandi ostacoli!"
Imagine a fine road or causeway broad enough for three carriages to go abreast, cut in the flanks of the mountains, winding along their contours, sometimes zigzag on the flank of one ravine, and sometimes turning off nearly at right angles to the flank of another; separated from each other by precipices of tremendous depth, and communicating by one-arched bridges of surprising boldness; besides stone bridges at each re-entering angle, to let pass off the water which flows from the innumerable cascades, which fall from the summits of the mountains. Ice and snow eternal on the various pics or aiguilles (as the summits are here called) which tower above your head, and yet in the midst of these belles horreurs the road is so well constructed, so smooth, and the slope so gentle that when there are fogs, which often happen here and prevent you from beholding the surrounding scenery, you would suppose you were travelling on a plain the whole time. Balustrades are affixed on the sides of the most abrupt precipices and buttresses also in order to secure the exterior part of the chaussee. On the whole length of the chaussee on the exterior side are conical stones of four feet in height at ten paces distant from each other, in order to mark the road in case of its being covered with snow. There are besides maisons de refuge or cottages, at a distance of one league from each other, wherein are stationed persons to give assistance and food to travellers, or passengers who may be detained by the snow storms. There is always in these cabins a plentiful supply of biscuit, cheese, salt and smoked meats, wine, brandy and fire-wood. In those parts of the road where the sides of the ravines are not sloping enough to admit of the road being cut along them, subterraneous galleries have been pierced through the rock, some of fifty, some of a hundred and more yards in length, and nearly as broad as the rest of the road. In a word it appears to me the grandest work imagined or made by man, and when combined with its extreme utility, far surpasses what is related of the Seven Wonders of the world. There are fifty-two bridges throughout the whole of this route, which begins at the distance of three miles from Geneva, skirts the southern shore of the lake, runs thro' the whole Valais, traverses the Simplon and issuing from the gorges of the mountains at Domo d'Ossola terminates at Rho in the Milanese. From Brieg to the toll-house, the highest part of the road, the distance is about 18 miles. It made me dreadfully giddy to look down the various precipices; and what adds to the vertigo one feels is the deafening noise of the various waterfalls. As the road is cut zigzag, in many parts, you appear to preserve nearly the same distance from Brieg after three hours' march, as after half an hour only, since you have that village continually under your eyes, nor do you lose sight of it till near the toll-house. Brieg appears when viewed from various points of the road like the card-houses of children, the Valais like a slip of green baize, and the Rhone like a very narrow light blue ribband; and when at Brieg before you ascend you look up at the toll-house, you would suppose it impossible for any human being to arrive at such a height without the help of a balloon. It reminded me of the castle of the enchanter in the Orlando Furioso, who keeps Ruggiero confined and who rides on the Hippogriff.
The village of the Simplon is a mile beyond the toll-house, descending. We stopped there for two hours to dine. A snow storm had fallen and the weather was exceedingly cold; the mountain air had sharpened our appetite, but we could get nothing but fish and eggs as it was a jour maigre, and the Valaisans are rigid observers of the ordinances of the Catholic church. We however, on assuring the landlord that we were militaires, prevailed on him to let us have some ham and sausages. German is the language here. The road from the toll-house to Domo d'Ossola (the first town at the foot of the mountain on the Italian side) is a descent, but the slope is as gentle as on the rest of the road. Fifteen miles beyond the village of the Simplon stands the village of Isella, which is the frontier town of the King of Sardinia, and where there is a rigorous douane, and ten miles further is Domo d'Ossola, where we arrived at seven in the evening. Between Isella and Domo d'Ossola the scenery becomes more and more romantic, varying at every step, cataracts falling on all sides, and three more galleries to pass. Domo d'Ossola appears a large and neat clean town, and we put up at a very good inn. At Isella begins the Italian language, or rather Piedmontese.
The next morning we proceeded on our journey till we reached Fariolo, which is on the northern extremity of the Lago Maggiore. The road from Domo d'Ossola thro' the villages of Ornavasso and Vagogna is thro' a fertile and picturesque valley, or rather gorge, of the mountain, narrow at first, but which gradually widens as you approach to the lake. The river Toso runs nearly in a parallel direction with the road. The air is much milder than in Switzerland, and you soon perceive the change of climate from its temperature, as well as from the appearance of the vines and mulberry trees and Indian corn called in this country grano turco.
At Fariolo, after breakfast, my friend Zadera took leave of me and embarked his carriage on the lake in order to proceed to Lugano; and I who was bound to Milan, having hired a cabriolet, proceeded to Arona, after stopping one hour to refresh the horses at Belgirate. The whole road from Fariolo to Arona is on the bank of the Lago Maggiore, and nothing can be more neat than the appearance of all these little towns which are solidly and handsomely built in the Italian taste.
Before I arrived at Arona, and at a distance of two miles from it, I stopped in order to ascend a height at a distance of one-eighth of a mile from the road to view the celebrated colossal statue in bronze of St Charles Borromaeus, which may be seen at a great distance. It is seventy cubits high, situated on a pedestal of twenty feet, to ascend which requires a ladder. You then enter between his legs, or rather the folds of his gown, and ascend a sort of staircase till you reach his head. There is something so striking in the appearance of this black gigantic figure when viewed from afar, and still more when you are at the foot of it, that you would suppose yourself living in the time of fairies and enchanters, and it strongly reminded me of the Arabian Nights, as if the statue were the work of some Genie or Peri; or as if it were some rebel Genius transformed into black marble by Solomon the great Prophet. I am not very well acquainted with the life and adventures of this Saint, but he was of the Borromean family, who are the most opulent proprietors of the Milanese. Every tract of land, palace, castle, farm in the environs of Arona seem to belong to them. If you ask whose estate is that? whose villa is that? whose castle is that? the answer is, to the Count Borromeo, who seems to be as universal a proprietor here as Nong-tong-paw at Paris or Monsieur Kaniferstane at Amsterdam. Arona is a large, straggling but solidly built town, and presents nothing worth notice.
We proceeded on our journey the next morning. Shortly after leaving Arona, the road diverges from the lake and traverses a thick wood until it reaches the banks of the Tessino; on the other bank of which, communicating by means of a flying bridge, stands the town of Sesto Calende. The Tessino divides and forms the boundary between the Sardinian and Austrian territory, and Sesto Calende is the frontier of His Imperial, Royal and Apostolic Majesty. After a rigorous search of my portmanteau at the Douane, and exhibiting my passport, I was allowed to proceed on my journey to Milan.
At Rho, where I stopped to dine, stands a remarkably ancient tree said to have been planted in the time of Augustus. The country presents a perfect plain, highly cultivated, all the way from Sesto to Milan. The chaussee is broad and admirably well kept up and lined on both sides with poplars. The roads in Lombardy are certainly the finest in Europe. I entered Milan by the gate which leads direct to the esplanade between the citadel and the city, and drove to the Pension Suisse, which is in a street close to the Cathedral and Ducal palace.
MILAN, 12 October.
I am just returned from the Teatro della Scala, renowned for its immense size: it certainly is the most stupendous theatre I ever beheld and even surpassed the expectation I had formed of it, so much so that I remained for some minutes lost in astonishment. I was much struck with the magnificence of the scenery and decorations. An Opera and Ballo are given every night, and the same are repeated for a month, when they are replaced by new ones. The boxes are all hired by the year by the different noble and opulent families, and in the Parterre the price is only thirty soldi or sous, about fifteen pence English, for which you are fully as well regaled as at the Grand Opera at Paris for three and a half francs and far better than at the Italian theatre in London for half a guinea. The opera I saw represented is called L'Italiana in Algieri, opera buffa, by Rossini.
The Ballo was one of the most magnificent spectacles I ever beheld. The scenery and decorations are of the first class and superior even to those of the Grand Opera at Paris. The Ballo was called Il Cavaliere del Tempio. The story is taken from an occurrence that formed an episode in the history of the Crusades and which has already furnished to Walter Scott the subject of a very pleasing ballad entitled the Fire-King, or Count Albert and Fair Rosalie. Battles of foot and horse with real horses, Christians and Moslems, dancing, incantations, excellent and very appropriate music leave nothing to be desired to the ravished spectator. In the Ballo all is done in pantomime and the acting is perfect. The Italians seem to inherit from their ancestors the faculty of representing by dumb show the emotions of the mind as well as the gestures of the body, and in this they excel all other modern nations. The dancing is not quite so good as what one sees at the Paris theatre, and besides that sort of dancing they are very fond in Italy of grotesque dances which appear to me to be mere tours de force. But the decorations are magnificent, and the cost must be great.
It was a fine moonlight night on my return from the Scala, which gave a very pleasing effect to the Duomo or Cathedral as I passed by it. The innumerable aiguilles or spires of the most exquisite and delicate workmanship, tapering and terminating in points all newly whitened, gave such an appearance of airiness and lightness to this beautiful building that it looked more visionary than substantial, and as if a strong puff of wind would blow it away. The next morning I went to visit the Cathedral in detail. It stands in the place called Piazza del Duomo. On this piazza stands also the Ducal Palace; the principal cafes and the most splendid shops are in the same piazza, which forms the morning lounge of Milan. Parallel to one side of the Duomo runs the Corsia de' Servi, the widest and most fashionable street in Milan, the resort of the beau monde in the evening, and leading directly out to the Porta Orientale. The Cathedral appears to me certainly the most striking Gothic edifice I ever beheld. It is as large as the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Paris, and the architecture of the interior is very massive. There is little internal ornament, however, except the tomb or mausoleum of St Charles Borromeo, round which is a magnificent railing; there are also the statues of this Saint and of St Ambrogio. There are several well-executed bas-reliefs on the outside of the Church, from Scripture subjects, and the view from any of the balconies of the spires is very extensive. On the North the Alps, covered with snow and appearing to rise abruptly within a very short horizon, tho' their distance from Milan is at least sixty or seventy miles; and on all the other sides a vast and well-cultivated plain as far as the eye can reach, thickly studded with towns and villages, and the immense city of Milan nine miles in circumference at your feet. The streets in general in Milan are well paved; there is a line of trottoir on each side of the street equi-distant from the line of houses; so that these trottoirs seem to be made for the carriage wheels to roll on, and not for the foot passengers, who must keep within the space that lies between the trottoirs and line of houses. With the exception of the Piazza del Duomo there is scarcely anything that can be called a piazza in all Milan, unless irregular and small open places may be dignified with that name; the houses and buildings are extremely solid in their construction and handsome in their appearance. A canal runs thro' the city and leads to Pavia; on this canal are stone bridges of a very solid construction. The shops in Milan are well stored with merchandize, and make a very brilliant display. The finest street, without doubt, is the Corsia de' Servi. In the part of it that lies parallel to the Cathedral, it is about as broad as the Rue St Honore at Paris; but two hundred yards beyond it, it suddenly widens and is then broader than Portland Place the whole way to the Porta Orientale. On the left hand of this street, on proceeding from the Cathedral to the Porta Orientale, is a beautiful and extensive garden; an ornamental iron railing separates it from the street. From the number of fine trees here there is so much shade therefrom that it forms a very agreeable promenade during the heat of the day. On the right hand side of the Corsia de' Servi, proceeding from the Cathedral, are the finest buildings (houses of individuals) in Milan, among which I particularly distinguished a superb palace built in the best Grecian taste with a colonnaded portico, surmounted by eight columns. Just outside the Porta Orientale is the Corso, with a fine spacious road with Allees on each side lined with trees. The Corso forms the evening drive and promenade a cheval of the beau monde. I have seen nowhere, except in Hyde Park, such a brilliant show of equipages as on the Corso of Milan. I observe that the women display a great luxe de parure at this promenade.
The women here appear to me in general handsome, and report says not at all cruel. They have quite a fureur for dress and ornaments, hi the adapting of which, however, they have not so much taste as the French women have. The Milanese women do not understand the simplicite recherchee in their attire, and are too fond of glaring colours. The Milanese women are accused of being too fond of wine, and a calculation has been made that two bottles per diem are drank by each female in Milan; but, supposing this calculation were true, let not the English be startled, for the wine of this, country is exceedingly light, lighter indeed than the weakest Burgundy wine; indeed, I conceive that two bottles of Lombard wine are scarce equivalent in strength to four wine glasses of Port wine. The Lombards for this reason never drink water with their wine; and indeed it is not necessary, for I am afraid that all the wine drank in Milan is already baptised before it leaves the hands of the vendor, except that reserved for the priesthood; such, at any rate, was the case before the French Revolution, and no doubt the wine sellers would oppose the abolition of so ancient and sacred a custom. The Milanese are a gay people, hospitable and fond of pleasure: they are more addicted to the pleasures of the table than the other people of Italy, and dinner parties are in consequence much more frequent here than in other Italian towns. The women here are said to be much better educated than in the rest of Italy, for Napoleon took great pains to promote and encourage female instruction, well knowing that to be the best means of regenerating a country.
The dialect spoken in the Milanese has a harsh nasal accent, to my ear peculiarly disagreeable. Pure Italian or Tuscan is little spoken here, and that only to foreigners. French, on the contrary, is spoken a good deal; but the Milanese, male and female, among one another, speak invariably the patois of the country, which has more analogy to the French than to the Italian, but without the grace or euphony of either.
I have visited likewise the Zecca, or Mint, where I observed the whole process of coining. They still continue to coin here Napoleons of gold and silver, with the date of 1814, and they coin likewise crowns or dollars with Maria Theresa's head, with the date of the last year of her reign. The double Napoleon of forty franchi of the Kingdom of Italy is a beautiful coin; on the run are the words, Dio protegge l'Italia. It may not be unnecessary to remark that in Italy by the word Napoleone, as a coin, is meant the five franc piece with the head of Napoleon, and a twenty franc gold piece is called Napoleone d'oro.
At the Zecca I was shown some gold, silver and bronze medals, struck in commemoration of the formation of the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom, under the sceptre of Austria. They bear the following inscription, which, if I recollect aright, is from Horace:
Redeunt in aurum Tempora priscum,
but this golden age is considered by the Italians as a very leaden one; and it seems to bear as much analogy to the golden age, as the base Austrian copper coin, daubed over with silver, and made to pass for fifteen and thirty soldi, has to the real gold and silver Napoleoni, which by the way are said to be fast disappearing; they are sent to Vienna, and Milan will probably be in time blessed with a similar paper currency to that of Vienna.
Napoleon seems to be as much regretted by the Milanese as the Austrian Government is abhorred; in fact, everybody speaks with horror and disgust of the aspro boreal scettro and of the aquila che mangia doppio, an allusion taken from the arms of Austria, the double-headed Eagle.
I have visited the ancient Ducal, now the Royal, Palace; it is a spacious building, chaste in its external appearance, but its ulterior very magnificent; its chiefest treasures are the various costly columns and pilasters of marble and of jaune antique which are to be met with. The salle de danse is peculiarly elegant, and in one of the apartments is a fine painting on the plafond representing Jupiter hurling thunderbolts on the Giants. Jupiter bears the head of Napoleon. Good God! how this man was spoiled by adulation!
The staircase of the Palace is superb, and the furniture is of the most elegant description, being faithfully and classically modelled after the antique Roman and Grecian. After visiting the Ambrosian library (by the way, it is quite absurd to visit a library unless you employ whole days to inspect the various editions), I went to the Hospital, which is a stupendous building, and makes up 8,000 beds. The arrangement of this hospital merits the greatest praise. I then peeped into several churches, and I verily believe my conductor would have made me visit every church in Milan, if I had not lost all patience, and cried out: perche sempre chiese? sempre chiese? andiamo a vedere altra cosa. He conducted me then to the citadel, or rather place where the citadel stood, and which now forms a vast barrack for the Austrian troops. We then went to visit the Teatro Olimpico, which was built by Napoleon. It is built in the style of the Roman amphitheatres, but much more of an oval form than the Roman amphitheatres were in general; that is to say, the transverse axis is much longer in proportion to the conjugate diameter than is the case in the Roman amphitheatres, and it is by no means so high. In the time of Napoleon, games were executed in this circus in imitation of the games of the ancients, for Napoleon had a great hankering to ape the Roman Caesars in everything. There were, for instance, gymnastic exercises, races on foot, horse races, chariot races like those of the Romans, combats of wild beasts, and as water can be introduced into the arena, there were sometimes exhibited naumachiae or naval fights. These exhibitions were extremely frequent at Milan during the vice-regency of Prince Eugene Napoleon; during this Government, indeed, Milan flourished in the highest degree of opulence and splendour and profited much by being one of the principal depots of the inland trade between France and Italy, during the continental blockade, besides enjoying the advantage of being the seat of Government during the existence of the Regno d'Italia. Even now, tho' groaning under the leaden sceptre of Austria, it is one of the most lively and splendid cities I ever beheld; and I made this remark to a Milanese. He answered with a deep sigh: "Ah! Monsieur, si vous aviez ete ici dans le temps du Prince Eugene! Mais aujourd'hui nous sommes ruines."
My next visit was to the Porta del Sempione, which is at a short distance from the amphitheatre, and which, were it finished, would be the finest thing of the kind in Europe; it was designed, and would have been completed by Napoleon, had he remained on the throne. Figures representing France, Italy, Fortitude and Wisdom adorn the facade and there are several bas-reliefs, among which is one representing Napoleon receiving the keys of Milan after the battle of Marengo. All is yet unfinished; columns, pedestals, friezes, capitals and various other architectural ornaments, besides several unhewn blocks of marble, lie on the ground; and probably this magnificent design will never be completed for no other reason than because it was imagined by Napoleon and might recall his glories. Verily, Legitimacy is childishly spiteful!
Yesterday morning I went to see an Italian comedy represented at the Teatro Re. The piece was l'Ajo nell' imbarazzo—a very droll and humorous piece—but it was not well acted, from the simple circumstance of the actors not having their parts by heart, and the illusion of the stage is destroyed by hearing the prompter's voice full as loud as that of the actors, who follow his promptings something in the same way that the clerk follows the clergyman in that prayer of the Anglican liturgy which says "we have erred and strayed from our ways like lost sheep." An Italian audience is certainly very indulgent and good-natured, as they never hiss, however miserable the performance.
But in speaking of theatrical performances, no person should leave Milan without going to see the Teatro Girolamo, which is one of the "curiosities" of the place, peculiar to Milan, and more frequented, perhaps, than any other. This is a puppet theatre, but puppets so well contrived and so well worked as to make the spectacle well worth the attention of the traveller. It is the Nec plus ultra of Marionettism, in which Signer Girolamo, the proprietor, has made a revolution, which will form an epoch in the annals of puppetry; having driven from the stage entirely the graziosissima maschera d'Arlecchino, who used to be the hero of all the pieces represented by the puppets and substituted himself, or rather a puppet bearing his name, in the place of Harlequin, as the principal farceur of the performance. He has contrived to make the puppet Girolamo a little like himself, but so much caricatured and so monstrously ugly a likeness that the bare sight of it raises immediate laughter. The theatre itself is small, being something under the size of our old Haymarket little theatre, but is very neatly and tastefully fitted up. The puppets are about half of the natural size of man, and Girolamo, aided by one or two others, works them and gives them gesture, by means of strings, which are, however, so well contrived as to be scarcely visible; and Girolamo himself speaks for all, as, besides being a ventriloquist, he has a most astonishing faculty of varying his voice, and adapting it to the role of each puppet, so that the illusion is complete. The scenery and decorations are excellent. Sometimes he gives operas as well as dramas, and there is always a ballo, with transformation of one figure into another, which forms part of the performance. These transformations are really very curious and extremely well executed. Almost all the pieces acted on the theatre are of Girolamo's own composition, and he sometimes chooses a classical or mythological subject, in which the puppet Girolamo is sure to be introduced and charged with all the wit of the piece. He speaks invariably with the accent and patois of the country, and his jokes never fail to keep the audience in a roar of laughter; his mode of speech and slang phrases form an absurd contrast to the other figures, who speak in pure Italian and pompous versi sciolti. For instance, the piece I saw represented was the story of Alcestis and was entitled La scesa d'Ercole nell Inferno, to redeem the wife of Admetus. Hercules, before he commences this undertaking, wishes to hire a valet for the journey, has an interview with Girolamo, and engages him. Hercules speaks in blank verse and in a phrase, full of sesquipedalia verba, demands his country and lineage. Girolamo replies in the Piedmontese dialect and with a strong nasal accent: "De mi pais, de Piemong." Girolamo, however, though he professes to be as brave as Mars himself has a great repugnance to accompanying his master to the shades below, or to the "casa del diavolo," as he calls it; and while Hercules fights with Cerberus, he shakes and trembles all over, as he does likewise when he meets Madonna Morte.
All this is very absurd and ridiculous, but it is impossible not to laugh and be amused at it. An anecdote is related of the flesh and blood Girolamo, that he had a very pretty wife, who took it into her head one day to elope with a French officer; and that to revenge himself he dramatized the event and produced it on his own theatre under the title of Colombina scampata coll'uffiziale, having filled the piece with severe satire and sarcastic remarks against women in general and Colombina in particular.
The atelier of the famous artist in mosaic Rafaelli is well worth inspecting; and here I had an opportunity of beholding a copy in mosaic and nearly finished of the celebrated picture of Leonardo da Vinci representing the Caena Domini. What a useful as well as admirable art is the mosaic to perpetuate the paintings of the greatest masters! I recollected on beholding this work that Eustace, in his Tour thro' Italy, relates with a pious horror that the French soldiers used the original picture as a target to practise at with ball cartridge, and that Christ's head was singled out as the mark. This absurd tale, which had not the least shadow of truth in it, has, it appears, gained some credit among weak-minded people; and I therefore beg leave to contradict it in the most formal manner. It was Buonaparte who, the moment the picture was discovered, ordered it to be put in mosaic. No! the French were the protectors and encouragers, and by no means the destroyers of the works of art; and this ridiculous story of the picture being used as a target was probably invented by the priesthood, who seemed to have taken great delight in imposing on poor Eustace's credulity. To me it seems that such a story could only have been invented by a monk, and believed and repeated by an old woman or a bigot. The priests and French emigrants have invented and spread the most shameful and improbable calumnies against the French republicans and against Napoleon, and that credulous gull John Bull has been silly enough to give full credence to all these tales, and stand staring with his eyes and mouth open at the recital, while a vulgar jobbing ministry (as Cobbet would say) picked his pockets.
Quite of a piece with this is the said Mr Eustace's bigotry, in not chusing to call Lombardy by its usual appellation "Lombardy," and affectedly terming it "the plain of the Po." Why so, will be asked? Why because Mr Eustace hates the ancient Lombards, and holds them very nearly in as much horror as he does the modern French; because, as he says, they were the enemies of the Church and made war on and despoiled the Holy See. The fact is that the Lombard princes were the most enlightened of all the monarchs of their time; they were the first who began to resist the encroachments of the clergy and to shake off that abject submission to the Holy See which was the characteristic of the age. The Lombards were a fine gallant race of men and not so bigoted as the other nations of Europe. Where has there ever reigned a better and more enlightened and more just and humane prince than Theodoric? But Theodoric was an Arian, hence Mr Eustace's aversion, for he, with the most servile devotion, rejects, condemns and anathematizes whatever the Church rejects, condemns and anathematizes. For myself I look on the extinction of the Lombard power by Charlemagne to have been a great calamity; had it lasted, the reformation and deliverance of Europe from Papal and ecclesiastical tyranny would have happened probably three hundred years sooner and the Inquisition never have been planted in Spain. I have made this digression from a love of justice and from a wish to vindicate the French Republic and Napoleon from one at least of the many unjust aspersions cast on them. I feel it also my duty to state on every occasion that I, belonging to an army sent to Egypt in order to expel them from that country, have been an eyewitness of the good and beneficial reforms and improvements that the French made in Egypt during a period of only three years. They did more for the good of that country in this short period, than we have done for India in fifty years.
Being obliged to be in London on the 24th December I took leave of the agreeable city of Milan with much regret on the 19th of October and engaged a place in a Swiss voiture going to Lausanne. My fellow travellers were two Brunswick officers in the service of the Princess of Wales, who were returning to their native country; and a Hungarian and his son settled in Domo d'Ossola. Nothing occurred till we arrived at Arona, where we were detained a whole day, in consequence of some informality in the passport of the two Germans, viz., that of its not having been vise by the Sardinian Charge d'Affaires at Milan.
During our detention at Arona, I fell in with a young Frenchman who was going to Milan in company of some Swiss friends. The Swiss were permitted to proceed, but the other was not, for no other reason than because he was a Frenchman; so that he took a place in our carriage in order to return to Switzerland. I found him a very agreeable companion, for tho' much chagrined and vexed at this harsh and ungenerous treatment on the part of the Piedmontese authorities, he soon recovered his good humour, and contributed much to the pleasure of our journey. The Germans came back to Arona very late at night, and during the rest of the journey gave vent to their feelings with many an execration such as verfluchter Spitzbube, Hundsfott, on the heads of the inexorable police officers of Arona. The next day, on passing by Belgirate, we took a boat to visit the Borromean islands, and afterwards returned to rejoin our carriage at Fariolo. The first of these islands that we visited was the Isola Bella, where there is a large and splendid villa, belonging to the Borromean family. The rooms are of excellent and solid structure, and there are some good family pictures. The furniture is ancient, but costly. The rez de chaussee or lower part of the house, which is completely a fleur d'eau with the lake, is tastefully paved, and the walls decorated with a mosaic of shells. One would imagine it the abode of a sea nymph. I thought of Calypso and Galatea. There are in these apartments a fleur d'eau two or three exquisite statues.
LAUSANNE, 11th November.
I have been now nearly three weeks at Lausanne and am much pleased both with the inhabitants, who are extremely affable and well-informed, and with the beautiful sites that environ this city, the capital of the Canton de Vaud. The sentiments of the Vaudois, with the exception of a few absurd families among the noblesse, who from ignorance or prejudice are sticklers for the old times, are highly liberal; and as they acquired their freedom and emancipated themselves from the yoke of the Bernois, thro' the means of the French Revolution, they are grateful to that nation and receive with hospitality those who are proscribed by the present French Government; their behaviour thus forming a noble contrast to the servility of the Genevese. The Government of the Canton de Vaud is wholly democratic and is composed of a Landamman and grand and petty council, all bourgeois, or of the most intelligent among the agricultural class, who know the interests of their country right well, and are not likely to betray them, as the noblesse are but too often induced to do, for the sake of some foolish ribband, rank, or title. The noblesse are in a manner self-exiled (so they say) from all participation in the legislative and executive power; for they have too much morgue to endure to share the government with those whom they regard as roturiers; but the real state of the case is that the people will not elect them, and the people are perfectly in the right, for at the glorious epoch when, without bloodshed, the burghers and plebeians upset the despotism of Bern, the conduct of the noblesse was very equivocal. La Harpe was the leader of this beneficial Revolution, for which, however, the public mind was fully prepared and disposed; and La Harpe was a virtuous, ardent and incorruptible patriot.
This canton had been for a long period of years in a state of vassalage to that of Bern; all the posts and offices of Government were filled by Bernois and the Vaudois were excluded from all share in the government, and from all public employments of consequence. When the Sun of Revolution, after gloriously rising in America, had shone in splendour on France, and had successfully dissipated the mists of tyranny, feudality, priestcraft and prejudice, it was natural that those states which had languished for so many years in a humiliating situation should begin to look about them and enquire into the origin of all the shackles and restraints imposed on them; and no doubt the Vaudois soon discovered that it was an anomaly in politics as well as in reason that two states of such different origin, the one being a Latin and the other a Teutonic people, with language, customs, and manners so different, should be blended together in a system in which all the advantages were on the side of Bern, and nought but vassalage on the part of Vaud. A chief was alone wanting to give the impulse; he was soon found; the business was settled in forty-eight hours; and by the mediation of the French Government, Vaud was declared and acknowledged an independent state and for ever released from the dominion of Bern. The federative constitution was then abolished throughout the union, and a general Government, called the Helvetic Republic, substituted in its place; but this constitution not suiting the genius and habits of the people, nor the locality of the country, was not of long duration; troubles broke out and insurrections, which were fomented and encouraged by the adherents of the old regime. But Napoleon, by a wise and salutary mediation, stepped in between them, and prevented the effusion of blood, by restoring the old confederation, modified by a variety of ameliorations. In the act of mediation, Napoleon contented himself with separating the Valais entirely from the confederation, and shortly after annexing it to France, on account of the high road into Italy across the Simplon running thro' that territory, and which it became of the utmost importance to him to be master of. The new Helvetic Confederation was inviolably respected and protected by Napoleon; for never after the act of mediation did any French troops enter in the Canton de Vaud, or any part of the Union to pass into Italy. They always moved on the Savoy side of the Lake to enter into the Valais. This act of mediation saved probably a good deal of bloodshed and in a very short time gave such general satisfaction, and was in every respect so useful and beneficial to the Helvetic Union, that in spite of the intrigues of the Senate of Bern, who have never been able to digest the loss of Vaud, the Allied Powers in the year 1814 solemnly guaranteed the Helvetic Confederation as established by the Act of Mediation, merely restoring the Valais to its independence and aggregating it as an independent Canton to the general Union. Geneva, on its being severed from the French Empire, and recovering its independence, solicited the Helvetic Union to be admitted as a member and component part of that Confederacy; which was agreed to, and it was and remains aggregated to it also.