Quimper, or Quimper-Corentin, is prettily situated at the junction of the rivers Odet and Stheire; its Breton name, Kemper, signifying confluence. It was long called Kemper-Odet. On the opposite side of the river the hills, consisting of a mass of rocks, covered with trees, rise to some height, and are ascended by well-kept walks. The river runs straight through the town, like a canal, edged by stone quays and crossed by iron bridges, with avenues of trees on each side. Trout can be seen in the sparkling stream; and we watched a boy with a hook at the end of a reel of black silk, hanging over the bridge, with a piece of kneaded bread for bait. With this simple tackle he contrived to hook a trout of tolerable size, and let it run out the length of his silk line till he had tired it out and landed it. The scenery of the river below Quimper, flowing through a bed of granite blocks, is, we were told, lovely, but we had no time to visit it further down. The view from the top of the wood-covered heights on the opposite side is very extensive, looking down upon the town, with its cathedral towers rising above, the promenade, and the course of the river. At the end of the town there is a manufactory of coarse pottery; but formerly it produced ware of a finer quality.
The beautiful cathedral is the largest of the four episcopal churches of Lower Brittany (Vannes, St. Pol, Quimper, and Treguier), and was principally built in the fifteenth century. On the platform over the finely sculptured porch, rich in foliage like the Folgoet, placed between the two towers, is the equestrian statue of King Gradlon, to whom is attributed the introduction of the vine into Brittany. The statue was decapitated in 1793, but restored ten years back. On St. Cecilia's day companies of musicians used to mount on the platform. While they sang a hymn in praise of King Gradlon, one of the choristers, provided with a flagon of wine, a napkin, and golden hanap, mounted on the crupper of King Gradlon's horse, poured out a cup of wine, which he offered ceremoniously to the lips of the statue and then drank himself, carefully wiped with his napkin the moustachios of the king, placed a branch of laurel in his hand, and then threw down the hanap in the midst of the crowd below, in honour of the first planter of the grape in Brittany. To whoever caught the cup before it fell, and presented it uninjured to the Chapter, was adjudged a prize of two hundred crowns.
The two spires of the cathedral are modern, and were built by an annual subscription of a sou for five years, called the "sou du St. Corentin:" more than 600l. was thus raised. They have only been lately finished.
The men about Quimper all wear the national costume—enormous bragou-bras, or breeches of a kind of white sail-cloth, a broad-brimmed felt hat, long hair, falling over the shoulders, wooden shoes, and a broad belt with metal buckle. Their woollen jacket and waistcoat are edged with gay colours, and have sometimes the itinerant tailor's name and the date of the making of the garment, embroidered in wool upon the breast. On gala days brown or blue cloth bragous are worn, tied with coloured ribbons at the knees, black leather gaiters with buttons, and the sabots are replaced by leather shoes and costly silver buckles. The national costume is more preserved in Cornouaille than in the other parts of Brittany. The pen bas or cudgel, with a large knob, like the Irish shillelah, is always ready at hand:—
"Comme une conque immense ouverte au bord des eaux, En Cornouaille est un port, il y vient cent bateaux. Un sable jaune et fin couvre ses cotes plates, Mais un infect amas de rogues, de morgates, D'ossements de poissons sur le rivage epars, La saumure qui filtre entre ses deux remparts, Soulevent tous les sens quand cette odeur saline Arrive au voyageur qui tourne la colline, Laissant derriere lui les taillis de Melven, La belle lande d'or qui parfume Aven, Et ces mouvants aspects de plaines, de montagnes Que deroulent sans fin nos sauvages campagnes. Plus de batteurs de seigle ici, plus de faucheurs, Mais des canots charges de mousses, de pecheurs, Partant et revenant avec chaque maree, Et sur les quais du pont versant a leur rentree, Des sardines en tas, des congres, des merlus, Des homards cuirasses, de gros crabes velus; Et, du fond des paniers, mille genres enormes, De toutes les couleurs et de toutes les formes, Avec leur oeil vitreux et leur museau beant, Tous enfants monstrueux du grand monstre Ocean. Aussitot le pressier les seche, les empile, Et quand leur grasse chair a degorge son huile, De Nantes a Morlaix cherchant les acheteurs, On voit bondir sur mer les hardis caboteurs."" Les Bretons—BRIZEUX.
Thus the Breton poet describes Concarneau, a little fortified town, which has been called the St. Malo of Cornouaille, and is celebrated for its sardine fishery. The road lay through a wooded country, with steep hills and valleys, intersected by streams: on the right a view of the Bay of La Foret, where extensive oyster-culture is going on. After a tedious journey with miserable horses, we reached Concarneau at nine, a distance of little more than thirteen miles, having set off a few minutes after four. Concarneau proper is on a rocky island, surrounded by fortifications, with eight or nine towers and thick walls, and communicating with the mainland by means of a drawbridge. This is called the "Ville Close." It consists of only one street. When Duke John IV. embarked from here for England, he left Sir Robert Knollys governor of the duchy. The constable Du Guesclin, after the surrender of Hennebont and Quimperle, took Concarneau by storm and slew all the English garrison, except the captain, who received quarter.
Opposite the island is the faubourg Sainte Croix, which is more populous than the Ville Close, and where all the business of the place is carried on. The sardine fishery, from June to November, occupies two-thirds of the population. From three to four hundred vessels are employed with five men to each boat. Calm weather is most favourable for fishing. The sardines are taken in large seine nets, one side floating with corks on the surface of the water, the other falling vertically. The sardines, attracted by the bait, try to force themselves through the meshes of the net, and are caught by their gills. The bait used is called "rogue:" the best is composed of the roe of the cod-fish, pounded and steeped in salt water for several days; sometimes the roe and flesh of the mackerel is used. Rogue is made in Norway and Denmark, but principally at Drontheim, and is very expensive, costing about sixpence the lb.; hence an inferior bait is substituted, composed of shrimps and other small crustacea, with fish salted, and the heads of anchovies, all pounded and putrified together. But this kind of decomposed bait is forbidden by the fishery laws. The employment of it accounts for the rareness of good sardines, as the remaining of such a substance in the body of the animal cannot fail of corrupting it. It is a pretty sight to behold the little fleet employed in the sardine fishery return in the evening, laden with the results of the day's work. The fish, when landed, are counted out into baskets, shaken in the water, and taken up to one of the curing-houses: of these there are about sixty in Concarneau. In the first shed we saw above fifty women employed in taking off their heads—"deteter" it is called—an operation they effect with great dexterity. With one cut at the back of the neck the head is separated and the fish "eventre" at the same time.
The sardines are next placed in little wire trays, with divisions like a double gridiron, and fried or dipped in boiling oil, an operation principally performed by the women of Pont l'Abbe, who are supposed, like the Germans of our baking and sugar-refining houses, to be peculiarly constituted to resist heat. The gridirons are then hung up to drain. The sardines are next packed in tin boxes, cold oil poured over them, and the boxes soldered down. From 800 to 900 boxes are placed in a boiler and boiled for half an hour to test the boxes, and those which leak are put aside. They are of English tin, and the making of them is the winter's occupation. Finally, the boxes are stamped with the name of the establishment, and packed in deal cases for exportation. The sardine is a very delicate fish, and easily decays. It is only taken out of the net with a rake (raquette); in summer, numbers are spoiled from being heaped in the boats, and at whatever hour the boats come in the fish go through the whole process of curing, as they will not keep till the next day. Concarneau exports from 15,000 to 20,000 barrels of sardines annually. Only a part are "anchoitee," that is, preserved like the anchovies of the Mediterranean, the others are salted in casks; and quantities, only slightly salted, are packed in baskets, to be sent to the provincial markets. It is estimated that twelve hundred million fish have been caught this year. The sardine fishery extends along the whole western coast of Brittany from Douarnenez to the Loire.
One of the curiosities of Concarneau is its aquarium, under the direction of M. Guillon. It consists of six cisterns, made by the blasting of the solid rock, and comprising an area of large extent, within a walled enclosure. In these cisterns the water is renewed at each turn of the tide through narrow openings in the wall. Three of these reservoirs are reserved for fish, the others for crustacea—lobsters and langoustes. Of these they keep from 10,000 to 15,000 at a time, and send them off daily, when fattened, to Paris and the principal markets of France. It was curious to see the dread shown by the common lobster to the langouste. They all were adhering to the sides of the reservoirs as if afraid to encounter their more powerful companions. Quantities of turbot, also reared for sale, were in one of the cisterns, darting with the greatest rapidity in the water when the keeper threw in pieces of sardines for them to eat. At the end of these cisterns is a building, with every arrangement for the culture of fishes—rows of little troughs, and other vessels, to contain them. Many of the fish are so tame, they came immediately to the keeper on his making a noise in the water with his fingers. Here are fish of every description, and naturalists have every facility of studying their habits. Among others, we saw the graceful little sea-horse or hippocampus, a native of the seas of Brittany as well as of the Mediterranean.
From Concarneau to Quimperle is a distance of above eighteen miles. The road runs near the sea, over a large tract of land covered with furze (ajonc), which, in Brittany, grows from five to six feet high, forming a solid impenetrable mass. Huge blocks of granite are scattered about in every direction, jutting out from among the furze—menhirs, cromlechs, and dolmens—a perfect wilderness of Celtic remains. We drove over an extent of several miles of furze-covered hills and heathy land. Before we reached the village of Tregunc we stopped to see a large dolmen on the side of the road, and further to the right a rocking-stone, twelve feet long and nine feet thick, standing about fifteen feet from the ground, the second largest in Brittany. It is poised by a little projection, like an inverted cone, upon another rock lying half-buried in the ground. The upper block can easily be set in motion by the hand. It is called by the country people "La pierre aux maris trompes," and was formerly consulted by husbands to test the fidelity of their wives. Even now the partner of a faithless wife is said to be incapable of giving to the stone the rocking motion it so easily receives from another.
On the left we passed the majestic ruins of the castle of Rustephan, i. e. Run, mound, of Stephen, having been built by Stephen Count of Penthievre at the beginning of the twelfth century. It belonged in the thirteenth to Blanche of Castile, the mother of St. Louis. The present edifice dates from the fifteenth. One of the sides remaining has a cylindrical tower with pinnacled doorway, and the windows have stone mullions.
Pursuing our road through blocks of granite, we descended into the valley of Pontaven, the town of millers, according to the old saying—
"Pont Aven, ville de renom; Quatorze moulins, deux maisons;"
a little port built upon rocks, at the foot of two elevated mountains, over which are scattered masses of granite boulders, obstructing the course of the river which bounds over them. The banks are lined with woody slopes; wooden bridges cross the river at intervals; mills are established on the ledges of the rocks on its sides; and the noise of the mills, with that of the sparkling river tumbling through the rocks in waterfalls, keep up a perpetual din. Pontaven is celebrated for the quantity of its salmon: so much is taken, that it used to be said that the millers fattened their pigs upon this fish, which was literally true, as they took the small salmon, called glesils, in nets (poches) for that purpose. Salmon now is very dear. At the mouth of the Pontaven river was a castle, whose proprietor had the privilege of firing upon the fishing-boats which returned up the river without giving to the castellan their finest fish, which his steward went down to select. Pontaven is seven and a half miles from Bannalec, the nearest railway station. After remaining a few hours we drove on to Quimperle—in Breton, Kemper (confluence) Elle—so called, because it is at the confluence of two rivers, the Elle and Isole:—
"Vous reverrai-je encore, o fleuve de l'Elle, Vous, Izole, ou mon coeur est toujours rappelle! Les eaux sombres de l'Elle, claire ceux de l'Izole; De ces bords enchantes je dirais chaque saule." BRIZEUX.
Quimperle is a great resort for fishing, the Quimperle salmon and trout being renowned throughout Brittany, and even at Paris. This town is beautifully situated, surrounded by high hills, in a valley, watered by these bright rivers, the hills covered with gardens, orchards, the Ursuline, Capucine, and other convents, and crowned by the steeples of the Gothic church of St. Michael. Its principal building is the church of St. Croix, formerly that of a Benedictine abbey, celebrated for its riches. The island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer then belonged to it. It is a most singular edifice, built in the eleventh century, after the model of the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. In 1862 it fell down, but is at present in course of restoration, after its original plan. The old abbey buildings are now occupied by the Prefecture. We were given permission to pass through the convent garden—the workmen and building materials having blocked up the other entrances—to see the crypt in which is the tomb of Saint Gurloes, first abbot of Quimperle. His effigy, with crosier in hand, his feet resting on a dragon, lies upon a monument, about three feet high, with an opening in the lower part. The saint—Saint Urlose, as the Bretons call him—is invoked principally for the gout, and persons so afflicted crawl through the hole under the tomb, where, suspended by chains, is an iron hook. They twist a lock of their hair round this hook, and tear it off with violence, hoping to propitiate the saint by this mortification—evidently a remnant of heathen times, when hair was sacrificed to deities or to the memory of departed friends.
At Quimperle was buried John de Montfort, rival of Charles of Blois for the ducal crown. Sent to Paris under a safe-conduct by the Dauphin John, Philip of Valois had him shut up in the Louvre, whence he escaped, after a captivity of three years, to England. Edward III. espoused his cause and granted him some troops. After an unsuccessful attack upon Quimper, De Montfort died (1345) at Hennebont, and was buried in the church of the Dominicans at Quimperle. He appointed Edward III. guardian of his son, and Edward immediately occupied Quimperle and caused money to be struck in his name. Lord Lewis of Spain, on the side of Charles of Blois, made a descent upon Quimperle at the head of 6000 men, and pillaged the whole country. On the news reaching Sir Walter Manny, he hastened to meet the enemy, took possession of their fleet, and made such carnage of the soldiers, that they were all killed or taken prisoners, and Lewis of Spain escaped with difficulty. The country about Quimperle is beautiful—wood and water in every direction. The department of Finistere is traversed by three hundred streams, and has an extent of nearly four hundred miles of coast. We were advised to go and see the rood-screen of the chapel of Rosgrand, but had no time. We visited the ruins of the church of St. Columban. Above a round-arched doorway is a beautiful flamboyant window, between two canopied niches. We next walked up to the Place near St. Michel, where a cattle-market was being held. The Breton peasants, with their long shaggy uncombed hair hanging round their shoulders—they comb and wash only on fete days—their dirty canvas bragou bras, patched coats, and sabots with tufts of straw crammed in, looked more dirty than it is possible to imagine. Cleanliness is the last of the Breton virtues. The market and the fair are the two great events of the country, and people flock from great distances to sell their merchandise. But of all extraordinary animals is the Breton pig, as tall as a donkey; a lean, long-necked, ragged, bristly, savage-looking beast, as ill kept as its master, and it runs like a greyhound when approached. The Breton cow is very small, small as the Kerry cows of Ireland, very pretty and very productive. The Breton butter is proverbially good, and is given out most liberally, in lumps as big as loaves, at the tables-d'hote. It is brought to market in jars which the women carry upon their heads. It is to the Queen-Duchess that Brittany, and indeed all France, owes the privilege of eating butter in Lent. It was forbidden as animal food by the laws of the Church, and oil, a vegetable production, ordered as a substitute. In 1491, Anne solicited of Rome, for herself and household, permission to eat butter on fast-days, alleging, as a plea, that Brittany did not produce oil. Encouraged by this favour, Brittany obtained the same indulgence, and it was acquired successively by the other provinces of France; but all are originally indebted for the privilege to the good Queen-Duchess Anne.
Next day, leaving the department of Finistere, we entered that of Morbihan, and went by rail to Lorient on the river Scorff, here joined by the Blavet. It was formerly the seat of the French East India Company; it is now one of the five military ports of France and the residence of a maritime Prefect. In the Place Bisson is the statue of a young officer of the French navy, a native of Guemene-sur-Scorff (Morbihan). When commanding, in 1827, a brig in the Greek Archipelago, he was attacked by two pirate vessels. Nine out of his fifteen men were killed and himself wounded; the enemy crowded on the deck. Desiring the survivors of his crew to jump overboard, "Now," cried he to the pilot, "is the moment for revenge!" and, setting fire to the powder-magazine, he blew up himself, his ship, and the pirates who had boarded her. Next morning the bodies of seventy Greeks lay on the sea-shore, showing the success of his self-devotion. The pilot, who, with four sailors, was saved, received the decoration of the Legion of Honour. On the pedestal of Bisson's statue is an inscription, concluding with these words: "Mort en heros, pour son roi et sa patrie, ses amis le pleurent, la France le regrette, et ses freres d'armes envient son sort."
From here we proceeded to Hennebont (Breton, "old bridge"), famous, in the War of Succession, for its heroic defence by Jeanne de Flandre, during the captivity of her husband, Jean de Montfort, who had been taken prisoner at Nantes and carried off to Paris. Jeanne, who, as Froissart says, had the courage of a man and the heart of a lion, placed herself at the head of his party. Like another Maria Theresa, she presented herself before the Breton lords, with her infant son in her arms, and received their oaths of allegiance. She then joined in the defence of Hennebont, which was invested by Charles of Blois. Clothed in armour and mounted on a war-horse, she galloped up and down the streets, encouraging the inhabitants. She ordered the ladies of her suite and other women of the place to cut short their "keytels," carry the stones to the ramparts, and transport pots of quick-lime to throw down upon the enemy. At the head of 300 horsemen, the Countess, who rode better than any squire, sallied out of the town, attacked and burnt the enemy's camp, retreated to Auray, and, a few days after, re-entered Hennebont, with banners flying and trumpets sounding. But the blockade was so close that provisions were wanting, and the garrison compelled her to agree to a capitulation, unless within three days assistance arrived from England. The time was on the point of expiring, and a herald had approached the gate of the city to receive the keys in the name of Charles of Blois, when the Countess, from her window, perceived at sunrise the English fleet entering the port in full sail. She exclaimed, "We are saved!" The siege was raised, and the Countess, says Froissart, kissed Sir Walter Manny and all his companions, one after the other, two or three times, like a noble and valiant dame. "Better," observed Charles, when he heard the news, "that Jeanne, instead of her lord, had been shut up in the Louvre." He left the carrying on of the siege to Lewis of Spain, and proceeded to Vannes and Auray. Some fragments of walls are all that remain of Jeanne de Montfort's castle, which was situated on a height on the other side of the river in the "Vieille ville." The town on the left bank of the Blavet is called the "Ville neuve" and the "Ville close," being surrounded by walls. Large vessels ascend the Blavet to Hennebont. It is traversed by a light and elegant railway viaduct of twelve arches. We saw on the quay a quantity of red iron-ore from Bilbao.
Hennebont is a very pretty town; the principal building is the church of Notre Dame-de-Paradis, of the sixteenth century, with a fine square stone tower, surmounted by a beautiful spire, and a tall porch, forming one side of the tower. This handsome church has lately been restored. The scenery about the Blavet is very pretty—the banks wooded, and fertile fields. We took a boat and rowed up the river, passing the ruined Abbaye de la Joie, where a hideous chateau has been built. This was a Cistercian convent, founded in the thirteenth century by Blanche of Navarre, wife of Duke John I. (le Roux). The chapel of Notre Dame-de-Paradis formerly belonged to the convent; but when the parish church was demolished, the Abbey ceded this chapel to the town, reserving the privilege of a separate seat for the Abbess, who, on the Sunday after St. John's day, had her crosier carried before her in state by one of her vassals at high mass and vespers.
From Hennebont we went by rail to Auray, and established ourselves for some time in the Pavillon d'en Haut, a most comfortable hotel. Auray is situated on the slope of a hill, the streets narrow and steep.
Our first drive was to Ste. Anne d'Auray, one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in Brittany, on account of its miraculous well and church. It has been called the Mecca of Brittany. Here, according to the legend in the seventeenth century, Ste. Anne appeared to a countryman, and directed him to dig in a certain field, where he would find her image, and to build a chapel there. Guided by a miraculous light, Nicolazic discovered the statue, and erected a chapel on the site.
The spring where Ste. Anne first appeared is now enclosed in a large basin of cut stone. Near it is the church, in course of reconstruction. It stands in a court surrounded by covered galleries for the shelter of the pilgrims. Two flights of steps, called the Scala Sancta (after that of St. John Lateran), lead to a platform over the three entrance gates, upon which is an altar surmounted by a cupola, where mass can be heard by 20,000 persons. The steps are ascended by the pilgrims barefooted, as they do at Rome. The fete of Ste. Anne is celebrated on the 26th of July, when pilgrims arrive from all parts of Brittany to visit the miraculous statue, to ascend the holy staircase, and to drink or wash in the sacred fountain. It was a fete day when we visited Ste. Anne. There was a large assemblage of people, and booths were erected round the court, where were sold rosaries and the wire brooches, with scarlet and blue tufts of worsted, called epinglettes, worn by the Bretons in their hats as a token of their having made a pilgrimage. We saw exhibited the photograph of a young lady, said to have lately recovered from paralysis after bathing in the holy well. So world-wide is the fame of Ste. Anne d'Auray that a traveller mentions having seen at her shrine an embroidered altar-cloth of Irish damask, with "Irlande: Reconnaissance a Sainte Anne, 1850," woven into the pattern. The convent, with its enclosure, the Scala Sancta, fountain, and miraculous bush, all date from the seventeenth century. There is a railway station for Ste. Anne, within two miles of the church.
Returning to Auray, we went to the Chartreuse, which owes its origin to the chapel of Saint Michel-du-Champ founded (1382) by John de Montfort, afterwards Duke John IV., on the spot where, in 1364, he gained the battle of Auray, which obtained for him the duchy of Brittany. The chapel is close to the railway station. In the fifteenth century it was given to the Chartreux, and became a monastery of the order which existed until the Revolution. The present church was built at the end of the reign of Louis XV.
The battle was fought on the marshy plain by the side of the muddy river Alree. It is fully described by Froissart. In the two armies were assembled all the chivalry of England, France and Brittany. The Breton-English were commanded by Sir John Chandos; the French, by Du Guesclin; with de Montfort were also Sir Robert Knollys, Sir Hugh Calverley and Olivier de Clisson; with Charles of Blois, Du Guesclin, the Comte d'Auxerre, the Viscomtes of Rohan and Tournemine, and Charles de Dinan. At the moment of the battle, the white greyhound of Charles of Blois deserted his master and ran to his rival de Montfort, who was on horseback, and caressed him, standing on his hind paws. De Montfort recognised the dog by his collar, ornamented with the arms of Brittany, and this incident passed through his army as a favourable omen. The dog was known to have been the gift of a witch to Duke John the Good, who bequeathed it to his niece Jeanne, wife of Charles of Blois.
Both armies heard mass, confessed themselves, and received the Communion before they opened the battle. The war cry of Charles was, "In the name of God and St. Ives," Montfort repeated the motto of his family, "Malo mori quam foedari" (better to die than be sullied), and his troops advanced to the onset to the cry of "Malo." Both chiefs wore the ermines emblazoned on their armour and their standards; and relatives and friends were ranged in battle array against each other. Following the tactics which had been successful at Cressy and Poitiers, Chandos quietly awaited the impetuous attack of the Franco-Breton army, which was unable to shake their antagonists, who returned the charge. The melee was fearful, but the battle was in favour of the English. Charles performed prodigies of valour. In vain Rohan and Laval rallied round him with the flower of the Breton knights; the prince was a prisoner, and an English soldier despatched him by plunging a dagger into his throat. Du Guesclin sustained all the force of the fight with his heavy steel mace, his battle-axe and his sword; but his mace was broken, the handle of his axe carried away, his sword shivered, and he had no other weapon left but his gauntlets, and was nearly overpowered by numbers, when Chandos, who fought with a battle-axe, entreated him to surrender, "Messire Bertrand, rendez-vous, cette journee n'est pas votre; il faut ceder a la fortune, une autre fois vous serez plus heureux." Convinced of the truth of Chandos' words, Du Guesclin surrendered to him the handle of his sword. Beaumanoir was among the prisoners; and Clisson, who never left the field, lost an eye in the conflict.
A hair shirt was found, with thick knotted cords round the waist, upon the body of Charles, for he delighted in deeds of mortification. He often used to place pebbles in his shoes, and once walked two leagues barefoot in the snow to visit the relics of St. Ives, in consequence of which he was laid up for three months. He was buried at Guingamp, and his widow and children desired his canonisation; but de Montfort, fearing such a step would render him unpopular in Brittany, persuaded Pope Gregory XI. to refuse it.
Du Guesclin, after he recovered his liberty, was destined, three years later, to be a second time the prisoner of the English at Navarrete, when the Black Prince replaced on his throne the cruel, perfidious Don Pedro. When Sir Hugh Calverley asked for the freedom of Du Guesclin, he was met by the reply, "Il ne faut pas lacher ce dogue de Bretagne, si fatal aux Anglais." It was represented to the Black Prince that report ascribed his detention to fear or jealousy; upon which he sent for Du Guesclin, who told him he was tired of listening to the squeaking of the mice in his prison, and longed to hear the nightingales of Brittany. He named his own ransom at 100,000 florins, the Black Prince reduced it to 60,000; and the Princess of Wales contributed 20,000. It was paid by Charles V. "Had it been ten millions," says his biographer, "France would have paid it all." In the Musee des Archives at Paris is preserved an order of Charles V. to his treasurer, to prepare 30,000 Spanish doublons, to be paid to the Prince of Wales for the ransom of Du Guesclin, adding, "il touche notre honneur grandement." This is the most ancient royal autograph in the collection. Charles calls him Bertran de Caclin. The Constable, in a deed of gift of the Chateau of Cachant to the Duke of Anjou, signs "Bertrain."
A school for deaf and dumb occupies the Chartreuse, directed by the Soeurs de la Sagesse. We were shown round by a deaf and dumb guide, who made us write on his slate what we could not explain on our fingers, and he also wrote his reply. He showed us a series of paintings, copies of Le Soeur's Life of St. Bruno in the Louvre, which are said to have been executed by the monks of the Chartreuse. Attached to the church is a sepulchral chapel containing the bones of the victims of the unfortunate descent on Quiberon, when the immense armament of French royalists who were landed in British ships, perished. They were commanded by d'Hervilly, an old officer of the Constitutional Guard of Louis XVI., and he had for lieutenant Count Charles de Sombreuil, whose sister had rendered the name illustrious by her heroism in the Reign of Terror. They landed at Carnac, where Georges Cadoudal and a band of Chouans awaited their arrival. Hoche, at the head of a republican army, hastened to meet them. Every thing depended upon their rapidity of action, but three days were lost in disputes about the command among the emigrant generals. They took possession of the peninsula of Quiberon, a strip of land about six miles long by three wide, united to the mainland by a narrow tongue of sand a league in extent, called the Falaise. Fort Penthievre, placed on the plateau of a steep rock, and bathed on each side by the sea between the peninsula and the Falaise, defends the approach by land. The emigrant army was protected by the English fleet which lay in the bay of Quiberon, one of the safest and most sheltered on the coast. The defence of Fort Penthievre was entrusted to some republican soldiers taken from the English prisons. In a night encounter d'Hervilly was killed. Hoche marched upon Fort Penthievre, which was given up to him by the traitor soldiers. La Puisaye threw himself into a boat and gained the English fleet. The emigrant army was thrown into the greatest disorder; the "Bleus," as the republican soldiers were called, pressed close upon them, and Sombreuil, driven to the water's edge, and deserted by his troops, offered to capitulate, on the condition that the lives should be spared of all save himself. "Yes," cried the republicans with one voice. They demanded that the fire of the English corvette should cease, and there being no boat at hand, Gesril du Papeu swam to the English ship, and having delivered his message, returned and surrendered himself prisoner. It is said that Hoche considered the capitulation sacred, but Tallien arrived armed with full powers from the Convention to treat the emigrants according to law. The prisoners had been conducted to Auray; Hoche, unwilling to be the witness of acts he could not prevent, returned to Brest. Not one French officer would consent to be a member of the military commission who were to try, or rather condemn, the captives. It was composed of Belgians and Swiss, and it was difficult to induce the soldiers to execute the sentence. Sombreuil and a few others were shot at Vannes. The execution of the rest took place in a field now called the Champ des Martyrs. They were brought out in twenties, and placed before a trench, dug beforehand, and shot. The massacre lasted three weeks. In all there were 952 victims. Two chapels have been erected; the one attached to the Chartreuse, and the other on the Champ des Martyrs. That in the Chartreuse has inscribed over the front, in letters of gold, "France in tears has raised it." The interior walls are overlaid with black and white marble, with two marble bas-reliefs by David of Angers: one representing the Duc d'Angouleme praying over the bones of the victims in 1814, when they were transferred from the Champ des Martyrs to the Chartreuse; the other, the laying of the first stone of the mausoleum by the Duchesse d'Angouleme in 1823. In 1829 the solemn inauguration of the expiatory monument took place; and it must have been touching to the spectators to have assisted at the ceremony with the Duchesse d'Angouleme, daughter of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette, niece of the martyr saint the Princess Elizabeth, and herself long subjected to imprisonment and indignities. Only one year after this ceremony she again took the road to exile, where she ended her troublous life, a pattern of piety and resignation—
"Sa mort fut le soir d'un beau jour."
In the centre of the mausoleum is the vault containing the bones, and over it a sarcophagus on a pedestal, upon which are inscribed the names of the victims. On the sarcophagus are busts of Sombreuil and the other chiefs of the expedition; and a profile of Monseigneur d'Herce, Bishop of Dol, one of the victims. Of the bas-reliefs on the mausoleum, one represents the heroic act of Gesril du Papeu, with the words "I hoped in God, and shall not be afraid;" the other, the landing of the emigrants on the shore of Carnac, with "All my brothers are dead for Israel;"—these inscriptions are all in Latin. Others are round the monument:—"Unworthily slain for God and the King;"—"Precious before God is the blood of his saints;"—"For our lives and our laws;"—"You will receive a greater glory and an eternal name." Our deaf and dumb guide let a light down into the vault to show us the bones of the victims, collected in one common sepulchre. The Chartreuse convent therefore commemorates two great tragedies of history: in ancient times the battle of Auray, which caused the death of Charles of Blois, the captivity of Du Guesclin, and the slaughter of the flower of Breton chivalry by the swords of their fellow Bretons. In modern days, the massacre of the royalists at Quiberon—both the horrible consequence of civil war.
We then repaired to the "Champ des Martyrs," where took place the execution of the royalists. At the end of an avenue of silver firs is the expiatory chapel, with a granite portico, in the Doric style. Above is inscribed, "It is here they fell," and "The memory of the just shall be eternal."
On the tomb is written, "Tombeau des royalistes courageux defenseurs de l'autel et du trone, ils tomberent martyrs de leurs nobles efforts. Quel Francais penetre des droits de la couronne ignore ce qu'il doit a ces illustres morts."
The inn Pavilion d'en Haut is particularly comfortable and reasonable, and the people very obliging. Wishing to taste the crepes we had seen before, they procured some, and gave them to us hot—we thought they resembled a greasy crumpet.
Auray is a good central point for visiting the Celtic remains:—menhirs, dolmens, cromlechs, all of which are as plentiful here as are calvaries, shrines, and churches in Leon. They seem all concentrated on these dreary wild landes, sometimes covered with furze bushes, at others strewn along the coast.
Next day we drove to Locmariaker, nine miles from Auray, through Crach. On the right is the river or estuary of that name; over which a bridge is contemplated at La Trinite, to communicate with Carnac. Locmariaker is at the extremity of the peninsula formed by the rivers of Crach and Auray, at the entrance of the Morbihan. It must have been a place of some importance in the time of the Roman occupation of Gaul, as there are the remains of a circus, whose walls now enclose the cemetery, of a Gallo-Roman house, with baths, frescoed walls, and marble pavement. We picked up some fragments of Roman bricks which lie strewn upon the ground in great abundance. Midst these Roman remains are gigantic menhirs, barrows, and dolmens, vestiges of a still more ancient race. Locmariaker has two large tumuli, both vast tombs.
We first visited the Manne-er-Hroek, the Montagne de la Fee, or de la Femme, which bears in the marine charts the name of "Butte de Cesar," for it was the fashion with antiquaries to attribute to Caesar and the Romans every Celtic monument, although bearing no resemblance whatever to any work of these conquerors. The Montagne de la Fee is a galgal or tumulus of elliptic form, about thirty feet high, formed of dry stones. It was opened in 1863, and found to contain a sepulchral chamber or dolmen, outside of which lay a granite stone above three feet long, inscribed with various figures, and, in the middle, a cartouche, with hatchet-shaped characters. There were also found a number of celts (stone hatchets or knives), a green jasper necklace, and some glass beads, which have been transferred to the museum at Vannes. The guide who furnished the light and showed us the grotto is the widow of a Polish officer. She had a Scotch terrier, which she wanted us to accept. The legend of the mound is this:—A widow had the misfortune of losing her only solace, her son, compelled by law to embark for foreign lands. Years rolled by; he did not return. All said he was lost; but the heart of a mother hopes for ever, and the sad Armorican went every day to the point of Kerpenhir, whence she surveyed the ocean, and searched the depths of the horizon with tearful eyes for the purple sail(16) which was to bring joy and peace to her dwelling. One day, when she was returning sad as usual to her desolate home, she was accosted by an old woman, who enquired the cause of her troubles; and, on hearing them, advised her to heap a pile of stones, so that, mounting on the summit, she might see to a greater distance, and perhaps discern the long looked-for vessel. During the whole night the two women worked, and carried in their aprons the stones they gathered on the heath. In the morning their task was finished, and the Bretonne was scared to see the enormous heap that had been piled together; but the other quieted her fears, and helped her to climb to the top, whence soon the happy mother beheld the vessel of her son. The fairy, her assistant, had disappeared. This story evidently bears a vague tradition of this tumulus having been raised by a woman, and of some maritime expedition made by him for whom it was probably destined. The name of fairy is attached in Brittany to everything—mountains, springs, grottoes, rocks; every accident in nature is explained by a fairy origin.
The next object we saw is also attributed to the fairies, the great menhir, called Men-er-Groach, or stone of the fairies. It is the largest menhir known, but it has been broken into three pieces, some say by thunder. Put together, it measures about 67 feet in length, and is 16 feet in diameter. The wonder is how it was placed there, for it is little less than the obelisk of St. Peter's, which took 800 to 900 men and 70 horses nearly a year to raise,—a work which was the great triumph of Fontana the engineer. The menhir is estimated to be one-third the height of Notre Dame at Paris.
Lying also prostrate on the ground, by the side of it, is a smaller menhir, which is, however, above 30 feet long.
Close to these gigantic menhirs is the large dolmen (Breton, daul, table, and moen, stone), known as the "Table de Cesar," or the "Dol des Marchands." We walked under it to see the curious hatchet-shaped figure sculptured on one of the upper stones. The common belief is that these dolmens or table-stones were Druidic altars, and the guides will show you the furrows for the blood of the human sacrifice to run down; but human bones having been found under some of these dolmens, lead one to suppose they were tombs. In the Scandinavian countries the peasants call them "Giants' Graves."
The other great tumulus of Locmariaker is the Mont Heleu or Manne-Lud, also opened in 1863, and supposed to have been the sepulchre of a number of persons, perhaps of a whole generation. It has, like the Montagne de la Fee, a galleried chamber or dolmen, the floor formed of an enormous slab across the centre, on which is a sculpture resembling a celt; other sculptured stones were found in the same chamber. At the other end of the dolmen was an avenue of stones, some supporting the skeletons of horses' heads. This tumulus was probably the tomb of some great warrior: the horses' skeletons were the remains of a sacrifice, and the human bones of beings who had been immolated to accompany the earthly remains of their great chief to another world.
We took a boat for Gavr' Inis, or the Goat Island, and embarked on the Morbihan (Breton, Little Sea), an inland sea, that gives its name to the department. Shut out from the ocean by the two peninsulas of Locmariaker and Rhuys, which form a narrow gully between the points of Kerpenhir and Port Navalo, this sea contains an archipelago of islands, numbering, according to tradition, as many as the days in the year. Of these, the Ile aux Moines is the largest. The arms of the sea forming the rivers of Auray and Vannes run into it. The navigation of the Morbihan is very dangerous, the ocean entering it by this narrow opening in three distinct currents; it is an endless labyrinth of rocks and water; its granite shores, torn by the sea, are indented with creeks, capes, and inlets.
Gavr' Inis is a small island, surmounted by a tumulus, which forms a conspicuous object, seen from all the mounds and dolmens around. It is a galgal of heaped stones, in the centre of which is a dolmen or galleried chamber, which was opened in 1832, and is the most curious monument in the Morbihan. The gallery, with its square sepulchral chamber at the end, is above fifty feet long and about five wide, composed of two rows of granite menhirs, or upright stones, which form the sides, with horizontal stones resting on them, ending in a chamber consisting of eight menhirs, with an enormous slab, thirteen feet long, placed over them horizontally to form the roof, and another, nearly as large, to form the floor. These stones are of granite, and no cement is used to unite them. They are covered with incised figures of unknown meaning: sculptures in concentric whorls or circles, as if tattoed like the cheek of a New Zealander; and the only forms to be distinguished are serpent-like figures, and the representation of an axe, similar to those to be seen in the Grotte des Fees, the Dol des Marchands, and the Manne-Lud. In one of the side stones of the chamber are two handle-looking projections, with a recess behind, said, probably erroneously, to be the place where the victims were bound. No celts or other objects of antiquity were found in the grotto, which must have been previously rifled of its contents. These sculptures cannot have been executed without the use of metal instruments. There are also Celtic remains in the Ile aux Moines and other islands of the Morbihan, but our guide did not encourage us to extend our sail to visit them. The current between the island and Port Navalo is sometimes of great rapidity and violence.
Next day we went to Carnac to see its marvellous avenues of menhirs. The Celtic remains here are of a different character from those of Locmariaker. Here there is quantity, at Locmariaker size. The monuments of the last are covered with strange characters and signs; in Carnac they are all plain and silent, according to the laws of the Druids, who prohibited writing, in the fear of thereby divulging their mysteries, and also that the people might not neglect to cultivate their memories.
"Tout cela eut un sens, et traduisit Une pensee; mais la cle de ce mystere, Ou est elle? et qui pourrait dire aujourd'hui Si jamais elle se retrouvera?"—CAYAT DELANDRE.
Before reaching Carnac, we stopped at Kermario on the left, and got out of the carriage to inspect the army of large menhirs about the windmill. They are arranged in eleven rows, some sixteen feet high, placed with the small end in the ground. They are all of a sombre grey, many of them clothed with straggling lichens of various species. This wild heathy tract was covered with the blue flower of the dwarf gentian, and strewed all over with menhirs. Before arriving at Carnac, the road passes the avenues of Menec, all running in the same direction as those of Kermario, from east to west: among these are some of the largest stones. The third large group, at Erdeven, we saw on our way from Carnac back to Auray by another road.
"D'un passe sans memoire incertaines reliques, Mysteres d'un vieux monde en mysteres ecrits." LAMARTINE.
We do not pretend to enter into the various explanations attempted of this wonderful monument. The legend at Carnac is, that St. Cornely, pursued by an army of pagans, fled towards the sea; finding no boat at hand, and on the point of being taken, he transformed the soldiers into stones.
"Les soldats de deux rois idolatres Poursuivaient notre saint deja l'ami des patres, Et sur un chariot traine par de grands boeufs Le bons vieux Corneli se sauvait devant eux; Or, voici que la mer, terrible aussi l'arrete; Alors, le saint prelat, du haut de sa charrette Tend la main: les soldats, tels qu'ils etaient ranges, En autant de menhirs, voyez! furent changes. Telle est notre croyance, et personne n'ignore Que le patron des boeufs c'est ici qu'on l'honore; Aux lieux ou la charrette et le saint ont passes, Le froment pousse encor plus vert et plus presse." BRIZEUX.
St. Cornely is the patron of bullocks. When a beast is ill, his owner buys an image of St. Cornely, and hangs it up in the stable till its recovery. In the church of Carnac is a series of fresco paintings portraying the principal events of his life, and outside, a sculpture representing him between two bullocks. The head of St. Cornely is preserved here; the pulpit is of forged iron, and in the sacristy is shown a silver gilt monstrance of the Louis XIV. period, with a representation of the Supper at Emmaus, chased in relief round the foot. We walked to the Mont St. Michel, a tumulus of stones with sepulchral dolmen, opened in 1862, but now closed. It was found to contain objects of the "Stone" age, a number of jade celts from four to sixteen inches long, some perforated beads and pendents for a necklace, and there were traces of burnt bones. Like most monuments of Celtic origin, these tumuli were regarded with religious veneration; and the first teachers of Christianity, to enlist the old worship to the cause of truth, marked each of these monuments with the symbol of the new faith. Thus the cross was placed on the menhir, and a chapel built upon Mont St. Michel, and, as we have before seen, on Mont Dol, and other high places of Druidic worship. The little chapel dedicated to St. Michel, which surmounts the tumulus, forms a conspicuous landmark from every point, and commands a most extensive view over the stones of Carnac ranged in their eleven lines, on a treeless plain, the Morbihan, and the long dreary peninsula of Quiberon.
Returning by another route, we alighted at the inn at Plouharnel to see a collection of jade celts, gold torques, and necklaces of beads, found in the neighbourhood, belonging to the landlord, M. Bail, who has them all arranged in a frame. They were discovered in a group of dolmens near the village, opened in 1830, consisting of three grottos or allees couvertes, a kind of triple dolmen, covered over with a mound. The central grotto and gallery had been opened before. The second dolmen had also a grotto or allee couverte, in which was found an earthen pot, containing ashes and three gold necklaces. In the third were some fragments of pottery. Three gold necklaces, composed each of a single plate of metal, an inch and a half wide, with fragments of the earthen vessels in which they were found, together with stone celts and some pieces of bronze, extracted from the dolmen, we afterwards saw exhibited in the "Musee du Travail" of the Universal Exhibition of 1867. These dolmens belong to a much later period of civilisation than those of Locmariaker—to the "Bronze" Age.
The number of dolmens in the Morbihan is estimated at 250. In the department of Finistere they are set at double the number. All are supposed to have been originally covered with earth. The bodies are more frequently buried than burnt. The dolmens contain implements of stone and bone, occasionally gold and bronze, but never iron. To judge from the comparative quantities found in the different departments, it may be assumed that they are the work of people who have entered France from the west, and have gradually worked their way by the rivers and valleys further up the country. In this secluded spot we found a large English family located, ten in number; they had been living there several months. Before reaching Erdeven, at Kerserho, on a large lande or heathy plain, we arrived at another series of the great Carnac army of stones, of which they are a continuation. They are arranged in nine parallel rows, as may be clearly distinguished by standing upon one of the stones; but the lines are rather interrupted by hedges and ditches. Some are menhirs planted vertically on the end, others enormous blocks simply laid upon the soil. They extend half a league from north to south, more numerous than Carnac, but generally not so tall, the highest from ten to twelve feet, but very large. The road is strewed with Druidic monuments. At Corcorro, between Plouharnel and Erdeven, on a farm, a short distance off the road, is a dolmen, the largest in the Morbihan. Its original length appears to have been 45 feet; the part preserved is 24 feet by 12 feet wide, and is covered with two slabs: one of these is enormous, about six feet wide. It is used as a cart-shed, and, when we saw it, contained bundles of hemp and a hemp-breaker. One of the top stones overhangs the others, showing the dolmen to have been originally larger. A number of ragged children clustered upon the top, as if they had been accustomed to group themselves for a picture. They effectually prevented any of us sketching the dolmen, for, as soon as we began to draw, they all, in number about forty, came down from their height and pressed closely around us. From Auray we took a carriage to Vannes, a tidal port, one league from the gulf of Morbihan, and capital of that department.
Its people, the Veneti, were the head of the Armorican confederation, and commanded the fleet in time of war. Their vessels had sails of prepared skins, their cables were chains of iron. They traded with the Scilly Islands, and brought back tin, copper, skins, slaves, and dogs, objects of traffic with other nations. The Armorican confederation made a vigorous resistance against Caesar, who sent round for the Roman fleet and beat them in a naval battle in the Morbihan sea. The Romans had attached to their ships large sharp scythes which mowed down masts and rigging, and a dead calm rendering the enemy's ships immovable, they were soon taken, burnt, or sunk. This battle ended the war with the maritime states of the west. Caesar showed little mercy to the conquered: all the senators were put to death, and the rest of the population sold by auction to furnish the slave-markets of Italy.
We walked to the promenade, called the "Garenne," where Sombreuil, Renee de Herce, bishop of Dol, and twenty-two others of the emigrants, were shot. Sombreuil was about twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age, a native of Perigord. He always persisted in the same account of the capitulation. His last words were:-"Si j'avais pu imaginer que des militaires pussent manquer a leur parole donnee sur le champ de bataille, je n'aurais jamais consenti a une capitulation; elle me cause des regrets amers qui me suivront jusqu'au tombeau. Adieu, Messieurs, nous trouverons justice et clemence devant un tribunal ou la fraude des hommes ne saurait jamais parvenir." A republican officer offered to bandage his eyes: "Non," he exclaimed, "je veux voir mon ennemi jusqu'au dernier instant." Requested to kneel, Sombreuil answered: "Je le veux bien; mais je fais observer que je mets un genou pour mon Dieu, et l'autre pour mon roi." Thus ended the most ill-fated expedition that history has ever had to record.
The cathedral of Vannes has a richly-sculptured north porch of Kersanton stone, and another, facing the Rue des Trois Duchesses. Also, a Renaissance chapel, called the Chapelle du Saint Sacrament or du Pardon, with a hideous roof replacing the original. Adjoining are the remains of the elegant cloisters of the cathedral, with basket-handled arcades of the fifteenth century. In the cathedral is also the chapel of St. Vincent Ferrier, the great preacher of the fifteenth century, whose labours extended over almost every country of Europe—Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Great Britain. San Vicente Ferrar, a Dominican monk, was the son of an attorney, originally of Valencia, in Spain, of which city he is the tutelar saint. In Spain he led the way in preaching a crusade against the Jews and Moors, who were persecuted by the Inquisition with the most cruel bigotry. Invited to Brittany by Duke John V., he fixed himself at Vannes, where, after having evangelised the province, he died in 1419. He was buried in the cathedral. The Duchess Jeanne de France, daughter of Charles VI., was present at his deathbed, and insisted on laying him out. By her own desire, she was buried at his feet. Philip II., King of Spain, desired his relics, but did not succeed in obtaining them. The little house in which St. Vincent Ferrier lived is preserved (No. 13, Rue des Orfevres). A tiny room, up a narrow staircase, is now converted into a chapel, in which are shown the stone which served him as a pillow, his lamp, and other relics.
The Maison du Parlement or Chateau Gaillau is a curious old building, with its entrance by a stone staircase and turret. Vannes was the usual residence of Dukes John IV. and V., and had formerly three chateaux: La Motte, of which the Hotel de la Prefecture occupies the site; Plaisance, half a mile out of the town, where Duke Francis I. died; and La Hermine, scene of John IV.'s treacherous imprisonment of the Constable Clisson, which was razed in 1614. It had two towers—one demolished in 1770, the other still standing, called the "Tour du Connetable," because it was within its walls he imprisoned Clisson. The Duke had resolved on his death, to prevent the marriage of Clisson's daughter Marguerite to Jean de Bretagne, Count de Penthievre, son of Charles of Blois.(17) The story is well related by d'Argentre.
The Duke of Brittany summoned his barons and knights to a council at Vannes, and entertained them in the Castle de la Motte. He behaved in the most friendly manner, and invited the Constable, the Lords of Laval and de Beaumanoir, to see the castle of Hermine he was building. He led the Constable by the hand through the chambers, and when they arrived at the keep, said, "Sir Oliver, there's not a man who understands masonry so well as yourself; enter and examine the walls well, and if you say it is properly built, it shall remain." The unsuspecting Constable ascended the staircase, when the door was closed upon him and he was seized and loaded with three pairs of fetters. The Duke ordered him to be put into a sack, his hands and feet tied, and to be thrown secretly at night into the sea. But the Constable owed his life to the loyalty of Jean Bazvalen, who, like another Hubert, did not obey his master's commands, the laws of his sovereign being less sacred in his eyes than the dictates of humanity and honour. Clisson was set at liberty, on agreeing to pay 100,000 livres and to surrender the town of Jugon and some other fortresses. This perfidious attempt occasioned a war of three years, and was retaliated by Clisson's daughter and grandsons upon Duke John V.
The Tour du Connetable, which formed the north-east angle of the Chateau de la Hermine, is now used as a museum of Celtic antiquities, and contains various objects collected in the tumuli of the Morbihan. We observed one very large jade celt, eighteen inches long, found, we understood, in the Butte de Tumiac. At Vannes the States of Brittany held their sittings, and here took place the union of that province with France, 1532.
About twelve miles from Vannes is Korn-er-hoet, demesne of the Princess Baciocchi, cousin of the Emperor. It was formerly surrounded by woods and the interminable lande of Lanvaux, which stretches its desolate length along the Morbihan from Baud to Rochefort. This district had been, from time immemorial, the abode of some eighty families of gipsies, who lived there in clay huts under the rule of a chieftain. The sight of this barren wilderness had so impressed the Princess Baciocchi, in a tour she made in Brittany in the year 1857, that she obtained the sanction of the Emperor to reclaim it. She caused a temporary chalet to be built for her occupation at Kern-er-hoet, and, superintending the works herself, in a few years effected a wonderful transformation. A model village has been formed, with church and schools, a well-ordered agricultural population organised, farm-buildings erected, roads macadamised, the barren lande drained and reclaimed, and the chateau surrounded by a well-wooded park.
Great attention has been paid to the details of the dairy farm; all the disposable milk is made into Dutch cheese. The cows are those of Brittany and Ayrshire; the pigs from England. The whole demesne comprises about 1300 acres, and the benevolent Princess resides entirely on the scene of her labours, among the people whose condition she has so ameliorated.(18)
From Vannes we made an excursion into the peninsula of Rhuys, on the south of the Morbihan Sea. We first stopped at Sarzeau, where Lesage, the amiable author of 'Gil Blas,' was born, of whom it was written on his epitaph:—
"S'il ne fut pas ami de la fortune, Il fut toujours ami de la vertu."
Then on to the ducal fortress of Sucinio, situated on the borders of the ocean. It is a magnificent ruin, built in 1250, by Duke Jean le Roux, to deposit his treasures, in case an invasion of the French should compel him to leave his duchy. The position is well chosen, its situation on the seashore enabling him easily to embark his treasures.
This formidable "coffre fort" was a favourite residence of the Dukes of Brittany, who came here as a relief from the cares and ceremonies of a Court. Its name, of which Sucinio is a corruption, Soucy-ny-ot, synonymous with the Sans-Souci of the great Frederick, shows its intention. This locality was long celebrated for its fine air, and its peaceful character. Louis XIV. used to say to his courtiers—
"Desirez vous un pays de repos et de delices? Allez habiter l'ile de Rhuys."
Partly demolished, Sucinio presents a mass of now only picturesque ruins, a curious type of the architecture of the thirteenth century. Five of the eight enormous battlemented towers remain, and the flamboyant window of the chapel on the upper floor of the building is still preserved. Traces of the portcullis and drawbridge are visible. Over the gallery is an escutcheon, with a couchant lion holding the arms of Brittany, between two stags, also couchant, at the foot of a tree. The sea that bathed the walls of the castle has been driven back by the accumulation of mud and the crumbling of the walls.
Here was born Arthur III., Comte de Richemont, Constable of France, and afterwards Duke of Brittany. This illustrious man, equally great as a warrior and politician, does not take his merited place in the page of history, owing probably to the partiality of French historians, who were always jealous of the glory of Brittany. Except Du Guesclin, no other constable has rendered greater service to France.
A prisoner at Agincourt, where he commanded the van, he fought with the Maid of Orleans,(19) at Beaugeney, took Talbot captive at Patai, reconquered almost the whole of Normandy, entered Paris in 1436, and finally expelled the English by the crushing victory of Formigny, having staked his honour to drive them out of the kingdom. Seven years after, he succeeded to the ducal crown; but such was the confidence of Charles VII. in his loyalty, that he retained the supreme command of the French army with his new dignity. He reigned only fourteen months. Richmont always caused two swords to be carried before him when he appeared in presence of the King; a naked sword, as Duke of Brittany, and the other sheathed and the point turned downwards, as Constable of France. The title of Earl of Richmond, styled by the French Comte de Richmont, dates from the Conqueror. Alan Rufus, son of the Earl of Brittany, accompanied Duke William to England, and commanded the rear of the army at the battle of Hastings. For these services, he was rewarded with the hand of the Conqueror's daughter, and all that northern part of Yorkshire, now called Richmondshire, where he built, on the river Swale, the town and castle of Richmond. The title passed through Alice, daughter of Constance of Brittany, to Pierre de Dreux, and descended through him to all the Dukes of his house, until John IV., having gone over to the King of France, was deprived of the earldom by Act of Parliament, in the reign of King Richard II.; but Henry IV. again conferred the title upon his stepson Arthur, afterwards the celebrated Constable and Duke of Brittany.
We returned to breakfast at Sarzeau; then on to the Abbey of St. Gildas de Rhuys, founded on this inaccessible coast by St. Gildas, an English saint, the schoolfellow and friend of St. Samson of Dol and St. Pol de Leon, and which counted among its monks our Saxon St. Dunstan, who, carried by pirates from his native isle, settled on the desolate shores of Brittany, and became, under the name of St. Goustan, the patron of mariners.
St. Gildas built his abbey on the edge of a high rocky promontory, the site of an ancient Roman encampment, called Grand Mont, facing the shore, where the sea has formed numerous caverns in its rocks. They are composed chiefly of quartz, and are covered to a great height with innumerable small mussels. The tide was too high to admit of our entering into any of the grottoes, but the piles of dark rocks beaten into every form by the violence of the waves, rising sometimes to the height of sixty feet, are very imposing. St. Gildas, in the twelfth century, had Abelard for superior, who, on his appointment, made over to Eloise the celebrated abbey he had founded at Nogent, near Troyes, which he called the Paraclete or Comforter, because he there found comfort and refreshment after his troubles, but his peace soon ended on his arrival in Brittany. His gentle nature was unable to contend against these coarse, ferocious, unruly, Breton monks. As he writes in his well-known letter to Eloise, setting forth his griefs:—
"J'habite un pays barbare, dont la langue m'est inconnue et en horreur: je n'ai de commerce qu'avec des peuples feroces; mes promenades sont les bords inaccessibles d'une mer agitee; mes moines n'ont d'autre regle que n'en point avoir. Je voudrais que vous vissiez ma maison, vous ne la prendriez jamais pour une abbaye: les portes ne sont ornees que de pieds de biche, de loups et d'ours, de sangliers, des depouilles hideuses des hiboux. J'eprouve chaque jour de nouveaux perils; je crois a tout moment voir sur ma tete un glaive suspendu."
But if Abelard hated the monks, they equally detested him, and one day tried to poison him, but he escaped through a gate in the garden wall, still pointed out, to the sea shore, where his friend and protector, the Count de Rhuys, awaited him in a boat.
The abbey is now in the occupation of twelve sisters of the "Charite de St. Louis," who have a school for poor girls, and, in the summer, take in families to board who come here for the benefit of the bracing air of this fine wild coast. There is a kind of establishment for bathing in the little bay below the abbey. The board and lodging is moderate, three francs and a half a day, wine, tea, and sugar, not included. Boys are admitted up to thirteen, but the men are sent into the town.
Part of the abbey church is Romanesque: a semi-circular choir, with three round chapels and the transepts. The nave and tower are of modern date. The pavement is covered with tumulary stones. Four children of Duke John III. le Roux are buried here, and one of Joan of Navarre and John IV. In the Treasury are several pieces of plate, among which is a Renaissance chalice, with six canopied statuettes of Apostles forming the knop; and a cross of the same period, a chasse of St. Gildas, his head and arm both encased in silver reliquaries. His tomb is in the church. Encrusted in the wall outside the church are the figures of two knights on horseback in mailed armour, conical Norman helmets, long pointed shields, and lances in the attitude of combat. The church and convent of St. Gildas belonged to the family of Bisson, whose self-devotion is commemorated by a statue at Lorient. He passed here many years of his early life, and wishing to preserve the buildings from ruin, gave them as a present to the parish. St. Gildas is called by the Bretons St. Feltas. There is a rude coloured print in the church relative to the legend of Comorre, or Comor, the Breton "Blue Beard," in which St. Gildas plays a conspicuous part. The story, as told by Emile Souvestre, is this:—Guerech, Count of Vannes, the country of white corn, had a daughter, Triphyna, whom he tenderly loved. One day, ambassadors arrived from Comorre, a Prince of Cornouaille, the country of the black corn, demanding her in marriage. Now this caused great distress, for Comorre was a giant, and one of the wickedest of men, held in awe by every one for his cruelty. As a boy, when he went out, his mother used to ring a bell to warn people of his approach. He shot a child in order to prove his gun; and, when unsuccessful in the chase, would set his dogs on the peasants to tear them in pieces. But most horrible of all, he had had four wives, who all died one after the other, under suspicion of having been killed by either the knife, fire, water, or poison. The Count of Vannes, therefore, dismissed the ambassadors, and advanced to meet Comorre, who was approaching with a powerful army; but St. Gildas went into her oratory, and begged Triphyna would save bloodshed, and consent to the marriage. He gave her a silver ring, which would warn her of any intended evil, by turning, at the approach of danger, as black as the crow's wing. The marriage took place with great rejoicings. The first day six thousand guests were invited; on the next as many poor were fed, the bride and the bridegroom serving at table, a napkin under their arms. For some time, all went on well. Comorre's nature seemed changed, his prisons were empty, his gibbets untenanted; but Triphyna felt no confidence, and every day went to pray at the tombs of his four wives. At this time there was an assembly at Rennes of the Breton Princes, which Comorre was obliged to attend. Before his departure, he gave Triphyna the keys, desiring her to amuse herself in his absence. After five months he unexpectedly returned, and found her occupied in trimming an infant's cap with gold lace. On seeing the cap, Comorre turned pale; and when Triphyna joyfully announced to him that in two months he would be a father, he drew back in a rage and rushed out of the apartment. Triphyna saw that her ring had turned black, which betokened danger, she knew not why. She descended into the chapel to pray; when she rose to depart it was midnight, and she saw the four tombs of Comorre's wives open slowly, and they all issued forth in their winding-sheets. Half dead with fear, Triphyna tried to escape; but the spectres cried, "Take care, poor lost one! Comorre seeks to kill you." "I," says the Countess, "what evil have I done?"—"You have told him that you will soon become a mother; and, through the Spirit of Evil, he knows that his child will kill him, and that is why he has murdered us, when we told him what he has just learned from you." "What hope then of escape remains for me," cried Triphyna."—"Go back to your father," answered the phantoms. "But how escape when Comorre's dog guards the court?"—"Give him this poison which killed me," said the first wife." "But how can I descend this high wall?"—"By means of this cord which strangled me," answered the second wife. "But who will guide me through the dark?"—"The fire which burnt me," replied the third wife. "And how can I make so long a journey?" returned Triphyna.—"Take this stick which broke my skull," rejoined the fourth spectre. Armed with these weapons, Triphyna sets out, silences the dog, scales the wall, sees her way through the darkness, and proceeds on her road to Vannes. On awakening next morning, Comorre finds his wife fled, and pursues her on horseback. The poor fugitive, seeing her ring turn black, turned off the road and hid herself till night in the cabin of a shepherd, where was only an old magpie in a cage at the door. Comorre, who had given up the pursuit, was returning home that road, when he heard the magpie trying to imitate her complaints, and calling out "Poor Triphyna!" he therefore knew his wife had passed that way, and set his dog on the track. Meanwhile, Triphyna felt she could proceed no further, and laid down on the ground, where she brought into the world a boy of marvellous beauty. As she clasped him to her arms, she saw over her head a falcon with a golden collar, which she recognised as her father's. The bird came to her call, and giving it the warning ring of St. Gildas, she told it to fly with it to her father. The bird obeyed and flew with it like lightning to Vannes; but, almost at the same instant, Comorre arrived; having parted with her warning ring, Triphyna, who had no notice of his approach, had only time to conceal her babe in the cavity of a tree, when Comorre threw himself upon his unhappy wife, and with one blow severed her head from her body. When the falcon arrived at Vannes, he found the King at dinner with St. Gildas; he let the ring fall into the silver cup of his master, who recognising it, exclaimed, "My daughter is in danger; saddle the horses, and let St. Gildas accompany us." Following the falcon, they soon reached the spot where Triphyna lay dead. After they had all knelt in prayer, St. Gildas said to the corpse, "Arise, take thy head and thy child, and follow us." The dead body obeyed, the bewildered troop followed; but, gallop as fast as they could, the headless body was always in front, carrying the babe in her left hand, and her pale head in the right. In this manner, they reached the castle of Comorre. "Count," says St. Gildas, "I bring back your wife such as your wickedness has made her, and thy child such as Heaven has given it thee. Wilt thou receive them under thy roof?" Comorre was silent. The Saint three times repeated the question, but no voice returned an answer. Then St. Gildas took the new-born infant from its mother, and placed it on the ground. The child marched alone to the edge of the moat, and picking up a handful of earth, and throwing it against the castle, exclaimed, "Let the Trinity execute judgment." At the same instant the towers shook and fell with a great crash; the walls yawned open and the castle sunk, burying Comorre and all his fellow partners in crime. St. Gildas then replaced Triphyna's head upon her shoulders, laid his hands upon her, and restored her to life, to the great joy of her father.—Such is the history of Triphyna and Comorre.
On our way back to Vannes we saw on our left the Butte de Tumiac, or Butte d'Arzon, the largest tumulus of the Morbihan. It was opened in 1853, and found to enclose a chamber full of pulverised bones and various curious objects. From Vannes we also visited the stately castle of Elven, about four miles from the station of that name; not built on a lofty site, for, in the fifteenth century, the barons had descended from their heights to places more convenient of access, and where water was more easily obtained. The Breton feudal lords of Rohan, Rieux, Clisson, and Penthievre, no longer required fortified places as means of defence against the French and English, but, in consequence of their own internal divisions, to defend them in their wars with their duke or among themselves. The castle of Elven is situated in an insulated coppice wood, in the midst of the lande of Elven. It was the chief place of the lordship of l'Argoet (in Breton, "upon the wood"), and is also called the fortress of Largoet.
The ruins, which occupy a large enclosure, consist chiefly of two towers; the principal one, 130 feet high, is octagonal; the other, which is not above 100 feet in height, is split from top to bottom. The battlemented walls are nearly 20 feet thick at the base. A wide deep moat surrounded the castle, and it was furnished with subterranean passages and everything requisite to make it a model of the military architecture of the fifteenth century. The donjon has two granite staircases; one leads to the top, whence may be seen Vannes and the Morbihan, with its islands. Here, in 1793, the Royalists established signals. In the castle of Elven, Henry of Richmond, then only fifteen, with his uncle, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, were detained by Duke Francis II. for fifteen years. Fugitives after Tewkesbury, they were thrown by a tempest upon the shores of Brittany. Henry was claimed both by King Edward IV. and Louis XI., and was kept by Duke Francis as a pledge of the good faith of Edward towards Brittany. Perhaps also Francis may have entertained some ill-feeling towards Henry from his bearing the title of Earl of Richmond, which had been held for more than three hundred years by the Dukes of Brittany. Francis revived the claim to the title which Henry VI. had conferred (1452) on Edward Tudor, father of Henry. Subsequently, on the assurance of the King of England that he only required the release of Henry to invest him with the Order of the Garter and to give him his daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, in marriage, Duke Francis made over the Prince to the English Ambassador, and he was about to embark at St. Malo for England, when the Duke's Grand Treasurer (Landais) arrived, warned Henry of his danger, and helped him to take refuge in the sanctuary of the church, whence he afterwards withdrew him again to place him in honourable captivity for twelve more years, till King Edward's death. A party being formed in England, aided by the Duchess of Brittany, Francoise de Foix, Henry attempted a descent; but the plan being discovered, after seeing the English coast, Henry was obliged to return to Brittany and his ships were scattered in a storm. Again within his power, Landais listened to the offers of King Richard III., and agreed to give him up; but Henry, informed in time, left Vannes, threw himself into the forest, and escaped to France, where he obtained from the regent, Anne de Beaujeu, the assistance which enabled him to mount the English throne.
The castle of Elven, with those of Rieux and Rochefort, belonged to the Marechal de Rieux. Elven was rebuilt by him with the materials of the old; but they were all dismantled by the orders of the Duchess Anne in 1496, to punish her guardian for his revolt. Yet Rieux acted as he thought best for the welfare of his late master and his daughter, whose cause he defended against the interested views of the King of France. Rieux had that keen sense of honour which is one of the characteristics of the Breton gentleman. When he reproached Anne de Beaujeu, regent, to her brother Charles VIII., for having instigated the King to attack Nantes, contrary to his engagements, Anne replied, "He had no written promise." "Et quoi, Madame!" he indignantly exclaimed; "la parole d'un roy, ne vaut elle pas mille scellez?" Louis de Rieux, the last of the race, was shot on the Champs des Martyrs. True to the motto of his house, "A toute heure, Rieux," he showed himself ready "at any hour" to die for the altar and the throne.
Elven is the scene of M. Octave Feuillet's "Roman d'un jeune Homme pauvre;" and the keeper who shows the ruins points out the spot whence the "Hero of Romance" took the leap to prove his loyalty, and which gained him the hand of the lady.
Next morning we started early by rail to Questembert, to meet the diligence for Ploermel, twenty miles from this station, passing through Malestroit. We saw quantities of chestnuts on our road, and were told they were largely exported to England. They come principally from the neighbourhood of Redon and other places in the department of Ile-et-Vilaine, where they grow as abundantly as described by Madame de Sevigne, when writing from the Chateau des Roches, in the same department: "Pour nous, ce sont des chataignes qui font notre ornement. J'en avois l'autre jour trois au quatre paniers autour de moi. J'en fis bouillir, j'en fis rotir, j'en mis dans mes poches, on en sert dans les plats, on marche dessus, c'est la Bretagne dans son triomphe."
Ploermel derives its name (plo-ermel, land or territory of Armel) from an anchorite of the sixth century, who treated a dragon which ravaged the country in the time of King Childebert in the same manner as St. Pol de Leon disposed of the monster at Batz.
The facade of the church of Saint Armel has a number of grotesque carvings—the sow playing the bagpipes, the cobbler sewing up the mouth of his wife, &c.; but it is principally remarkable for its eight painted windows of the sixteenth century, lately restored, and the monumental effigies of two Dukes of Brittany; the one, John II., who was killed at Lyons, where he went to settle some differences with his clergy, on the occasion of the coronation of Pope Clement V. A wall, loaded with spectators, fell, and the Duke was crushed in its ruins; the Pope escaped with being only thrown from his mule.
The other effigy is that of Duke John III., or the Good, whose death was the signal for the War of Succession. He died at Caen. These tombs were formerly in the Carmelite convent founded by John II., who, on his return from the Holy Land, established the first Carmelite convent in Brittany, and brought monks from Mount Carmel to inhabit it.
The tombs were destroyed in the Revolution, but the two statues were saved. They are of white marble, and are placed on a monumental slab, side by side, with this inscription: "De tous temps la fidelite Bretonne rendit hommage a ses souverains." Duke John II. is represented in a hauberk of mail, the hood turned back, with cotte d'armes, shield, and sword. Duke John III. has his head encircled by the ducal crown, his hair long, his genouillieres, cuissarts, &c., of plate armour. His shield and cotte d'armes are seme of ermines, and by his side is the dagger of misericorde, which served to kill the fallen enemy unless he cried for mercy. When James II. passed through Ploermel after the Battle of the Boyne, a fugitive and a dethroned monarch, the Carmelite monks would not take him in; but he found in the little village of Penfra the hospitality they had refused him. Here is an establishment, directed by a brother of Lamennais, the celebrated author of 'Paroles d'un Croyant,' where people of all nations—Indians, negroes from Senegambia, and others—are educated and taught trades of every kind, and sent back to their own countries.
The people about Ploermel and Josselin speak French instead of Breton, the prevailing language of the Morbihan department. It is nearly seven miles between Ploermel and Josselin. Equally distant from each, at Mi-voie, in the centre of a star formed by avenues of firs and cypresses, is an obelisk set up to commemorate the famous "Combat des Trente," which took place on this spot in 1351, and on which are inscribed the names of the thirty who fought on the French side. It was during that period of the War of Succession when hostilities were carried on by the two Jeannes, Marshal Beaumanoir, the Breton commander of the garrison of Josselin for Jeanne de Penthievre, gave a challenge to Bembro', as he is called, the English captain who held Ploermel for Jeanne de Montfort and her infant son, in consequence of an alleged infraction by the latter of a truce, agreed upon between the Kings of France and England, in which it had been stipulated that the peasants and those not bearing arms should be unmolested. In spite of this compact, the English soldiers devastated the country and committed every kind of excess. Jean de Beaumanoir repaired to Ploermel to remonstrate, and it was agreed to settle the dispute by a fight between thirty warriors from each camp. The prophecies of Merlin were consulted, and found to promise victory to the English. The appointed place of meeting was by a large oak, the "Chene de Mi-Voie," on a lande or large plain, half way from each town. The battle began with great fury, at first to the disadvantage of the Bretons, when Bembro' was killed, which threw dismay among the English; but a German, who succeeded in the command, rallied their courage, and the melee became thicker than ever. Beaumanoir was wounded, and his loss of blood and his long fast produced a burning thirst, and he asked for water. "Bois ton sang, Beaumanoir, ta soif se passera," was the reply of Geoffroy du Bois; and Beaumanoir, forgetting his thirst and his wound, continued the fight. The English kept their ranks close, till Guillaume de Montauban broke them by a stratagem and threw them into confusion. He mounted his horse and pretended to fly, then suddenly turned upon the English with such force that he threw seven down and broke their ranks:—
"Grande fut la bataille et longuement dura: Et le chapple (carnage) horrible est deca et dela; La chaleur fut moult grande, chacun si tressua (sua); De soeur et de sang la terre rosoya (rougit). A ce bon samedi Beaumanoir si jeuna; Grand soif eut le baron, a boire demanda; Messire Geoffrey du Bois tantot repondu a: 'Bois ton sang, Beaumanoir, la soif te passera; Ce jour aurons honneur, chacun si gagnera Vaillante renommee, ja blame ne sera.'— Beaumanoir le vaillant adonc s'evertua, Tel deuil eut et telle ire que la soif lui passa; Et d'un cote et d'autre le chapple commenca: Morts furent ou blesses, gueres n'en echappa."—BRIZEUX.
Sir Robert Knollys, Sir Hugh Calverly Croquart, and others were made prisoners, and thus ended the Battle of the Thirty; gained, however, in a most disloyal manner, Montauban getting the aid of a horse, when all the other combatants fought on foot.
The Breton knights returned to Josselin, their helmets decorated with branches of the broom—
"In every basnet a bright broom flower;"
the place where the battle was fought running, according to the French poem,
"Le long d'une genetaie qui etait verte et belle."
Josselin is celebrated for its chateau, where died, 1407, Olivier du Clisson, the contemporary and brother of arms of Du Guesclin, whom he succeeded in the dignity of Constable of France, which no one for some time would accept, not thinking themselves worthy of replacing him. Both differed widely in position and character. Du Guesclin, though of a noble family, had not the advantage of fortune like Clisson, who had immense wealth and landed possessions, which made him a kind of sovereign in the duchy. He willed away a million of money. Clisson was a statesman, Du Guesclin's sole glory was in arms. Clisson was cruel, intriguing, and insatiable for riches; Du Guesclin was humane, loyal, and disinterested. Both were equal in bravery and physical force: the lance of Du Guesclin and the axe of Clisson(20) carried all before them. Clisson joined with Du Guesclin in freeing the country from the "Great Companies," and his most celebrated action was the defeat of the Flemings at Rosbecq. Few subjects have been so powerful, or have filled so important a part, as Olivier du Clisson. He was true to his sovereign after his reconciliation, and to his children after him. John IV. had scarce closed his eyes when the daughter of Clisson, wife of Jean de Penthievre, came to her father and said, "It depends only on you that my husband receives the inheritance of Brittany." "How?" asked the Constable. "By your ridding yourself of the children of De Montfort." "Ah! cruel and perverse woman," exclaimed Clisson; "if you live long, you will destroy the honour and property of your children;" and he accompanied his words with such violent menaces, that, seized with affright, she fled from his presence, and falling down, broke her thigh. The prophecy of Clisson was fulfilled, as we shall later relate. The ancient chateau in which he died was destroyed by Henry IV.; the present building was raised by Alain IX., Vicomte de Rohan, through Alain VIII., who married Beatrix, eldest daughter of the Constable, by which Josselin descended to the Rohans,(21) a house yielding to none in antiquity and illustration, being descended from the ancient sovereigns of Brittany, and allied with all the crowned heads of Europe,—"Princes of Bretagne" they were styled. But the Rohan family became unpopular in the duchy, when John II. attached himself to Louis XI. and France, for the bribe of 8000 livres to himself and 4000 to his wife.
At the battle of St. Aubin du Cormier, which sealed the fate of Brittany, the Vicomte du Rohan betrayed his brother-in-law Duke Francis and the national cause, and fought on the side of France. He afterwards marched at the head of the French troops, and besieged Guingamp, where its brave defenders declared, "As long as there is a duchess in Brittany, we will not give up her towns." But they took Pontrieux and Concarneau, and in 1491 the Vicomte du Rohan was appointed by Charles VIII. Lieutenant-General in Lower Brittany. He was called by his countrymen the "Felon Prince;" and so detested was he and his race, that it passed into a proverb to say of a mean, treacherous, dishonest person, "Il mange a l'auge comme Rohan,"—"He eats at the manger (that is, the table of the King of France) like Rohan." "Un peu de jactance," therefore, justly observes Daru, in the proud motto of the Rohans:—(22)
"Roi ne puis, Prince ne daigne, Rohan je suis."
The chateau of Josselin stands by a river, on which side it presents piles of towers and fortifications covered with slate, a severe specimen of military architecture; while on the other side, the cour d'honneur, we see one of the handsomest chateaux of the Renaissance yet remaining in Brittany. This facade is richly ornamented with sculptures of varied and fanciful design. Immense gurgoyles, in the form of serpents, stretching from the roof to the base, pierced balustrades or galleries of lace-like delicacy, in which are introduced, according to the fashion of the period, the initial letters of the Vicomte Alain, A and V interlaced. The old Rohan motto, "A plus," and the escutcheon of gules, nine mascles or lozenges, occur in every part of this gorgeous front, and also on the finely-carved chimneypiece of the reception room (salle d'honneur). The whole of the chateau is in course of restoration by the Prince de Leon.
In the church of Josselin is the tomb of the Constable Clisson, with that of Marguerite de Rohan his wife; both statues were mutilated in the Revolution, but are now restored: they are of white marble on a black slab. Clisson is in armour, Marguerite has her hair plaited and confined in a network of pearls; she wears a long robe, with a surcoat above, furred with ermine. The motto, "Pour ce qu'il me plest (plait)," is in an oratory which belonged to Clisson, expressing his haughty and overbearing will. This same motto appears on his seal, affixed to a letter preserved in the archives of the empire, and he is recorded to have had it inscribed upon his Constable's sword, which, like Du Guesclin, he always wore unsheathed, to show he was ready at all times to fight the enemies of the crown.
There hangs in the church a picture of the finding of the image Notre Dame-du-Roncier, of which we relate the legend:—
Long before Josselin was a town, a poor labourer had remarked, on the spot where now stands the church of Notre Dame, a bramble bush, which the frost and snow of the roughest winters never deprived of its leaves, but it always remained fresh and green. Surprised at this strange phenomenon, he dug the soil under the bramble, and discovered a wooden statue of the Virgin. A marvellous light played round the head of the image. The man carried it home; but next morning, to his surprise, he found the statue under the same bush whence he had taken it. The miracle was repeated several times, and soon attracted crowds of devotees. A chapel was built to deposit the sacred image, houses followed next, and a little town gradually formed, which the Comte de Porhoet surrounded with walls, and Josselin, his son, endowed with his name, 1030. Such was the rise of Josselin. A celebrated pilgrimage still exists to Josselin on Whit Tuesday, resorted to by crowds of "aboyeuses" or barkers, people possessed with this kind of epilepsy, said to be hereditary in several families, and which is accounted for from the circumstance of a party of washerwomen having refused a glass of water to the Vierge du Roncier, who went to them disguised in the garb of a beggar. The merciless creatures set their dogs upon the pretended mendicant, and thus brought down upon themselves and their posterity this fearful malediction. The disease is supposed to return periodically about Whitsuntide, and only to leave the afflicted when they are carried forcibly to the sanctuary of Notre Dame to press with their foaming lips the fragments still remaining of the ancient miraculous statue which was burnt upon the public Place in the time of the French Revolution.
We left Ploermel at four o'clock in the morning for Montfort-sur-Mer, passing through Plelan; while the horses baited at a little auberge we got some hot coffee, and found a good fire in the kitchen. The landlady, shut in her "lit clos," did not disturb herself, but occasionally put out her head to give directions for our breakfast. On the left of the road is the forest of Paimpont, which formerly extended from Montfort to Rostrenan, a kind of neutral desert land, called Broceliande, and famous, under that name, in the history of King Arthur. It was the theatre of the fairies' most wondrous enchantments. Here was the fountain of Youth and also that of Barenton, where they came every day to draw water in an emerald basin. Here, too, the enchanted Merlin has lain sleeping for centuries, enthralled by his pupil the fairy Viviana, who has cast a spell upon her master she knows not how to break.
Montfort, where we joined the railway, is celebrated for the legend of the duck and its ducklings, and was the residence of the De Montfort family until Guy Comte de Laval and Sire de Montfort married Francoise de Dinan, widow of the unfortunate Gilles de Bretagne, when the Montforts left their paternal demesne for the chateaux of Laval, Vitre, and Chateaubriant.
The railway took us to Rennes, an uninteresting modern French town, the old town was burnt down in 1720, and straight streets have risen up, with no traces of its having been once the ancient capital of Brittany. Indeed, so French is it altogether, that the saying runs—"Bon Breton de Vannes, bon Francais de Rennes." It was here that Constance, heiress of the duchy, held her court, with Geoffrey Plantagenet, who, with their unfortunate son Arthur, were the only Plantagenets, dukes of Brittany. On the murder of Arthur, his sister Alice carried the ducal crown to her husband, Pierre de Dreux (called Mauclerc, from his animosity to the clergy), and from them descended the dukes of Brittany down to Queen Anne, whose double marriage conveyed the duchy to France and the Valois.
When Henry IV. made his solemn entry into Rennes, the Governor presented him with the three silver-gilt keys of the city, of rich workmanship; upon which the King observed, "Elles etaient belles, mais qu'il aimait mieux les clefs des coeurs des habitants."
The following year we made a tour along the banks of the Loire, and at Angers embarked on board the steamer for Nantes. The scenery down the Loire is rich, and the hills covered with vineyards, islands planted with willows, and sunny villages, or occasionally a gloomy fortress comes to view. Ingrandes is the frontier town, half in Anjou and half in Brittany, between the modern departments of Loire Inferieure and Maine-et-Loire. Lower down is St. Florent (Maine-et-Loire), with its recollections of the wonderful passage of the Loire by the Vendean army, so graphically related by Madame de la Rochejacquelin, and near the island of Meilleraie, where their brave General Bonchamps expired, after the fatal engagement of Chollet; his last act being the saving the lives of four thousand prisoners shut up in the church, and about to be executed by the exasperated Vendeans. "Grace aux prisonniers" were his dying words. Opposite St. Florent is Varades, where the Vendeans landed after crossing the Loire. Only a feeble post opposed them. Had the republicans lost less time, and sent a force after their victory at Chollet, much calamity would have been spared to Brittany, and the Royalists themselves would have been saved the terrible defeats of Le Mans and Savenay.
Passing Ancenis, which rises in an amphitheatre on the vine-clothed hills, and, with its suspension-bridge, is one of the most picturesque points in the river, we reached Oudon, with its tall octagonal tower; on the left, in the department of Maine-et-Loire, nearly opposite, stands the ruined castle of Champtoceaux, where Duke John V. was kept a prisoner by the implacable enemies of his house, the Penthievre family.
Marguerite de Clisson, widow of Jean de Bretagne, Comte de Penthievre, lived in retirement in her stately fortress of Champtoceaux, with her three sons, Oliver, Count of Blois, and his brothers. Marguerite inherited the pride, hatred, and cruelty, of her father, without his chivalrous loyalty and magnanimity. The kingdom was filled with troubles, and she thought it a favourable moment for reviving the pretensions of her family. John V. held his court at Nantes. She sent Oliver there to assure the Duke that his mother and brother were ready to do him homage; and he swore, on his own part, "de le servir envers et contre tous ceux qui peuvent vivre et mourir." John, delighted, made the young man share his bed, and treated him with the greatest distinction. Oliver expressed his regret that the age and infirmities of his mother prevented her going to court, and timidly insinuated the honour she would feel at a visit from the Duke. The Duke consented, and, sending off his plate to Champtoceaux, started with his brother-in-law, Count Oliver, and his attendants. Having passed the little river which separates Anjou from Brittany, they saw a man throwing the planks of the bridge into the water, and thus preventing the Duke's suite from following. At the same time, Charles de Penthievre, Margaret's second son, issued suddenly from a wood with an escort of lances and surrounded the Duke. There was no kind of indignity they did not make him suffer. He was tied upon his horse like a criminal, and conducted first to Clisson, Oliver leading him with a halter round his neck. The Penthievres, who would not let the place be guessed where they held their captive, conducted him at night, sometimes on foot, from fortress to fortress, from dungeon to dungeon; at the same time circulating the report that they had drowned him in the Loire. As a last insult, they took him to Champtoceaux, where Marguerite visited him in prison to exult over his misfortunes. Meantime the Breton barons, indignant at the treason of which their Sovereign was the victim, raised an army for his deliverance, and civil war broke out with redoubled fury. His heroic wife, Jeanne de France, showed an untiring energy to save him. Undaunted by the threats of the Penthievres,—who sent word to her, if she did not desist from hostilities they would cut her husband in pieces, nor by the messages from the Duke himself assuring her that her zeal would cost him his life,—she induced her brother, the Dauphin, to order the Penthievres not to attempt the life of their prisoner; she besieged, one after the other, all their castles, and at last compelled Marguerite to capitulate to save her own life. Finding herself and family in a perilous position, Marguerite agreed that the Duke should be released (he was at Clisson), and that she and her sons should retire where they wished, on their promise to appear at the summons of the Breton nobles. Immediately on his liberation, Duke John ordered the destruction of Champtoceaux. A parliament assembled at Vannes in 1424, condemned Marguerite and her sons to capital punishment, and declared all the Penthievre possessions to be forfeited to the State. But the culprits had all escaped the kingdom, except the youngest son, William, a child only ten years of age, who had been given as a hostage for the appearance of his mother and brothers, and was condemned to languish for twenty-seven years in prison, where he lost his eyesight—a victim to crimes in which he had not been an accomplice. John had made a vow, during his detention, to give, if he regained his liberty, to the church of Notre Dame at Nantes, his weight in gold; and most conscientiously did he perform his promise, for we read, "He placed himself in his war armour in the balance, and caused the opposite scale to be filled with gold till it had attained the weight of the first; that is to say, three hundred and eighty marks, seven ounces"—which sum was delivered over to the church. Vows of this nature are not unfrequently recorded. When Don Carlos, the ill-fated son of Philip II., lay ill, he vowed to give to the Virgin, on his recovery, four times his weight in gold plate, and seven times his weight in silver. The vow was fulfilled; but the Prince was placed in the scale in a damask robe and fur coat, and weighed only seventy-six pounds—so much was he reduced by his long illness.