Charles Dickens.

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of the Roman Catholic faith, on account of anything con-
tained in these pages. I have done my best, in one of my
former productions, to do j ustice to them ; and I trust, in
this, they will do justice to me. When I mention any exhibi-
tion that impressed me as absurd or disagreeable, I do not
seek to connect it, or recognise it as necessarily connected
with, any essentials of their creed. When I treat of the
ceremonies of the Holy Week, I merely treat of their effect,
and do not challenge the good and learned Dr. Wiseman's
interpretation of their meaning. When I hint a dislike of
nunneries for young girls who abjure the world before they


have ever proved or known it ; or doubt the ex offido sanctity
of all Priests and Friars; I do no more than many conscien-
tious Catholics both abroad and at home.

I have likened these Pictures to shadows in the water, and
would fain hope that I have, nowhere, stirred the water so
roughly, as to mar the shadows. I could never desire to be
on better terms with all my friends than now, when distant
mountains rise, once more, in my path. For I need not
hesitate to avow, that, bent on correcting a brief mistake I
made, not long ago, in disturbing the old relations between
myself and my readers, and departing for a moment from
my old pursuits, I am about to resume them, joyfully, in
Switzerland ; where during another year of absence, I can at
once work out the themes I have now in my mind, without
interruption : and while I keep my English audience within
speaking distance, extend my knowledge of a noble country,
inexpressibly attractive to me.*

This book is made as accessible as possible, because it would
be a great pleasure to me if I could hope, through its means,
to compare impressions with some among the multitudes who
will hereafter visit the scenes described with interest and

And I have only now, in passport wise, to sketch my
reader's portrait, which I hope may be thus supposititiously
traced for either sex :

Complexion .... Fair,

Eyes Very cheerful

Nose . . , . . Not supercilious.

Mouth . . - ... . . Smiling.

Visage Beaming.

General Expression . . Extremely agreeable.

* This was written in 184&


ON a fine Sunday morning in the Midsummer time and
weather of eighteen hundred and forty-four, it was, my good
friend, when don't be alarmed ; not when two travellers
might have been observed slowly making their way over that
picturesque and broken ground by which the first chapter of a
Middle Aged novel is usually attained but when an English
travelling-carriage of considerable proportions, fresh from
the shady halls of the Pantechnicon near Belgrave Square,
London, was observed (by a very small French soldier; for
I saw him look at it) to issue from the gate of the Hotel
Meurice in the Rue Rivoli at Paris.

I am no more bound to explain why the English family
travelling by this carriage, inside and out, should be starting
for Italy on a Sunday morning, of all good days in the
week, than I am to assign a reason for all the little men in
France being soldiers, and all the big men postilions ; which
is the invariable rule. But, they had some sort of reason
for what they did, I have no doubt ; and their reason for
being there at all, was, as you know, that they were going
to live in fair Genoa for a year ; and that the head of the
family purposed, in that space of time, to stroll about,
wherever his restless humour carried him.

And it would have been small comfort to me to have
explained to the population of Paris generally, that I was


that Head and Chief; and not the radiant embodiment of
good humour who sat beside me in the person of a French
Courier best of servants and most beaming of men ! Truth
to say, he looked a great deal more patriarchal than I, who,
in the shadow of his portly presence, dwindled down to no
account at all.

There was, of course, very little in the aspect of Paris
as we rattled near the dismal Morgue and over the Pont
Neuf to reproach us for our Sunday travelling. The wine-
shops (every second house) were driving a roaring trade;
awnings were spreading, and chairs and tables arranging,
outside the cafe's, preparatory to the eating of ices, and
drinking of cool liquids, later in the day; shoe-blacks were
busy on the bridges; shops were open; carts arid waggons
clattered to and fro; the narrow, up-hill, funnel-like streets
across the iliver, were so many dense perspectives of crowd
and bustle, parti-coloured night-caps, tobacco-pipes, blouses,
large boots, and shaggy heads of hair ; nothing at that hour
denoted a day of rest, unless it were the appearance, here
and there, of a family pleasure-party, crammed into a bulky
old lumbering cab; or of some contemplative holiday-maker
in the freest and easiest dishabille, leaning out of a low
garret window, watching the drying of his newly polished
shoes on the little parapet outside (if a gentleman), or the
airing of her stockings in the sun (if a lady), with calm

Once clear of the never-to-be-forgotten-or-forgiven pave-
ment which surrounds Paris, the first three days of travelling
towards Marseilles are quiet and monotonous enough. To
Sens. To Avallon. To Chalons. A sketch of one day's
proceedings is a sketch of all three ; and here it is.

We have four horses, and one postilion, who has a very
long whip, and drives his team, something like the Courier
of Saint Petersburgh in the circle at Astley's or Franconi's :
only he sits his own horse instead of standing on him. The
immense jack-boots worn by these postilions, are sometimes


a century or two old ; and are so ludicrously disproportionate
to the wearer's foot, that the spur, which is put where his
own heel comes, is generally halfway up the leg of the boots.
The man often comes out of the stable-yard, with his whip
in his hand and his shoes on, and brings out, in both hands,
one boot at a time, which he plants on the ground by the
side of his horse, with great gravity, until everything is ready.
When it is and oh Heaven ! the noise they make about it !
he gets into the boots, shoes and all, or is hoisted into
them by a couple of friends; adjusts the rope harness,
embossed by the labours of innumerable pigeons in the
stables ; makes all the horses kick and plunge ; cracks his
whip like a madman ; shouts " En route Hi ! " and away
we go. He is sure to have a contest with his horse before
we have gone very far; and then he calls him a Thief, and
a Brigand, and a Pig, and what not; and beats him about
the head as if he were made of wood.

There is little more than one variety in the appearance of
the country, for the first two days. From a dreary plain,
to an interminable avenue, and from an interminable avenue
to a dreary plain again. Plenty of vines there are in the
open fields, but of a short low kind, and not trained in
festoons, but about straight sticks. Beggars innumerable
there are, everywhere; but an extraordinarily scanty popula-
tion, and fewer children than I ever encountered. I don't
believe we saw a hundred children between Paris and Chalons.
Queer old towns, draw-bridged and walled : with odd little
towers at the angles, like grotesque faces, as if the wall had
put a mask on, and were staring down into the moat; other
strange little towers, in gardens and fields, and down lanes,
and in farm-yards : all alone, and always round, with a
peaked roof, and never used for any purpose at all ; ruinous
buildings of all sorts ; sometimes an hotel de ville, sometimes
a guard-house, sometimes a dwelling-house, sometimes a
chateau with a rank garden, prolific in dandelion, and watched
over by extinguisher-topped turrets, and blink-eyed little


casements ; are the standard objects, repeated over and over
again. Sometimes we pass a village inn, with a crumbling
wall belonging to it, and a perfect town of out-houses ; and
painted over the gateway, "Stabling for Sixty Horses ;" as
indeed there might be stabling for sixty score, were there
any horses to be stabled there, or anybody resting there, or
anything stirring about the place but a dangling bush,
indicative of the wine inside : which flutters idly in the wind,
in lazy keeping with everything else, and certainly is never in
a green old age, though always so old as to be dropping to
pieces. And all day long, strange little narrow waggons, in
strings of six or eight, bringing cheese from Switzerland, and
frequently in charge, the whole line, of one man, or even
boy and he very often asleep in the foremost cart come
jingling past : the horses drowsily ringing the bells upon their
harness, and looking as if they thought (no doubt they do)
their great blue woolly furniture, of immense weight and
thickness, with a pair of grotesque horns growing out of the
collar, very much too warm for the Midsummer weather.

Then, there is the Diligence, twice or thrice a-day ; with
the dusty outsides in blue frocks, like butchers ; and the
insides in white nightcaps ; and its cabriolet head on the
roof, nodding and shaking, like an idiot's head ; and its
Young-France passengers staring out of window, with beards
down to their waists, and blue spectacles awfully shading
their warlike eyes, and very big sticks clenched in their
National grasp. Also the Malle Poste, with only a couple
of passengers, tearing along at a real good dare-devil pace,
and out of sight in no time. Steady old Cures come jolting
past, now and then, in such ramshackle, rusty, musty, clatter-
ing coaches as no Englishman would believe in ; and bony
women dawdle about in solitary places, holding cows by ropes
while they feed, or digging and hoeing or doing field-work of
a more laborious kind, or representing real shepherdesses with
their flocks to obtain an adequate idea of which pursuit and
its followers, in any country, it is only necessary to take any


pastoral poem, or picture, and imagine to yourself whatever
is most exquisitely and widely unlike the descriptions therein

You have been travelling along, stupidly enough, as you
generally do in the last stage of the day ; and the ninety-six
bells upon the horses twenty-four apiece have been ringing
sleepily in your ears for half an hour or so ; and it has become
a very jog-trot, monotonous, tiresome sort of business ; and
you have been thinking deeply about the dinner you will
have at the next stage ; when, down at the end of the long
avenue of trees through which you are travelling, the first
indication of a town appears, in the shape of some straggling
cottages: and the carriage begins to rattle and roll over a
horribly uneven pavement. As if the equipage were a great
firework, and the mere sight of a smoking cottage chimney
had lighted it, instantly it begins to crack and splutter, as
if the very devil were in it. Crack, crack, crack, crack.
Crack-crack-crack. Crick-crack. Crick-crack. Helo ! Hola !
Vite ! Voleur ! Brigand ! Hi hi hi ! En r-r-r-r-r-route !
Whip, wheels, driver, stones, beggars, children, crack,
crack, crack ; helo ! hola ! charite' pour Tamour de Dieu !
crick-crack-crick-crack ; crick, crick, crick ; bump, jolt, crack,
bump, crick-crack; round the corner, up the narrow street,
down the paved hill on the other side ; in the gutter ; bump,
bump; jolt, jog, crick, crick, crick; crack, crack, crack; into
the shop-windows on the left-hand side of the street, prelimi-
nary to a sweeping turn into the wooden archway on the
right ; rumble, nimble, rumble ; clatter, clatter, clatter ; crick,
crick, crick ; and here we are in the yard of the Hotel de
TEcu d'Or ; used up, gone out, smoking, spent, exhausted ;
but sometimes making a false start unexpectedly, with
nothing coming of it - like a firework to the last !

The landlady of the Hotel de 1'Ecu d'Or is here ; and the
landlord of the Hotel de TEcu d'Or is here ; and the femme
de chambre of the Hotel de TEcu d'Or is here ; and a gentle-
man in a glazed cap, with a red beard like a bosom friend,


who is staying at the Hotel de 1'Ecu cTOr, is here ; and
Monsieur le Cure is walking up and down in a corner of the
yard by himself, with a shovel hat upon his head, and a black
gown on his back, and a book in one hand, and an umbrella
in the other; and everybody, except Monsieur le Cure, is
open-mouthed and open-eyed, for the opening of the carriage-
door. The landlord of the Hotel de TEcu d'Or, dotes to
that extent upon the Courier, that he can hardly wait for
his coming down from the box, but embraces his very legs
and boot-heels as he descends. "My Courier! My brave
Courier ! My friend ! My brother ! " The landlady loves
him, the femme de chambre blesses him, the garcon worships
him. The Courier asks if his letter has been received? It
has, it has. Are the rooms prepared? They are, they are.
The best rooms for my noble Courier. The rooms of state
for my gallant Courier ; the whole house is at the service of
my best of friends ! He keeps his hand upon the carriage-
door, and asks some other question to enhance the expecta-
tion. He carries a green leathern purse outside his coat,
suspended by a belt. The idlers look at it ; one touches it.
It is full of five-franc pieces. Murmurs of admiration are
heard among the boys. The landlord falls upon the Courier's
neck, and folds him to his breast. He is so much fatter
than he was, he says ! He looks so rosy and so well !

The door is opened. Breathless expectation. The lady
of the family gets out. Ah sweet lady ! Beautiful lady !
The sister of the lady of the family gets out. Great Heaven,
Ma'amselle is charming! First little boy gets out. Ah,
what a beautiful little boy ! First little girl gets out. Oh,
but this is an enchanting child ! Second little girl gets out.
The landlady, yielding to the finest impulse of our common
nature, catches her up in her arms ! Second little boy gets
out. Oh, the sweet boy! Oh, the tender little family!
The baby is handed out. Angelic baby ! The baby has
topped everything. All the rapture is expended on the baby !
Thtn the two nurses tumble out ; and the enthusiasm swelling


into madness, the whole family are swept up-stairs as on a
cloud; while the idlers press about the carriage, and look
into it, and walk round it, and touch it. For it is something
to touch a carriage that has held so many people. It is a
legacy to leave one's children.

The rooms are on the first floor, except the nursery for
the night, which is a great rambling chamber, with four or
five beds in it: through a dark passage, up two steps, down
four, past a pump, across a balcony, and next door to the
stable. The other sleeping apartments are large and lofty ;
each with two small bedsteads, tastefully hung, like the
windows, with red and white drapery. The sitting-room is
famous. Dinner is already laid in it for three; and the
napkins are folded in cocked-hat fashion. The floors are of
red tile. There are no carpets, and not much furniture to
speak of; but there is abundance of looking-glass, and there
are large vases under glass shades, filled with artificial flowers ;
and there are plenty of clocks. The whole party are in
motion. The brave Courier, in particular, is everywhere :
looking after the beds, having wine poured down his throat
by his dear brother the landlord, and picking up green
cucumbers always cucumbers ; Heaven knows where he gets
them with which he walks about, one in each hand, like

Dinner is announced. There is very thin soup ; there are
very large loaves one apiece ; a fish ; four dishes afterwards ;
some poultry afterwards ; a dessert afterwards ; and no lack
of wine. There is not much in the dishes; but they are
very good, and always ready instantly. When it is nearly
dark, the brave Courier, having eaten the two cucumbers,
sliced up in the contents of a pretty large decanter of oil,
and another of vinegar, emerges from his retreat below, and
proposes a visit to the Cathedral, whose massive tower frowns
down upon the court-yard of the inn. Off we go ; and very
solemn and grand it is, in the dim light : so dim at last, that
the polite, old, lanthorn -jawed Sacristan has a feeble little


bit of candle in his hand, to grope among the tombs with
and looks among the grim columns, very like a lost ghost
who is searching for his own.

Underneath the balcony, when we return, the inferior
servants of the inn are supping in the open air, at a great
table ; the dish, a stew of meat and vegetables, smoking hot,
and served in the iron cauldron it was boiled in. They have
a pitcher of thin wine, and are very merry ; merrier than
the gentleman with the red beard, who is playing billiards
in the light room on the left of the yard, where shadows,
with cues in their hands, and cigars in their mouths, cross
and recross the window, constantly. Still the thin Cur6
walks up and down alone, with his book and umbrella. And
there he walks, and there the billiard-balls rattle, long after
we are fast asleep.

We are astir at six next morning. It is a delightful day,
shaming yesterday's mud upon the carriage, if anything could
shame a carriage, in a land where carriages are never cleaned.
Everybody is brisk ; and as we finish breakfast, the horses
come jingling into the yard from the Post-house. Every-
thing taken out of the carriage is put back again. The
brave Courier announces that all is ready, after walking into
every room, and looking all round it, to be certain that
nothing is left behind. Everybody gets in. Everybody con-
nected with the Hotel de TEcu d'Or is again enchanted. The
brave Courier runs into the house for a parcel containing
cold fowl, sliced ham, bread, and biscuits, for lunch ; hands
it into the coach ; and runs back again.

What has he got in his hand now ? More cucumbers ?
No. A long strip of paper. It's the bill.

The brave Courier has two belts on, this morning : one
supporting the purse : another, a mighty good sort of leatheni
bottle, filled to the throat with the best light Bordeaux wine
in the house. He never pays the bill till this bottle is full.
Then he disputes it.

He disputes it now, violently. He is still the landlord's


brother, but by another father or mother. He is not so
nearly related to him as he was last night. The landlord
scratches his head. The brave Courier points to certain
figures in the bill, and intimates that if they remain there,
the Hotel de TEcu d'Or is thenceforth and for ever an hotel
de TEcu de cuivre. The landlord goes into a little counting-
house. The brave Courier follows, forces the bill and a pen
into his hand, and talks more rapidly than ever. The land-
lord takes the pen. The Courier smiles. The landlord makes
an alteration. The Courier cuts a joke. The landlord is
affectionate, but not weakly so. He bears it like a man.
He shakes hands with his brave brother, but he don't hug
him. Still, he loves his brother; for he knows that he will
be returning that way, one of these fine days, with another
family, and he foresees that his heart will yearn towards him
again. The brave Courier traverses all round the carriage
once, looks at the drag, inspects the wheels, jumps up, gives
the word, and away we go !

It is market morning. The market is held in the little
square outside in front of the cathedral. It is crowded with
men and women, in blue, in red, in green, in white ; with
canvassed stalls ; and fluttering merchandise. The country
people are grouped about, with their clean baskets before
them. Here, the lace-sellers; there, the butter and egg-
sellers ; there, the fruit-sellers ; there, the shoe-makers. The
whole place looks as if it were the stage of some great theatre,
and the curtain had just run up, for a picturesque ballet.
And there is the cathedral to boot : scene-like : all grim, and
swarthy, and mouldering, and cold : just splashing the pave-
ment in one place with faint purple drops, as the morning
sun, entering by a little window on the eastern side, struggles
through some stained glass panes, on the western.

In five minutes we have passed the iron cross, with a little
ragged kneeling-place of turf before it, in the outskirts of the
town ; and are again upon the road.


CHALONS is a fair resting-place, in right of its good inn on
the bank of the river, and the little steamboats, gay with
green and red paint, that come and go upon it : which make
up a pleasant and refreshing scene, after the dusty roads.
But, unless you would like to dwell on an enormous plain,
with jagged rows of irregular poplars on it, that look in the
distance like so many combs with broken teeth: and unless
you would like to pass your life without the possibility of
going up-hill, or going up anything but stairs : you would
hardly approve of Chalons as a place of residence.

You would probably like it better, however, than Lyons :
which you may reach, if you will, in one of the before-
mentioned steamboats, in eight hours.

What a city Lyons is ! Talk about people feeling, at
certain unlucky times, as if they had tumbled from the
clouds ! Here is a whole town that is tumbled, anyhow, out
of the sky ; having been first caught up, like other stones
that tumble down from that region, out of fens and barren
places, dismal to behold ! The two great streets through
which the two great rivers dash, and all the little streets
whose name is Legion, were scorching, blistering, and swelter-
ing. The houses, high and vast, dirty to excess, rotten as
old cheeses, and as thickly peopled. All up the hills that
hem the city in, these houses swarm; and the mites inside



were lolling out of the windows, and drying their ragged
clothes on poles, and crawling in and out at the doors, and
coming out to pant and gasp upon the pavement, and creep-
ing in and out among huge piles and bales of fusty, musty,
stifling goods ; and living, or rather not dying till their time
should come, in an exhausted receiver. Every manufacturing
town, melted into one, would hardly convey an impression
of Lyons as it presented itself to me : for all the undrained,
unscavengered qualities of a foreign town, seemed grafted,
there, upon the native miseries of a manufacturing one ; and
it bears such fruit as I would go some miles out of my
way to avoid encountering again.

In the cool of the evening : or rather in the faded heat of
the day: we went to see the Cathedral, where divers old
women, and a few dogs, were engaged in contemplation.
There was no difference, in point of cleanliness, between its
stone pavement and that of the streets ; and there was a wax
saint, in a little box like a berth aboard ship, with a glass
front to it, whom Madame Tussaud would have nothing to
say to, on any terms, and which even Westminster Abbey
might be ashamed of. If you would know all about the
architecture of this church, or any other, its dates, dimensions,
endowments, and history, is it not written in Mr. Murray's
Guide-Book, and may you not read it there, with thanks to
him, as I did! ,.... ., *,,

For this reason, I should abstain from mentioning the
curious clock in Lyons Cathedral, if it were not for a small
mistake I made, in connection with that piece of mechanism.
The keeper of the church was very anxious it should be
shown ; partly for the honour of the establishment and the
town ; and partly, perhaps, because of his deriving a percent-
age from the additional consideration. However that may
be, it was set in motion, and thereupon a host of little doors
flew open, and innumerable little figures staggered out of
them, and jerked themselves back again, with that special
unsteadiness of purpose, and hitching in the gait, which


usually attaches to figures that are moved by clock-work.
Meanwhile, the Sacristan stood explaining these wonders,
and pointing them out, severally, with a wand. There was
a centre puppet of the Virgin Mary ; and close to her, a
small pigeon-hole, out of which another and a very ill-looking
puppet made one of the most sudden plunges I ever saw
accomplished : instantly flopping back again at sight of her,
and banging his little door violently after him. Taking this
to be emblematic of the victory over Sin and Death, and
not at all unwilling to show that I perfectly understood the
subject, in anticipation of the showman, I rashly said, " Aha !

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 28) → online text (page 26 of 43)