Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

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should present the order ! What do you think of that
story ? Luckily Calantha did not go, and the shot
missed. But, in the meantime, all London is in arms,
including even the patronesses who were not parties
to giving the directions last mentioned.

" I was delighted with every part of your letter,
excepting that part of it in which you tell me what
Alava says of me. I don't believe he meant to apply
it to himself. If he does he is very ungrateful ; and
as to the others, whether men or women, he cannot
know the fact. The truth is that for fifteen or six-
teen years I have been at the head of armies with
but little intermission ; and I have long found it
necessary to lay aside all private motives in con-
sidering publick affairs. I hope that this practice
does not make me cold-hearted, or feel a diminished
interest for those I am inclined to love. If I may
judge by what I feel, I should say it does not ; and
I am inclined to attribute Alava's mot to his long
observation of the total indifference with which I
viewed everything that came before me, whether
relating to friend or foe, rather than to his belief of
its literal truth. At all events, I hope you will
believe so.

" I hope you will write to me whenever you may

' The Rebellion refers to a social opposition to the tyranny of Lady Jersey
and her court.

2 Lady Caroline Lamb. Calantha is the heroine of her novel, " Glen-


have a leisure moment. Remember me kindly to
Shelley, and believe me,

" Ever yours most sincerely,

" Wellington."

We were visited to-day by M. and Madame Briere.and
by M. Ducloux, the banker, who called in the evening
with his daughter, and drove us in his caleche to see
the country. There are above 1,100 English in and
near this place. In every hotel there is a perpetual
coming and going of travellers. Lord Byron is living
near here with Percy Shelley, 1 or rather, with his
wife's sister, as the chronique sccuidaleuse says.

Scarcity, owing to the destruction of crops, has
been felt here also, and white bread is forbidden, under
an amende of eight louis d'or. The new regulations
about the Swiss cantons appear to give general
satisfaction. There is, however, considerable jealousy
between the cantons of Vaud and Berne. The people
of the Vaud were much attached to Napoleon for
having given them liberty. At Geneva, in 181 5, great
fears were entertained that, on the return of Napoleon,
the Vaudois would rise. I am told that, in 18 14, the
Austrian troops under Bubna, 3 who passed through
this country, were extremely bad ; and though opposed
by French conscripts inferior in number, and without
discipline — many of them scarcely knowing how to
discharge their muskets — they were far from having
the advantage. As they passed along the left bank of
the Arve, they were forced to destroy the bridges to
secure their retreat — or, rather, to prevent being
taken in flank. We ourselves suffered from this

' Byron was then living at the Villa Diodati, on the opposite shore of the
lake. Shelley, his wife, and her sister by affinity, Claire Clairmont, were
living at the Campagne Chapuis, a few minutes' walk from Diodati. Shelley
and Byron had returned from their eventful tour round the lake three weeks
before these words were written. The "Chronique Scandaleuse " was

2 March 2, 1814. The Austrians were defeated, and lost a thousand men.
The French were commanded by Angereau, Dessaix, and Marchand.

232 MONT SALEVE [ch. xiv

yesterday, during an expedition to Mont Saleve,
being obliged to pass over dreadful roads, and to cross
the Arve in a boat The current is very rapid, and
we were roped across it. After crossing, we began to
ascend the mountain in our char-a-bancs — the most
disagreeable carriage that can be imagined on rough
roads. We were terribly shaken. These con-
veyances are, however, very safe ; indeed a char-a-banc
is indispensable on these mountain tracks, as no
other vehicle could pass along them. As we advanced,
the view became very fine. The Mole, 1 with its
abrupt summit, which I am told is not more than a
couple of yards across, makes a fine contrast, by its
sombre tints and shadows, to the bright mantle of
Mont Blanc. The other mountains, with their sharp
outlines, finished the distant tableau, while the centre
of it was occupied by the winding Arve, flowing
through a country which, from our point of view,
appeared to be flat, richly wooded, and profusely set
with villages and farms. At Mornex we left our
char-a-banc, and walked to Monti, a mountain village
of Savoy. The people here appear to be very poor,
At any rate, they are all beggars. Eventually we
reached the summit of Mont Saleve, and saw the
plains of Savoy extending to the Jura. To our right
lay Geneva, with its blue lake. We were amply
repaid for our jolting in the heat of a July sun, and
thoroughly enjoyed the mountain breeze. The Saleve
mountain has a strange formation, and from every
side we saw torrents descending to the plains below.
We passed under some rock fissures, from whence the
rain was dripping, and saw beneath us huge fragments
of rock, which had been arrested in their fall to the
Arve, giving a peculiar wildness to the scene, whose
grandeur impressed us deeply. After having, like
other foolish travellers, written our names upon the
rocks, we returned to Monti, and dined under the

1 Moleson.


trees. Here a Swiss officer joined our party, and
gave us some local information. While I wandered
through the churchyard I saw the following lines
inscribed upon a tombstone:

" Mort a l'age de trois ans. 1814."

11 Repose en paix dans ce lieu solitaire,
O mon Henri, tu faisois mon bonheur !
Tu n'as vecu qu'un instant sur la terre,

Mais pour toujours tu vivras dans mon coeur."

A weeping willow had been planted on the grave,
which had been recently ornamented with flowers.

We ascended the mountain behind Mornex to the
Hermitage, a small cottage with a smiling garden.
Its owner had died last year, after spending many
years in the adornment of this spot, where he had
lived the life of an anchorite. From the top of an
observatory in the grounds there is a superb view.
We were much struck by the sturdy fidelity of a little
six-year-old peasant boy. He had been entrusted
with the key of the Hermitage, and told not to admit
any one without an order from the lady to whom it
belongs. We had forgotten to procure permission, so
one of the gentlemen of our party tried to bribe the
urchin, with several francs, to admit us. The sturdy
chap shook his head, and placed his little hands
behind his back. And then, not to be tempted further,
he ran down the slopes of the mountain and fetched
his brother, a lad of only ten years of age. Our
golden key was as little efficacious with him as it had
been with his brother, and we should have gone away
without seeing the place if one of the party had not
told him that we were English. " Ah ! " said the boy,
" c'est autre chose ; alors je dois vous la montrer."
We saw it all ; and, as we were leaving, we tried to
press a few sols into their hands. The first boy
would take nothing ; and we had to use gentle

234 A VISIT TO FERNEY [ch. xiv

pressure to induce his elder brother to accept the
trifle which we insisted on giving them. The Swiss
are a fine race indeed. We returned home through
Chambesy. 1 By payment of a small toll we were
permitted to enter that town, the gates having been
closed for the night.

• • • • •

Went to Ferney. It seems that during the Revolu-
tion the inscription which had been placed upon the
church, " Deo erexit Voltaire," was removed, and
the tower destroyed. They have replaced the tower
in wood. The old sexton told us that Voltaire was
constant in his attendance at Mass. The present
proprietor of the chateau keeps two rooms open for
visitors, in the same state in which they were during
Voltaire's lifetime. Lord Fortescue, who was one of
our party, had visited Voltaire here, forty years ago.
The garden and the terrace are pretty, and in the
allees of acacias openings have been cut, through
which you gain a fine view of the country, and
especially of Mont Blanc. You cannot see the lake
from here, but the view towards the Jura is fine.

On the following day we went to a soiree at Lady
Dalrymple Hamilton's. 2 It was like a bad London
" Drum." Dined with Charles Ellis, 3 but heard
nothing new, or instructive. On the following day
Madame de Rouvillod called upon me, and took me
in her carrosse coupee to see several of her friends.
They all asked her the same questions, made the same
remarks, and seemed to be occupied with the same
little interests. Madame de Rouvillod is decidedly
superior to her surroundings. She is one of the
two-hundred-old families who do not mix with the rest

1 The Empress Josephine had a villa here. In 1815 it was inhabited by
Queen Hortense.

1 Jane, eldest daughter of first Viscount Duncan, married 1800 Sir Hew
Dalrymple Hamilton, Bart. She was born in 1774 and died in 1834.

* Charles Rose Ellis (1771— 1845), a Member of Parliament, and a friend
of Canning. Created Baron Seaford in 1826.


of the town. She said : " Les etrangers nous trouvent
tres orgueilleux ; mais n'ayant pas de noblesse, nous
n'avons que l'anciennete de nos families pour toute
distinction." They never intermarry, or associate
with the rest. Madame de Rouvillod disapproves of
the system which brings members of their small coterie
together on Sundays. She says that they quarrel
in childhood, and when they grow up, they are
bored to death by being so constantly in each other's
society. As they see too much of each other, they
have very little respect for age. When their parents
are present at reunions, they find the party very dull,
and when they are absent, the young people have
nothing better to do than quarrel. It gives point to
the proverb : " Familiarity breeds contempt."

Madame Rouvillod's grandson, aged five, was in the
carriage with us. Madame said : "II a deja sa
societe, et les enfants de son age se rassemblent tous
les dimanches dans les differentes maisons, oil ils
restent sans bonnes, ni parents, pour les soigner.
Aussi ils se battent bien ! Mais c'est impossible de
changer l'ancien usage."

In speaking on this subject with Monsieur De
Saussure, 1 I remarked how little conversation there
must be among people who had known each other
from infancy, and who have no relations outside the
town gates. He replied : " Ah, madame, nous
apprenons de bonne heure le metier de nous

After our drive I dined with Madame de Rouvillod
and Monsieur de la Rive, Head of the Police, an
agreeable old man. The children dined with us.
The dinner was not good. There was a curious
laitage which comes from Savoy, made of sheep's

1 Nicolas Theodore De Saussure, born 1767, died 1845, was the eldest
son of the celebrated physicist, Horace Benedict De Saussure. As a young
man he accompanied his father in the Alpine journeys, and assisted him in
his scientific researches.


milk, which is reckoned a great delicacy. 1 did not
like it. It turns sour so easily, that in summer
women bring it at night-time in baskets covered with

Next day was a fete-day, on which many prizes
are given away. A large vessel full of people went
far upon the lake, and returned after dark, firing many
small cannons, to the great glee of the Genevese.
The salute was answered by little cannons on the
shore ; after which there were fireworks in a garden.
It was like a second-rate Tivoli, and there were so
many vulgar English looking on, that I was (as at
Lady Dalrymple Hamilton's) bored to death. Next
day there was a cricket match on Plain Palais.

I shall with pleasure leave this little republic. It is
the most despotic government I ever saw. Everything
is done, or forbidden, by law ; and everything is on so
small a scale, that legislation becomes ridiculous.
The people are dull and commercial. The women in
general are pretty. They appear to be extremely
fond of the English, whose residence here has turned
Geneva into an English watering-place.

Mr. Brougham accompanied me to the library, to
the Plain Palais, and to other sights. The day has
been quite beautiful, and Mr. Brougham very agree-
able. After dinner at Lady Euston's, Mr. Brougham
accompanied me to Lady Dalrymple Hamilton's.
The room was full. Lord Byron looked in for a
moment, but on seeing so many people he went away
without speaking to any one. He was evidently very
much put out about something; and the expression on
his face was somewhat demoniacal. What a strange
person! They say that he will have nothing to say
to the crowds of English who almost dog his

Sunday, July 28. — We set off for Chamonix. The
female reapers were waiting at the gates of the town
for admittance. No foot passengers are admitted


until after divine service. I never before left any
place without regret, and I never wish to re-enter

• • • • •

The country is not particularly fine to Bonneville, 1
where we dined. During dinner it became cloudy,
and just as we entered the fine valley leading to Cluses,
the rain began, and with but few pauses continued for
the remainder of the day. I cannot imagine anything
finer than the termination of the Monts Vergi, which
are calcareous, at the point where they join those of
granite which overhang the road close to Cluses.
There appears to be no way through, and one expects
to be obliged to climb an apparently inaccessible
mountain. But passing through the narrow street of
this picturesque village, one comes upon a narrow
ledge, which runs along the bank of the foaming Arve.
That river dashes impetuously against its banks, and
frequently overflows the road to the utter discomfiture
of all vehicular traffic. On our left we saw masses
of granite of stupendous height, from whence huge
blocks are continually falling, to the imminent risk
of the traveller. Only a few days ago a large mass
of granite had fallen across our present path. The
neighbourhood of Maglan formed a pleasing contrast
to the wild scenery we had passed. Nothing can be
more luxuriant than the vegetation, the foliage of the
trees, and the clearness of the bubbling springs which
issue from the soil at our feet. The only thing needed
for our complete enjoyment was the hot sun, which
might have been expected at this time of the year.
How beautiful would then have appeared the sylvan
bowers of Maglan !

We passed the Nant d'Arpenaz, a waterfall which
descends 800 feet, and is finally lost in a cloud of

1 As an example of the varying moods and impressions of travellers, it is
interesting to note the words used by Hubhouse, who made exactly the same
journey one month later. ,l Went through a fine country to Bonneville."

238 ST. MARTIN ten. xtv

spray. It had the appearance of white smoke, or
combed wool, until, uniting lower down in a thousand
different falls, it dashes into the Arve. The rock
through which it issues is composed of layers in a
semi-circular form, which gives it a curious aspect.
The bright patches of verdure due to the continual
moisture from the spray — verdure upon which goats
were browsing — the deep red and grey tones of the
rocks surmounted by dark, diminutive pine trees
which kissed the sky, would inspire the brush of a
Poussin. I gazed enraptured on a scene glorified
by a gleam of the setting sun, and thought of the
poet's line :

" Bright, moist, and green, the landscape laughed around."

After leaving this fairy-land, we crossed over the
ancient bed of the Arve — a river which is perpetually
changing its course, and leaves a slimy sand through
which our horses had some difficulty in dragging us.
The postilion pointed out a former road, now covered
with water, over which last year he had to gallop hard,
as the ground was giving way from under his horses'
feet. We slept at St. Martin, an excellent inn, beauti-
fully situated, looking upon Sallanches, which is on
the opposite bank of the river. Behind it the ground
rises, clothed with fine oaks, like an English park.

July 29. — Heavy rain until noon, when it cleared
a little, and I mounted my mule, while Shelley and
Angelique, my maid, travelled in the char-a-banc.
We followed the windings of the Arve for some
distance. If I had been asked, I should have said that
it would be impossible for a carriage of any kind to
traverse such a road. The river had washed away so
much of the bank, which had been raised at least
twenty feet above the normal flow of the stream, that
a boat would have been very useful at times ; while, on
the land side of the road, huge boulders projected


nearly to the centre, which compelled the guide to
lift the hind wheels of the carriage to avoid a collision.
Fortunately our driver was used to this sort of thing,
and we got along somehow, as far as Chede. Here
we alighted and walked up to the cascade, by a path
which the late rains had made very slippery. We
were lucky in the day, for the sun shone brightly.
Alas ! we arrived too late to see the rainbow, which
had been so much admired by travellers. This roaring
torrent, as it dashes impetuously over huge blocks
of rock, on its way towards the Arve, is certainly a
sublime spectacle ; I have never seen a finer fall. We
ascended a steep mountain, and, in a downpour of rain,
passed the Lake of Chede. But we lost its especial
attraction, which consists in its wonderful transparency
and the brilliance of its reflections. The rain marred
everything ; and of course we did not see the summit
of Mont Blanc, which, in fine weather, is reflected in
that lake as in a mirror. 1

Soon after passing the lake, a violent thunderstorm
began, and we passed over the fragments of a moun-
tain, which, in 1776, became detached, and rolled over
a large tract of land. The country still bears traces of
the desolation it occasioned. Huge blocks of grey
marble have been hurled in every direction, as
though there had been a conflict between the Tita-
nides. In the midst of this wild scene, we reached
the black torrent, which dashes through a deep ravine,
its waters being coloured by the beds of slate through
which it forces itself.

The torrent often carries away great blocks of rock
on its furious course. It is not possible to bridge
it without great expense — and the poverty of the
people would not justify the outlay — so we had to
cross it in a primitive fashion. I passed through it
on my mule, and on reaching the opposite bank I

1 In 1837, a debacle of black mud anil stones descended into that lake, and,
filling it, wiped it out for ever.

2 4 o A TREMENDOUS STORM [ch. xiv

watched the passage of our char-a-banc. About
twenty peasants, male and female, who had followed
us up the hill, lifted the vehicle and stepped fear-
lessly into the rapid stream. I never saw a finer
subject for a painter. The women, who worked as
hard as the men, wore short red petticoats, and
broad black beaver hats. Their appearance, wading
through the black waters in the height of a tremendous
storm of thunder, lightning, and rain, made a picture
which I shall never forget. If I had the genius of
Salvator I could reproduce it upon canvas, for the
admiration of the world. I can see every detail, as I
write, with vivid distinctness. Bright gleams of sun-
light lit up the distant valley ; while above our heads
all was dark. Hailstones as large as nuts fell upon
us, and caused us to hasten our steps to Servoz :
but I did not in the least regret the wetting, nor
the temporary discomfort of that passage among
the mountains. I had seen Nature in one of her
sublimest aspects, clothed in all the majesty of wild

At Servoz we dined on trout and omelettes, and
then proceeded on our journey. The mountains
round Servoz form a complete amphitheatre, and
the plain is richly cultivated. Eventually we reached
a narrow pass, where the Pont Pelissier crosses
the Arve. From hence the track assumes a truly
Alpine aspect. It winds round a rock covered with
Alpine plants. The Arve flows through a fine
ravine, and on its further bank are masses of pine-
clad rock which ascend abruptly to the clouds.
The valley of Servoz is soon lost in the windings
of the track ; and before us stood Mont Blanc, whose
summit was tinged by a thousand varying hues,
kissed by the last rays of the setting sun. The
effect was sublime indeed, and brightened a land-
scape otherwise of the darkest tones. On reaching
the highest point we caught our first view of the


Glacier des Bossons. No painting that I have seen
gives one the least idea of the peculiar tone of colour-
ing of this wonderful glacier. It is a mixture of alum
and starch, as seen from a distance. To this, as you
approach nearer, is joined a transparency, of which
the blue tint of the opal comes the nearest.

As we entered the valley of Chamonix — which is
entirely pasture land — we were struck by the appearance
of the women. They are accustomed for half the year
to brave the mountain air and the scorching sun,
the other half to remain almost smoke-dried in their
chalets. This give them rather the appearance of
men than of women. They wear petticoats, scarcely
reaching to the knee, breeches, and cloak made of
goatskin ; while on their heads they wear a broad
black beaver hat. They carry long staves, with which
they hustle along herds of goats and cows, whose
deep-toned bells re-echo from the surrounding
mountains. The children are pretty, with quantities
of sun-bleached hair; and some of the very young
women look fresh and intelligent.

Both men and women are civil to strangers, whom
they invariably salute in passing. After crossing some
torrents, we walked to the Glacier des Bossons.
Several women followed us, offering milk, which we
drank to please them. The rain again pursued us, and
drove us back to Chamonix, wet and cold. Having
secured the services of the guide Pierre Balmat 1 for
the next day, we went exhausted to our beds.

July 30. — Alas ! all our hopes of fine weather
are destroyed. Snow has fallen on the mountains

' In 1784 Pierre Balmat and Marie Couttet accompanied De Saussure on
his abortive attempt to ascend Mont Blanc. Jacques Balmat, probably a
relation of Pierre, succeeded in reaching the summit with Dr. Paccard in
1786. De Saussure did not reach the goal of his ambition until 1787, only
six days before Colonel Beaufoy, an Englishman. In 1S16 Jacques Balmat
was, in his fifty-fifth year, still a vigorous climber. In September 1834 he
was killed by a fall from some rocks bordering the valley of Sixt, to the
N.E. Balmat was at that time seventy-two years of age.

242 CHAMONIX IN 1816 [ch. xiv

during the night, and the rain is so persistent, that
we were compelled to abandon our excursion to Mont-
anvert. In these circumstances we amused ourselves
by visiting the cabinet of a marchand naturaliste, where
I bought a collection of plants and minerals. We
wandered over every part of the house. Its chimneys
are immense, and have trap-doors at the top, which
can be closed at pleasure. The kitchen chimney is
in the centre of the room, and stoves are placed in
all the others. Cows, goats, and domestic fowls are
all under the same roof. The windows are extremely
small. They tell me that it is not unusual to have
from fourteen to seventeen feet of snow on the plain
near Argentiere. In the neighbourhood of the village
of Chamonix, there is not generally more than
four or five feet of snow in the winter months.
The inhabitants seldom leave the chalets, their
chief occupation being, as they told us, to keep
themselves warm.

At about four o'clock, we went to try to find
our way to the Source of the Arveiron. We
managed to get on the wrong side of the river, but
found an old peasant, who carried me over on his
back ! It was a lovely walk through a forest of
dark fir trees, and we enjoyed exploring our way to
the Source, which we accomplished by scrambling
over rocks surrounded by rhododendrons, whose
dark crimson flowers make a fine contrast with the
deep green of the firs which surround the Source
of the Arveiron. While seated on an immense
block of granite, the river dashing at our feet, we
contemplated the clear blue arch of ice, from whence
the stream issues. The mouth enlarges during the

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 33)