John Evelyn.

Diary and correspondence, To which is subjoined the private correspondence between King Charles I. and Sir Edward Nicholas, and between Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon, and Sir Richard Browne (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryJohn EvelynDiary and correspondence, To which is subjoined the private correspondence between King Charles I. and Sir Edward Nicholas, and between Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon, and Sir Richard Browne (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 46)
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and in many places pierced the clouds. Some of these
vast mountains were but one entire stone, betwixt whose
clefts now and then precipitated great cataracts of melted
snow, and other waters, which made a terrible roaring,
echoing from the rocks and cavities ; and these waters in.
some places breaking in the fall, wet us as if we had passed
through a mist, so as we could neither see nor hear one
another, but, trusting to our honest mules, we jogged on
our way. The narrow bridges, in some places made only
by felling huge fir-trees, and laying them athwart from
mountain to mountain, over cataracts of stupendous depth,
are very dangerous, and so are the passages and edges
made by cutting away the main rock ; others in steps ;
and in some places we pass between mountains that have
been broken and fallen on one another; which is very
terrible, and one had need of a sure foot and steady head
to climb some of these precipices, besides that they are har-
bours for bears and wolves, who have sometimes assaulted
travellers. In these straits, we frequently alighted, now
freezing in the snow, and anon frying by the reverberation
of the sun against the cliffs as we descend lower, when we
meet now and then a few miserable cottages so built upon
the declining of the rocks, as one would expect their
sliding down. Amongst these, inhabit a goodly sort of
people, having monstrous gullets, or wens of flesh, growing
to their throats, some of which I have seen as big as an
hundred pound bag of silver hanging under their chins ;
among the women, especially, and that so ponderous, as
that to ease them, many wear linen cloth bound about
their head, and coming under the chin to support it; but
guis tumidum guttur miratur in Alpibus ? Their drinking
so much snow-water, is thought to be the cause of it ; the

164G.] JOHN EVELYN. 233

men, using more wine, are not so strumous as the women.
The truth is, they are a peculiar race of people, and
many great water-drinkers here have not these prodigious
tumours ; it runs, as we say, in the blood, and is a vice in
the race, and renders them so ugly, shrivelled, and deformed
by its drawing the skin of the face down, that nothing can
be more frightful; to this add a strange puffing dress, furs,
and that barbarous language, being a mixture of corrupt
High German, French, and Italian. The people are of
great stature, extremely fierce and rude, yet very honest
and trusty.

This night, through almost inaccessible heights, we came
in prospect of Mons Sempronius, now Mount Sampion,
which has on its summit a few huts and a chapel. Ap-
proaching this, Captain Wray's water-spaniel (a huge filthy
cur that had followed him out of England) hunted a herd
of goats down the rocks into a river made by the melting
of the snow. Arrived at our cold harbour (though the
house had a stove in every room) and, supping on cheese
and milk with wretched wine, we went to bed in cupboards*
so high from the floor, that we climbed them by a ladder ;
we were covered with feathers, that is, we lay between two
ticks stuffed with them, and all little enough to keep one
warm. The ceilings of the rooms are strangely low for
those tall people. The house was now (in September) half
covered with snow, nor is there a tree, or a bush, growing
within many miles.

From this uncomfortable place, we prepared to hasten,
away the next morning ; but, as we were getting on our
mules, comes a huge young fellow demanding money for
a goat which he affirmed that Captain Wray's dog had
killed; expostulating the matter, and impatient of staying
in the cold, we set spurs and endeavoured to ride away,
when a multitude of people being by this time gotten
together about us, (for it being Sunday morning and
attending for the priest to say mass) they stopped our
mules, beat us off our saddles, and, disarming us of our
carbines, drew us into one of the rooms of our lodging,
and set a guard upon us. Thus, we continued prisoners
till mass was ended, and then came half a score grim

* They have such in Wales.


Swiss, who, taking on them to be magistrates, sate down on
the table, and condemned us to pay a pistole for the goat,
and ten more for attempting to ride away, threatening
that if we did not pay it speedily, they would send us to
prison, and keep us to a day of public justice, where, as
they perhaps would have exaggerated the crime, for they
pretended we had primed our carbines and would have
shot some of them, (as indeed the Captain was about to
do) we might have had our heads cut off, as we were told
afterwards, for that amongst these rude people a very small
misdemeanour does often meet that sentence. Though
the proceedings appeared highly unjust,* on consultation
among ourselves, we thought it safer to rid ourselves out
of their hands, and the trouble we were brought into ; and
therefore we patiently laid down the money, and with fierce
countenances had our mules and arms delivered to us, and
glad we were to escape as we did. This was cold enter-
tainment, but our journey after was colder, the rest of the
way having been (as they told us) covered with snow since
the Creation ; no man remembered it to be without ; and
because, by the frequent snowing, the tracts are continually
filled up, we passed by several tall masts set up to guide
travellers, so as for many miles they stand in ken of one
another, like to our beacons. In some places, where there
is a cleft between two mountains, the snow fills it up,
whilst the bottom, being thawed, leaves as it were a frozen
arch of snow, and that so hard as to bear the greatest
weight ; for as it snows often, so it perpetually freezes, of
which I was so sensible that it flawed the very skin of my

Beginning now to descend a little, Captain Wray's horse
(that was our sumpter and carried all our baggage) plunging
through a bank of loose snow, slid down a frightful precipice,
which so incensed the choleric cavalier, his master, that
he was sending a brace of bullets into the poor beast, lest
our guide should recover him, and run away with his
burden ; but, just as he was lifting up his carbine, we gave
such a shout, and so pelted the horse with snow-balls, as
with all his might plunging through the snow, he fell from
another steep place into another bottom, near a path we

* Surely these poor people were right, and this is not expressed with
Mr. Evelyn's usual liberality.

1646.] JOHN EVELYN. 235

were to pass. It was yet a good while ere we got to him,
but at last we recovered the place, and, easing him of his
charge, hauled him out of the snow, where he had been
certainly frozen in, if we had not prevented it, before night.
It was as we judged almost two miles that he had slid and
fallen, yet without any other harm than the benumbing
of his limbs for the present, but, with lusty rubbing and
chafing he began to move, and, after a little walking, per-
formed his journey well enough. All this way, affrighted
with the disaster of this horse, we trudged on foot, driving
our mules before us; sometimes we fell, sometimes we
slid, through this ocean of snow, which after October is
impassable. Towards night, we came into a larger way,
through vast woods of pines, which clothe the middle parts
of these rocks. Here, they were burning some to make
pitch and rosin, peeling the knotty branches, as we do to
make charcoal, reserving what melts from them, which
hardens into pitch. We passed several cascades of dis-
solved snow, that had made channels of formidable depth
in the crevices of the mountains, and with such a fearful
roaring as we could hear it for seven long miles. It is
from these sources that the Rhone and the Rhine, which
pass through all France and Germany, derive their originals.
Late at night, we got to a town called Briga, at the foot
of the Alps, in the Valteline. Almost every door had
nailed on the outside and next the street a bear's, wolfs,
or fox's head, and divers of them all three ; a savage kind
of sight, but, as the Alps are full of the beasts, the people
often kill them. The next morning, we returned to our
guide, and took fresh mules, and another to conduct us to
the Lake of Geneva, passing through as pleasant a country
as that we had just travelled was melancholy and trouble-
some. A strange and sudden change it seemed, for the
reverberation of the sun-beams from the mountains and
rocks that like walls range it on both sides, not above two
flight-shots in breadth, for a very great number of miles,
renders the passage excessively hot. Through such ex-
tremes we continued our journey, that goodly river, the
Rhone, gliding by us in a narrow and quiet channel almost
in the middle of this Canton, fertilizing the country for
grass and corn, which grow here in abundance.

"We arrived this night at Sion, a pretty town and city, a

236 DIARY OF [siov,

bishop's seat, and the head of Yalesia. There is a castle,
and the Bishop who resides in it, has both civil and eccle-
siastical jurisdiction. Our host, as the custom of these
Cantons is, was one of the chiefest of the town, and had
been a Colonel in France ; he treated us with extreme
civility, and was so displeased at the usage we received at
Mount Sampion, that he would needs give us a letter to
the Governor of the country, who resided at St. Maurice,
which was in our way to Geneva, to revenge the affront.
This was a true old blade, and had been a very curious
virtuoso, as we found by a handsome collection of books,
medals, pictures, shells, and other antiquities. He showed
two heads and horns of the true Capricorn, which animal he
told us was frequently killed among the mountains ; one
branch of them was as much as I could well lift, and near
as high as my head, not much unlike the greater sort of
goat's, save that they bent forwards, by help whereof they
climb up and hang on inaccessible rocks, from whence the
inhabitants now and then shoot them. They speak pro-
digious things of their leaping from crag to crag, and of
their sure footing, notwithstanding their being cloven-
footed, unapt (one would think) to take hold and walk so
steadily on those horrible ridges as they do. The Colonel
would have given me one of these beams, but the want of
a convenience to carry it along with me, caused me to
refuse his courtesy. He told me that in the castle there
were some Roman and Christian antiquities, and he had
some inscriptions in his own garden. He invited us to
his country-house, where he said he had better pictures,
and other rarities ; but, our time being short, I could not
persuade my companions to stay and visit the places he
would have had us seen, nor the offer he made to show us
the hunting of the bear, wolf, and other wild beasts.
The next morning, having presented his daughter, a pretty
well-fashioned young woman, with a small ruby ring, we
parted somewhat late from our generous host.

Passing through the same pleasant valley between the
horrid mountains on either hand, like a gallery many miles
in length, we got to Martigni, where also we were well
entertained. The houses in this country are all built of
fir boards, planed within, low, and seldom above one story.
The people very clownish and rusticly clad, after a very

1646.] JOHN EVELYN. 037

odd fashion, for the most part in blue cloth, very whole
and warm, with little variety or distinction betwixt the
gentleman and common sort, by a law of their country
being exceedingly frugal. Add to this, their great honesty
and fidelity, though exacting enough for what they part
with. I saw not one beggar. We paid the value of
twenty shillings English, for a day's hire of one horse.
Every man goes with a sword by his side, the whole
country well-disciplined, and indeed impregnable, which
made the Romans have such ill success against them ; one
lusty Swiss at their narrow passages is sufficient to repel
a legion. It is a frequent thing here for a young trades-
man, or farmer, to leave his wife and children for twelve or
fifteen years, and seek his fortune in the wars in Spain,
France, Italy, or Germany, and then return again to
work. I look upon this country to be the safest spot of
all Europe, neither envied, nor envying ; nor are any of
them rich, nor poor; they live in great simplicity and
tranquillity ; and, though of the fourteen Cantons half be
Roman Catholics, the rest Reformed, yet they mutually
agree, and are confederate with Geneva, and are its only
security against its potent neighbours, as they themselves
are from being attacked by the greater potentates, by the
mutual jealousy of their neighbours, as either of them
would be overbalanced, should the Swiss, who are wholly
mercenary and auxiliaries, be subjected to France, or

We were now arrived at St. Maurice, a large handsome
town and residence of the President, where justice is done.
To him, we presented our letter from Sion, and made
known the ill usage we had received for killing a wretched
goat, which so incensed him, as he sware if we would stay
he would not only help us to our money again, but most
severely punish the whole rabble ; but our desire of revenge
had by this time subsided, and glad we were to be gotten
so near France, which we reckoned as good as home. He
courteously invited us to dine with him ; but we excused
ourselves, and, returning to our inn, whilst we were eating
something before we took horse, the Governor had caused
two pages to bring us a present of two great vessels of
-covered plate full of excellent wine, in which we drank his
health, and rewarded the youths ; they were two vast


bowls supported by two Swisses, handsomely wrought
after the German manner. This civility and that of our
host at Sion, perfectly reconciled us to the highlanders ;
and so, proceeding on our journey, we passed this afternoon
through the gate which divides the Valais from the Duchy
of Savoy, into which we were now entering, and so, through
Montei, we arrived that evening at Beveretta. Being ex-
tremely weary and complaining of my head, and finding
little accommodation in the house., I caused one of our
hostess's daughters to be removed out of her bed, and went
immediately into it whilst it was yet warm, being so heavy
with pain and drowsiness that I would not stay to have
the sheets changed ; but I shortly after paid dearly for my
impatience, falling sick of the small-pox so soon as I came
to Geneva, for by the smell of frankincense and the tale
the good woman told me of her daughter having had an
ague, I afterwards concluded she had been newly recovered
of the small-pox. Notwithstanding this, I went with my
company, the next day, hiring a bark to carry us over the
lake ; and indeed sick as I was, the weather was so serene
and bright, the water so calm, and air so temperate, that
never had travellers a sweeter passage. Thus, we sailed
the whole length of the lake, about thirty miles, the coun-
tries bordering on it (Savoy and Berne) affording one
of the most delightful prospects in the world, the Alps
covered with snow, though at a great distance, yet show-
ing their aspiring tops. Through this lake, the river
Rhodanus passes with that velocity as not to mingle with
its exceeding deep waters, which are very clear, and breed
the most celebrated trout for largeness and goodness of
any in Europe. I have ordinarily seen one of three feet
in length sold in the market for a small price, and such
we had in the lodging where we abode, which was at the
White Cross. All this while, I held up tolerably, and the
next morning having a letter for Signer John Diodati, the
famous Italian minister and translator of the Holy Bible
into that language, I went to his house, and had a great
deal of discourse with that learned person. He told me
he had been in England, driven by tempest into Deal,
wliilst sailing for Holland, that he had seen London, and
was exceedingly taken with the civilities he received. He
so much approved of our Church-government by Bishops,

1646.] JOHN EVELYN. 39

that he told me the French Protestants would make no
scruple to submit to it and all its pomp, had they a King
of the Keformed Religion as we had. He exceedingly
deplored the difference now between his Majesty and the
Parliament. After dinner, came one Monsieur Saladine,
with his little pupil, the Earl of Caernarvon, to visit us,
offering to carry us to the principal places of the town ;
but, being now no more able to hold up my head, I was
constrained to keep my chamber, imagining that my very
eyes would have dropped out ; and this night I felt such
a stinging about me, that I could not sleep. In the morn-
ing, I was very ill, but sending for a doctor he persuaded
me to be let blood. He was a very learned old man, and,
as he said, he had been physician to Gustavus the Great,
King of Sweden, when he passed this way into Italy, under
the name of Monsieur Gars, the initial letters of Gustavus
Adolphus Rex Suecia3, and of our famous Duke of Buck-
ingham, on his returning out of Italy. He afterwards
acknowledged that he should not have bled me, had he
suspected the small-pox, which brake out a day after.
He afterwards purged me, and applied leeches, and God
knows what this^ould have produced, if the spots had not
appeared, for he was thinking of blooding me again. They
now kept me warm in bed for sixteen days, tended by a
vigilant Swiss matron, whose monstrous throat, when I
sometimes awaked out of unquiet slumbers, would affright
me. After the pimples were come forth, which were not
many, I had much ease as to pain, but infinitely afflicted
with heat and noisomeness. By God's mercy, after five
weeks' keeping my chamber, I went abroad. Monsieur
Saladine and his lady sent me many refreshments. Mon-
sieur Le Chat, my physician, to excuse his letting me
blood, told me it was so burnt and vicious as it would have
proved the plague, or spotted fever, had he proceeded by
any other method. On my recovering sufficiently to go
abroad, I dined at Monsieur Saladine's, and, in the after-
noon, went across the water on the side of the lake, and
took a lodging that stood exceedingly pleasant, about half
a mile from the city for the better airing ; but I stayed
only one night, having no company there, save my pipe ;
so, the next day, I caused them to row me about the lake
as far as the great stone, which they call Neptune's Rock,


and on which they say sacrifice was anciently offered to
him. Thence, I landed at certain cherry-gardens and
pretty villas by the side of the lake, and exceedingly
pleasant. Returning, I visited their conservatories of fish ;
in which were trouts of six and seven feet long, as they

The Rhone, which parts the city in the midst, dips into
a cavern underground, about six miles from it, and after-
wards rises again, and runs its open course, like our Mole,
or Swallow, by Dorking, in Surrey. The next morning,
(being Thursday) I heard Dr. Diodati preach in Italian,
many of that country, especially of Lucca, his native
place, being inhabitants of Geneva, and of the Reformed

The town, lying between Germany, France, and Italy,
those three tongues are familiarly spoken by the inhabi-
tants. It is a strong well-fortified city, part of it built on
a rising ground. The houses are not despicable, but the
high pent-houses, (for I can hardly call them cloisters,
being all of wood) through which the people pass dry and
in the shade, winter and summer, exceedingly deform the
fronts of the buildings. Here are abundance of book-
sellers ; but their books are of ill impressions ; these, with
watches (of which store are made here), crystal, and excel-
lent screwed guns, are the staple commodities. All pro-
visions are good and cheap.

The town-house is fairly built of stone ; the portico has
four black marble columns ; and, on a table of the same,
tinder the city arms, a demi-eagle and cross, between
cross-keys, is a motto, " Post Tenebras Lux," and this
inscription :

Quum anno 1535 [profligata Romana Anti-Christi : Tyrannide, abro-
gatisq ; ejus superstitionibus, sacro-sancta Christ! Religio hie in suam
puritatem, Ecclesia in meliorem ordinem singular! Dei beneficio reposita,
et simul pulsis fugatisq ; hostibus, urbs ipsa in suam libertatem, non
sine insigni miraculo, restituta fuerit ; Senatus Populusq ; Genevensis
Monumentum hoc perpetuae memorise causa, fieri atque hoc loco erigi
<:uravit, quod suam erga Deum gratitudinem ad posteros testatum fuerit.

The territories about the town are not so large as many
ordinary gentlemen have about their country -farms, for
which cause they are in continual watch, especially on the


Savoy side ; but, in case of any siege the Swiss are at
hand, as this inscription in the same place shows, toward

the street :


Anno a vera Religione divinitus cum veteri Libertate Genevse resti-
tuta, et quasi novo Jubilseo ineunte, plurimis vitatis domi et foris
insidiis et superatis tempestatibus, et cum Helvetiorum Primari Tigurini
sequo jure in societatem perpetuam nobiscum venerint, et veteres fidis-
simi socii Bernenses prius vinculum novo adstrinxerint, S.P.Q.G. quod
felix esse velit D. 0. M. tanti benificii monumentum consecrarunt, anno
temporis ultimi

In the Senate-house, were fourteen ancient urns, dug up
as they were removing earth in the fortifications.

A little out of the town, is a spacious field, which they
call Campus Martius ; and well it may be so termed, with
better reason, than that at Rome at present (which is no
more a field, but all built into streets), for here on every
Sunday, after the evening devotions, this precise people
permit their youths to exercise arms, and shoot in guns,
and in the long and cross bows, in which they are exceed-
ingly expert, reputed to be as dexterous as any people in
the world. To encourage this, they yearly elect him who
has won most prizes at the mark, to be their king, as the
king of the long-bow, gun, or cross-bow. He then wears
that weapon in his hat in gold, with a crown over it, made
fast to the hat like a brooch. In this field, is a long house
wherein their arms and furniture are kept in several
places very neatly. To this joins a hall where, at certain
times, they meet and feast ; in the glass- windows are the
arms and names of their kings [of arms] . At the side of
the field, is a very noble Pali-Mall, but it turns with an
elbow. There is also a bowling-place, a tavern, and a
trey-table, and here they ride their menaged horses. It
is also the usual place of public execution of those who
suffer for any capital crime, though committed in another
country, by which law divers fugitives have been put to
death, who have fled hither to escape punishment in their
own country. Amongst other severe punishments here,
adultery is death. Having seen this field, and played a
game at mall, I supped withMr. Saladine.

On Sunday, I heard Dr. Diodati preach in French, and
after the French mode, in a gown with a cape, and his hat


on. The Church Government is severely Presbyterian,
after the discipline of Calvin and Beza, who set it up, but
nothing so rigid as either our Scots or English sectaries of
that denomination. In the afternoon, Monsieur Morice,
a most learned young person and excellent poet, chief
Professor of the University, preached at St. Peter's, a spa-
cious Gothic fabric. This was heretofore a cathedral and
a reverend pile. It has four turrets, on one of which
stands a continual sentinel; in another, cannons are
mounted. The church is very decent within ; nor have
they at all defaced the painted windows, which are full of
pictures of saints ; nor the stalls, which are all carved with
the history of our Blessed Saviour.

In the afternoon, I went to see the young townsmen
exercise in Mars' Field, where the prizes were pewter-
plates and dishes ; 'tis said that some have gained compe-
tent estates by what they have thus won. Here, I first
saw huge balistse, or cross-bows, shot in, being such as they
formerly used in wars, before great guns were known; they
were placed in frames, and had great screws to bend them,
doing execution at an incredible distance. They were
most accurate at the long-bow and musket, rarely missing
the smallest mark. I was as busy with the carbine I
brought from Brescia, as any of them. After every shot,
I found them go into a long house, and cleanse their guns
before they charged again.

On Monday, I was invited to a little garden without
the works, where were many rare tulips, anemones, and

Online LibraryJohn EvelynDiary and correspondence, To which is subjoined the private correspondence between King Charles I. and Sir Edward Nicholas, and between Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon, and Sir Richard Browne (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 46)