J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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a dream of love, it takes the serious tone; it needs must be a pure
being that dares to breathe to the heavens and to the waves these
sacred words, 'I love thee,' and that can add the promise and the
pledge of the Canadian song:

"Jamais je ne t'oublierai."
"Ne'er will I forget thee!" [106]

Among the streets of Quebec, most celebrated in our annals by reason of
the incidents which attach thereto, one may name the frowsy and tortuous
highway which circulates from the foot of Mountain Hill, running for a
distance of two hundred feet below the Cape, up to the still narrower
pathway which commences west of St. James street and leads to the foot of
the hill "_de la canoterie_;" [107] all will understand we mean the
leading commercial thoroughfare of olden time, [108] Sault-au-Matelot
street. Is it because a sailor, no doubt only partially relieved from the
horrors of sobriety, there made a wild leap? or are we to attribute the
name to the circumstance of a dog named "Matelot" ("Sailor") there taking
a leap? [109] Consult _Du Creux_. Our friend, Joseph Marmette,
appropriated it for the reception of his hero, "Dent de Loup," who escaped
without broken bones after his leap. [110]

The western portion of the still narrower pathway of which we have just
spoken, rejoices in the name of "Ruelle des Chiens," (Dog Lane); [111] the
directories name it Sous-le-Cap street. It is so narrow that, at certain
angles, two carts passing in opposite directions, would be blocked. Just
picture to yourself that up to the period of 1816, our worthy ancestors
had no other outlet in this direction at high water to reach St. Roch,
(for St. Paul street was constructed subsequently to 1816, as M. de Gaspé
has informed us.) Is it not incredible? As, in certain passes of the Alps,
a watchman no doubt stood at either extremity of this lane, provided with
a speaking trumpet to give notice of any obstruction and thus prevent
collisions. This odoriferous locality, especially during the dog-days, is
rather densely populated. The babes of Green Erin, with a sprinkling of
young Jean Baptistes, here flourish like rabbits in a warren. Miss Kitty
Ellison and her friend. Mr. Arbuton, in their romantic wanderings, were
struck with the _mise en scène_ of Dog Lane: -

"Now that Prescott Gate, by which so many thousands of Americans have
entered Quebec since Arnold's excursionists failed to do so, is
demolished, there is nothing left so picturesque and characteristic as
Hope Gate (alas! since razed), and I doubt if anywhere in Europe there
is a more mediaeval-looking bit of military architecture. The heavy
stone gateway is black with age, and the gate, which has probably
never been closed in our century, is of massive frame, set thick with
mighty bolts and spikes. The wall here sweeps along the brow of the
crag on which the city is built, and a steep street drops down, by
stone-parapeted curves and angles, from the Upper to the Lower Town,
when, in 1775, nothing but a narrow lane bordered the St. Lawrence. A
considerable breadth of land has since been won from the river, and
several streets and many piers now stretch between this alley and the
water, but the old Sault-au-Matelot still crouches and creeps along
under the shelter of the city wall and the overhanging rock, which is
thickly bearded with weeds and grass, and trickles with abundant
moisture. It must be an ice pit in winter, and I should think it the
last spot on the continent for the summer to find; but when the summer
has at last found it, the old Sault-au-Matelot puts on a vagabond air
of southern leisure and abandon, not to be matched anywhere out of
Italy. Looking from that jutting rock near Hope Gate, behind which the
defeated Americans took refuge from the fire of their enemies, the
vista is almost unique for a certain scenic squalor and gypsy luxury
of colour - sag-roofed barns and stables, and weak-backed, sunken-
chested workshops of every sort, lounge along in tumble-down
succession, and lean up against the cliff in every imaginable posture
of worthlessness and decrepitude, light wooden galleries cross to them
from the second stories of the houses which back upon the alley, and
over these galleries flutters from a labyrinth of clothes-lines a
variety of bright-coloured garments of all ages, sexes and conditions,
while the footway underneath abounds in gossiping women, smoking men,
idle poultry, cats, children, and large, indolent Newfoundland dogs."
- (_A Chance Acquaintance_, p, 175.)

Adventurous tourists who have risked themselves there in the sultry days
of July, have found themselves dazed at the sight of the wonders of the
place. Among other indigenous curiosities, they have there noticed what
might be taken for any number of aerial tents, improvised no doubt as
protection from the scorching rays of a meridian sun. Attached to ropes
stretched from one side of the public way to the other, was the family
linen, hung out to dry. When shaken by the wind over the heads of the
passers-by, these articles of white under-clothing (_chemisettes_),
flanked by sundry masculine nether-garments, presented a _tableau_,
it is said, in the highest degree picturesque. As regards ourselves,
desirous from our earliest days to search into the most recondite
_arcana_ of the history of our city and to portray them in all their
suggestive reality, for the edification of distinguished tourists from
England, France and the United States, it has been to us a source of
infinite mortification to realize that the only visit which we ever made
to Dog Lane was subsequent to the publication of the _Album du Touriste_;
a circumstance which explains the omission of it from that repository of
Canadian lore. Our most illustrious tourists, [112] the eldest son of the
Queen, the Prince of Wales, his brothers, the Princes Alfred and Arthur,
the Dukes of Newcastle, of Athol, of Manchester, of Beaufort, of Argyle,
of Sutherland, Generals Grant and Sherman, and Prince Napoleon Bonaparte,
it is said, took their leave of Quebec without having visited that
interesting locality, "_la Ruelle des Chiens_," Sous-le-Cap street,
probably unconscious of its very existence! Nevertheless, this street
possesses great historical interest. It has re-echoed the trumpet sounds
of war, the thundering of cannon, the briskest musketry; there fell
Brigadier-General Arnold, wounded in the knee: carried off amid the
despairing cries of his soldiers, under the swords of Dambourgès, of the
fierce and stalwart Charland, of the brave Caldwell, followed by his
friend Nairn and their chivalrous militiamen. Our friends, the
annexationists of that period, were so determined to annex Quebec, that
they threw themselves as if possessed by the evil one upon the barriers
(there were two of them) in Sous-le-Cap street and in Sault-au-Matelot
street; each man, says Sanguinet, wearing a slip of paper on his cap on
which was written "_Mors aut Victoria_," "Death or Victory!" One
hundred years and more have elapsed since this fierce struggle, and we are
not yet under Republican rule!

A number of dead bodies lay in the vicinity, on the 31st December, 1775;
they were carried to the Seminary. Ample details of the incidents of this
glorious day will be found in "QUEBEC PAST AND PRESENT." It is believed
that the first barrier was placed at the foot of the stone _demi-lune_,
where, at present, a cannon rests on the ramparts; the second was
constructed in rear of the present offices of Mr. W. D. Campbell, N.P., in
Sault-au-Matelot street.

Sault-au-Matelot street has lost the military renown which it then
possessed; besides the offices of M. Ledroit, of the _Morning Chronicle_,
and of the timber cullers, it now is a stand for the carters, and a
numerous tribe of pork merchants, salmon preservers and coopers, whose
casks on certain days encumber the sidewalks.

St. Paul street does not appear on the plan of the city of Quebec of 1660,
reproduced by the Abbé Faillon. This quarter of the Lower Town, so
populous under the French _régime, and where, according to Monseigneur de
Laval, there was, in 1661, "_magnus numerus civium_" continued, until
about 1832, to represent the hurry-scurry of affairs and the residences of
the principal merchants, one of the wealthiest portions of the city.
There, in 1793, the father of our Queen, Colonel of the 7th Fusiliers,
then in garrison at Quebec, partook of the hospitality of M. Lymburner,
one of the merchant princes of that period. Was the _chère amie_, the
elegant _Baronne de St. Laurent_, of the party? We found it impossible to
ascertain this from our old friend, Hon. William Sheppard, of Woodfield,
near Quebec (who died in 1867), from whom we obtained this incident. Mr.
Sheppard, who had frequently been a guest at the most select drawing-rooms
of the ancient capital, was himself a contemporary of the generous and
jovial Prince Edward.

The Sault-au-Matelot quarter, St. Peter street, and St. James street, down
to the year 1832, contained the habitations of a great number of persons
in easy circumstances; many of our families of note had their residences
there: John Wm. Woolsey, Esq., in 1808, and later on first President of
the Quebec Bank; the millionaire auctioneer, Wm. Burns, the god-father to
the late George Burns Symes, Esq.; Archbishop Signai - this worthy prelate
was born in this street, in a house opposite to La Banque Nationale.
Evidences of the luxuriousness of their dwelling rooms are visible to this
day, in the panelling of some doors and in decorated ceilings.

Drainage, according to the modern system, was, at that period, almost
unknown to our good city. The Asiatic cholera, in 1832, decimated the
population: 3,500 corpses, in the course of a few weeks, had gone to their
last resting place. This terrible epidemic was the occasion, so to speak,
of a social revolution at Quebec; the land on the St. Louis and Ste. Foye
roads became much enhanced in value; the wealthy quitted the Lower Town.
Commercial affairs, however, still continued to be transacted there, but
the residences of merchants were selected in the Upper Town or in the
country parts adjacent.

The _Fief Sault-au-Matelot_, which at present belongs to the Seminary, was
granted to Guillaume Hébert on the 4th February, 1623, the title of which
was ratified by the Due de Ventadour on the last day of February, 1632. On
the ground reclaimed from the river, about 1815, Messrs. Munro and Bell,
eminent merchants, built wharves and some large warehouses, to which lead
"Bell's lane," (so named after the Honorable Matthew Bell) [113] the
streets St. James, Arthur, Dalhousie and others. Mr. Bell, at a later
period, one of the lessees of the St. Maurice Forges, resided in the
house - now St. Lawrence Chambers - situate at the corner of St. James and
St. Peter streets, now belonging to Mr. John Greaves Clapham, N. P. Hon.
Matthew Bell commanded a troop of cavalry, which was much admired by those
warlike gentlemen of 1812 - our respected fathers. He left a numerous
family, and was related by marriage to the families Montizambert, Bowen,
&c. Dalhousie street, in the Lower Town, probably dates from the time of
the Earl of Dalhousie (1827), when the "Quebec Exchange" was built by a
company of merchants. The extreme point of the Lower Town, towards the
northeast, constitutes "La Pointe à Carcy," named after Carcy Pagès, who
succeeded to the office of "Guardian of the Harbor," held in 1713 by Louis
Pratt. In the offing is situated the wharf, alongside of which the stately
frigate _Aurora_, Captain De Horsey, passed the winter of 1866-7. The
wharves of the Quebec docks now mark the spot.

The expansion of commerce at the commencement of the present century and
increase of population rendered it very desirable that means of
communication should be established between the Lower Town and St. Roch,
less rugged and inconvenient than the tunnel - Sous-le-Cap lane - and the
sandy beach of the river St. Charles at low water. Towards 1816 the
northern extremity of St. Peter street was finished, it was previously
bounded by a red bridge, well remembered by our very old citizens. The
Apostle St. Paul was honoured with a street, as was his colleague, St.
Peter. Messrs. Benj. Tremaine, Budden, Morrisson, Parent, Allard and
others acquired portions of ground on the north side of this (St. Paul)
street, upon which they have erected wharves, offices and large
warehouses. Renaud's new block now occupies a portion of the site.

The construction of the North Shore Railway will have the effect, at an
early date, of augmenting, in a marked degree, the value of these
properties, the greater portion of which now belong to our fellow citizen,
M. J. Bte Renaud, who has adorned this portion of the Lower Town with
first class buildings. Let us hope that this quarter may flourish, and
that our enterprising fellow citizen may prosper in consequence.

Let us join a party of distinguished strangers wending their way through
our muddy streets, following a titled tourist, His Highness the Duke of
Saxe-Weimar. This noble visitor's rank seems to have been fully
recognized, since he was escorted by a guard of honour furnished by the
Lt.-Governor, and saluted on his departure by 21 guns. After fifty-five
years, the Duke's utterances have yet interest for us, though he seems to
have judged harshly the absent Governor-General, the Earl of Dalhousie.

"About eight o'clock in the evening of the 3rd of September, 1825, we
embarked at Montreal on board the steamer _Lady Sherbrooke_ for
Quebec. The banks, which as far as Trois Rivières are pretty low,
become higher and more rocky, particularly on the left side. The
neighborhood is remarkably handsome and picturesque. The majestic
stream with its pleasant banks, and the view of the distant blue
mountains near Quebec, produce an indescribable effect. The weather
was favourable, - a clear, sunny sky and not very warm; in this
northern latitude you can perceive the approaching autumn by the
coolness of the nights and mornings. We reached Quebec at 10 o'clock
in the evening. This city consists of two parts, the Upper Town, which
is built on a rock, and the Lower, which is pressed in between the
river and the rock. The lights in the Lower Town and the
fortifications had an elegant appearance, when contrasted with the
dark rock. The first _coup d'oeil_, which was by night, reminded
me of Namur, as it is seen from the right bank of the Maas. In the
river were many vessels; mostly used for carrying wood. It was already
late, and we should have found difficulty in transporting our baggage
by night, besides other inconveniences in finding lodgings for the
ladies, so we spent the second night also on board the steamboat,
where we were very comfortable and found it cleanly.

"The next morning, after dismissing the guard which the Governor
appointed to escort us, we went to our lodgings in the upper part of
the town. The lower town is very narrow, and has a filthy appearance.
The streets are not paved, and badly provided with sidewalks. The road
which leads to the upper part of the town is very steep. It stands on
a rocky ground, and its fortifications are elevated 300 feet from the
level of the ocean. The upper is separated from the lower town by a
stone wall, which has the form of a horn-work. Through this wall is a
gate, [115] which has a guard; the guard-room is opposite the gate,
and by means of a portcullis defends the entrance. For the convenience
of foot-passengers there is a door [116] near the gate, with wooden
stairs, by ascending which you reach the upper town. On the right of
the gate is a building which resembles a chapel, [117] and serves for
the House of Commons of Canada. In order to get home we were obliged
to go round part of the walls of the town. Even here you have an
indescribably beautiful view of the Bay of Quebec and the right bank
of the river, which has the appearance of a cape, called Point Levi.

"Shortly after our arrival, I received a visit from Colonel Duchesnay,
First Adjutant of the Governor-General, and from [118] Colonel
Durnford, Director of Engineers. The first gentleman came to bid me
welcome in the name of the Governor, and the latter begged to show me
the fortifications. Lord Dalhousie, Governor General of all British
possessions in North America, was at that time in England, but was
expected daily. During his absence, the Government was under the
direction of the Lt.-Governor, Sir Francis Barton, brother of Lord
Conyngham. He is a civilian, but is said to fill his high post with
credit. The good spirit the inhabitants are in, and the harmony that
exists in the colony, are mostly owing to his good management and his
humane and friendly deportment towards them. It is said of Lord
Dalhousie that he has estranged the hearts of the people from himself
and the Government, through his haughty and absolute deportment, and
the Opposition party in the Canadian Parliament has thereby been

"The upper part of the town is very old and angular, the streets are
muddy, and many not paved. Both towns contain about 25,000
inhabitants. The Catholic Cathedral is quite a handsome building, it
has three altars, and paintings of but little value. It is near the
Seminary, an old French building, with massive walls, having four
corners like a bastion. In this Seminary resides the Bishop of Quebec.
We had already been introduced to Bishop Plessis, in the house of Sir
Francis Burton, and found him a very agreeable and well-informed man.
He is the son of a butcher of Montreal, and has elevated himself by
his own merit.

"On the second and last day of my sojourn in Quebec I went to the
parade, escorted by Colonels Durnford and Duchesnay. I was pleasantly
taken by surprise when I found the whole garrison under arms. The
commanding officers wished to show me their corps. On the right wing
stood two companies of artillery, then a company of sappers and
miners, after this, the Sixty-Eighth, and lastly, the Seventy-First
Regiment of Infantry. The last is a light regiment, and consists of
Scotch Highlanders; it appeared to be in particularly good condition.
This regiment is not dressed in the Highland uniform, which was only
worn by some of the buglemen. It has a very good band of buglemen, who
wear curious caps, made of blue woollen, bordered below with red and
white stripes. The troops defiled twice before me.

"On the 6th of September we set out in the steamboat for Montreal. Sir
Francis sent us his carriage, which was very useful to the ladies. On
the dock stood a company of the Sixty-Fifth Regiment, with their flags
displayed as a guard of honour, which I immediately dismissed. The
fortifications saluted us with 21 guns; this caused a very fine echo
from the mountains. Night soon set in, but we had sufficient light to
take leave of the magnificent vicinity of Quebec."

St. Vallier street is sacred to Monseigneur de St. Vallier; his name is
identified with the street which he so often perambulated in his visits to
the General Hospital, where he terminated his useful career in 1729. His
Lordship seems to have entertained a particular attachment for the
locality where he had founded this hospital, where he resided, in order to
rent his Mountain Hill Palace to Intendant Talon, and thus save the
expense of a chaplain. The General Hospital was the third asylum for the
infirm which the Bishop had founded. Subsequently, came the Intendant de
Meules, who, toward 1684, endowed the eastern portion of the quarter with
an edifice (the Intendant's Palace) remarkable for its dimensions, its
magnificence and its ornate gardens.

Where Talon (a former Intendant) had left a brewery in a state of ruin and
about seventeen acres of land unoccupied, Louis XIV., by the advice of his
Intendant de Meules, lavished vast sums of money in the erection of a
sumptuous palace, in which French justice was administered, and in which,
at a later period, under Bigot, it was _purchasable_. Our illustrious
ancestors, for that matter, were not the kind of men to weep over such
trifles, imbued as they were from infancy with the feudal system and all
its irksome duties, without forgetting the forced labour (_corvées_)
and those admirable "Royal secret warrants," (_lettres de cachet_). What
did the institutions of a free people, or the text of Magna Charta signify
to them?

On this spot stood the notorious warehouse, where Bigot, Cadet and their
confederates retailed, at enormous profits, the provisions and supplies
which King Louis XV. doled out in 1758 to the starving inhabitants of
Quebec. The people christened the house "_La Friponne_," (_The Cheat_!!)
Near the sight of Talon's old brewery which had been converted into a
prison by Frontenac, and which held fast, until his trial in 1674, the
Abbé de Fénélon [119] now stands the Anchor Brewery (Boswell's).

We clip the following from an able review in the Toronto _Mail_, Dec.,
1880, of M. Marmette's most dramatic novel, "_l'Intendant Bigot_":

"In the year 1775 a grievous famine raged, sweeping off large numbers
of the poor, while the unscrupulous Bigot and his satellites were
revelling in shameless profligacy. It is midnight of Christmas, when
an old officer, M. de Rochebrune, pressed with cold and hunger to the
last point, resolved to pawn his St. Louis Cross of gold at the
Intendant's Palace stores. On the way thither the officer and his
young daughter, a young girl of fourteen, are startled at the blaze of
light illuminating the Palace windows, during one of the Intendant's
festivals. The pleasures of the evening are suddenly interrupted and
shaded by the entry of the aged, suffering M. de Rochebrune and his
wan-visaged but beautiful daughter. Words of galling truth are
addressed to Bigot before his painted courtezans and his other
depraved attendants, whose hearts are too hard and whose consciences
are too seared to be tortured by either misery or reproof, and the
ruffian varlets eject both father and daughter to the furies of the
midnight blast. The ball ended, Bigot leads Madame de Pean to her
vehicle, when she tumbles over an object which, when torches are
brought, was found to be the corpse of the suppliant rebuker of a few
hours previous, alongside of which lay the unconscious form of his
daughter, half buried in the drifting snow. '_Mon Dieu_,' exclaimed
Madame de Pean, '_Il ne dormira pas de la nuit, c'est bien sûr._' This
tragic event is narrated with thrilling effect, in the author's best
style." P. B.

In a paper read by us before the Literary and Historical Society of
Quebec, 3rd December, 1879, we alluded in the following terms to the
history of the "Friponne" and the infamous entourage of Intendant Bigot in
the second part of our lecture: the first part related to Kalm's ramble
round the city in 1749.

Prepare, now for other - dark - far less pleasant scenes. The bright sky
of old Stadacona will rapidly lower; leaden clouds, pregnant with
storms are hovering over head. The simplicity of early days is getting
obsolete. Vice, gilded vice, flaunts in the palace. Gaunt famine is
preying on the vitals of the people. 'Tis so at Versailles; 'tis so at
Quebec. Lust - selfishness - rapine - public plunder everywhere - except
among the small party of the _Honnêtes Gens_: [120] a carnival of
pleasure, to be followed by the voice of wailing and by the roll of
the muffled drum.

In 1748, the evil genius of New France, "La Pompadour's
_protégé_" François Bigot, thirteenth and last Intendant, had landed
at Quebec.

Born in Guienne, of a family distinguished at the bar, Bigot, prior to
coming to Canada had occupied the high post of Intendant in Louisiana.
In stature, he was small - but well formed; - active - full of pluck -
fond of display and pleasure - an inveterate gambler. Had he confined
his operations merely to trading, his commercial ventures would have
excited little blame, trading having been a practice indulged in by

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 20 of 59)