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A Legendary Tour to the Country of Henri Quatre.



Author of "The Bocages and the Vines," "A Pilgrimage to Auvergne," Etc.

With numerous Illustrations.

In Two Volumes.

Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street,
Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
Printed by R. Clay, Bread Street Hill.

MARCH 16, 1844.


When I first indulged the inclination, which I had long entertained, of
visiting the famous castle of Chinon, and the equally interesting abbey
of Fontevraud - the palace and tomb of our English kings - and paused on
my way in "the lovely vales of Vire," and gathered in romantic Brittany
some of her pathetic legends, I thought I should have satisfied my
longing to explore France; but I found that every step I look in that
teeming region opened to me new stores of interest; and, encouraged by
the pleasure my descriptions had given, I set out again, following
another route, to the regal city of Rheims, visiting the vine-covered
plains of Champagne and Burgundy, and all their curious historical
towns, till I reached the _dominion_ of Charles the Seventh at Bourges,
to become acquainted with whose gorgeous cathedral and antique palaces
is worth any fatigue. From thence I wandered on to the beautiful Monts
Dores, and the basaltic regions of unexplored Le Vellay; and, after
infinite gratification, I once more turned my steps homeward; but, like
Sindbad, I felt that there was much more yet to be explored; and I had
visions of the romantic and delightful realms, which extend where once
the haughty heiress of Aquitaine held her poetical courts of Love and
Chivalry. The battle-fields of our Black Prince were yet to be traced;
the sites of all the legends and adventures of the most entertaining of
chroniclers, Froissart, were yet to be discovered; and the land of
mountains and torrents, where the Great Béarnais passed his hardy
childhood, was yet unknown to me.

I therefore again assumed my "cockle hat and staff," and, re-entering
the Norman territory, commenced exploring, from the stone bed of the
Conqueror, at Falaise, to the tortoise-shell cradle of Henry of Navarre,
at Pau.

Not inferior to my two former pilgrimages, in interest, did this my
third ramble prove. How many "old romantic towns" I passed through; how
much of varied lore I heard and found amongst the still original and,
even now, unsophisticated peasantry; how numerous were the recollections
which places and things recalled, and how pleasant were the scenes I
met, I have endeavoured to tell the lovers of easy adventure - for any
traveller, with the slightest enterprise, could accomplish what I have
done without fatigue, and with the certainty of being repaid for the
exertion of seeking for amusement.

In succession, I paused at Le Mans, the scene of the great Vendéean
struggle, where the majestic cathedral challenges the admiration of all
travellers of taste; at Poitiers, full of antique wonders; in the region
of _the Serpent lady_, Melusine; at Protestant La Rochelle, with all its
battlements and turrets, and the most beautiful bathing-establishment in
Europe. At mysterious Saintes, and all its pagan temples and arches; at
Bordeaux, the magnificent; on the Garonne, and by its robbers'-castles;
at Agen, with its _barber troubadour_; in the haunts of Gaston de Foix
and Jeanne d'Albret and her son; in the gloomy valleys of the proscribed
Cagot; and where the mellifluous accents of the Basquaise enchant the
ear. All the impressions made by these scenes I have endeavoured to
convey to my readers, as I did before, inviting them to follow my
footsteps, and judge if I have told them true.




Honfleur - Dejazet - The Sailor Prince - Le Mari - Lisieux - La Croix
Blanche - Arrival at Falaise - Guibray - Castle of Falaise - The little
Recess - Arlette - The Father - The Infant Hero - The Uncle - Arlette's
Tears - Her Reception.


Prince Arthur - Want of Gallantry Punished - The Recreant Sow - The Rocks
of Noron - La Grande Eperonnière - Le Camp-ferme - Antiquities of
Falaise - Alençon - Norman Caps - Geese - Le Mans - Tomb of
Bérangère - Cathedral - Ancient Remains - Streets - The Veiled Figure.


Tomb of Bérangère - Wives of Coeur de Lion - Tombs - Abbey
Churches - Château of Le Mans - De Craon - The Spectre of Le Mans - The
Vendéeans - Madame de la Roche-Jaquelin - A Woman's Perils - Disasters of
the Vendéeans - Henri - Chouans.


The Museum of Le Mans - Venus - Mummy - Geoffrey-le-Bel - His
Costume - Matilda - Scarron - Hélie de la Flèche - Rufus - The White Knight.


Lude - Saumur Revisited - The Garden - La Petite Voisine - The Retired
Militaire - Les Pierres Couvertes - Les Petites Pierres - Loudun - Urbain
Grandier - Richelieu - The Nuns - The Victim - The Fly - The Malle
Poste - The Dislodged Serpents.


Poitiers - Battles - The Armies - King John of France - The Young
Warrior - Hôtel des Vreux - Amphitheatre - Blossac - The Great Stone - The
Scholars - Museum - The Demon's Stone - Grande Gueule.


Notre Dame - The Keys - The Miracle - Procession - St. Radegonde - Tomb of
the Saint - Foot-print - Little Loubette - The Count Outwitted - The
Cordelier - Late Justice - The Templars.


Château de la Fée - King René - The Miniatures - The Post-Office
Functionary - Originality - The English Bank-note - St. Porchaire - The Dead
Child - Montierneuf - Guillaume Guy Geoffroy - Thomas à Becket - Choir of
Angels - Relics - The Armed Hermit - A Saint - The Repudiated
Queen - Elionore - The Bold Priest - Lay.


Melusine - Lusignan - Trou de la Fée - The Legend - Male Curiosity - The
Discovery - The Fairy's Shrieks - The Chronicler - Geoffrey of the Great
Tooth - Jaques Coeur - Royal Gratitude - Enemies - Jean du
Village - Wedding - The Bride - The Tragedy of Mauprier - The Garden - The
Shepherdess - The Walnut-Gatherers - La Gâtine - St. Maixant - Niort - Madame
de Maintenon - Enormous Caps - Chamois Leather - Duguesclin - The Dame de
Plainmartin - The Sea.


La Rochelle - Les Trois Chandeliers - Oysters - Bathing
Establishment - Gaiety - Military Discipline - Curious Arcades - Story of


Towers - Religion - Maria Belandelle - Storm - Protestant Retreat - Solemn
Dinners - "Half-and-half" - Go to sleep! - The Brewery - Gas
Establishment - Château of La Font - The Mystery explained - Triumph of
Scenery over Appetite - Slave Trade - Charles le Bien Servi - Liberality of
Louis-Philippe - Guiton - House of Le Maire Guiton - The Fleets - The
Fight - The Mayor and the Governor.


Rochefort - The Curious Bonne - Americanisms - Convicts - The
Charente - "Tulipes" - Taillebourg - Henry the Third - St. Louis - False
Security - Romegoux - Puytaillé


Saintes - Roman Arch of Triumph - Gothic Bridge - The Cours - Ruined
City - Cathedral - Coligny - Ruined Palace - St.
Eutrope - Amphitheatre - Legend of Ste. Eustelle - The Prince of
Babylon - Fête - The Côteau - Ste. Marie


Frère Chrétien - Utility of Custom-house Search - Bold
Voyager - Pauillac - Blaye - The Gironde - Talbot - Vines - The
Landes - Phantom of King Arthur - The Witch-finder - The Landes - Wreckers


Ports - Divona - Bordeaux - Quinconces - Allées - First
Impression - Chartrons - Bahutier - Bacalan - Quays - White Guide - Ste.
Croix - St. Michel - St. André - Pretty Figure - Pretty Women - Palais
Gallien - Black Prince's Son, Edward.


The Garonne - The Lord of Langoyran - Miracle of the Mule - Castle of the
Four Sons of Aymon - The Aged Lover - Gavaches - The Franchimans - Count
Raymond - Flying Bridges - The Miller of Barbaste - The Troubadour
Count - The Count de la Marche - The Rochellaises - Eugénie and her Song.


Agen - La Belle Esther - St. Caprais - The Little Cherubs - Zoé at the
Fountain - The Hill - Le Gravier - Jasmin, the Poet-Barber - The
Metaphor - Las Papillotas - Françonnette - Jasmin's Lines on the Old
Language - The Shepherd and the Gascon Poet - Return to Agen - Jasmin and
the King of France - Jasmin and the Queen of England.




WITHIN ten leagues of the interesting town of Caen, where William of
Normandy and his queen lie buried, the traveller, who devotes a short
space of time to a search after the picturesque, may, without straying
too far a-field, find what he desires in the clean, bright, gay town of
Falaise, where the hero of the Conquest was born.

From Southampton to Havre it requires only twelve hours to cross, and,
as was the case with myself and my companions, when, at the end of
August 1842, we began a journey, whose end was "to be" the mountains
which divide France from Spain, if the city of parrots is already
familiar to the tourist, he has only to take the steam-packet, which in
four hours will land him at Caen, or enter the boat which crosses the
fine bold river to Honfleur. In an hour you arrive at Honfleur, after a
very pleasant voyage, which the inhabitants of Havre are extremely fond
of taking: a diligence starts from the quay, and proceeds through an
avenue of a league's length between beautiful hills, orchards, and
corn-fields, to the strange old town of Lisieux, to which we proceeded.

One of our fellow-travellers in the diligence was a smart, lively
looking young woman, whose resemblance to the celebrated actress
Dejazet, whom we had very lately seen in London, was so striking as to
be quite remarkable. Her tone of voice, her air and manner, as well as
her features, reminded us strongly of the _artiste_ whose warm reception
in England, where we are supposed to be correct even to fastidiousness,
has not a little amused the Parisians at our expense. Whatever may be
the objections to Dejazet's style, certain it is that her imitation of
the manners of the class of _grisettes_ and peasants is inimitable; not
a shade, not a tone, is forgotten, and the _truth_ of her
representations is proved at every step you take in France, either in
the provinces or in Paris.

Our little talkative companion had much to relate of herself and her
husband, whom she described as a piece of perfection; he had just
returned from a whaling expedition, after several years' absence, and
they were now on their way to Lisieux to visit her relations, and give
him a little shooting. He had brought back, according to her account, a
mine of wealth; and, as she had incurred no debts during his absence,
but had supported herself by opening a little _café_, which she assured
us had succeeded admirably, they were proceeding, with well-filled
purses, to see their only child who was in the keeping of its
grandmother. She told wondrous histories of his exploits amongst the
ice, of his encounters with the natives - "_les Indiens_," of the success
of all his voyages, and the virtues of his captain, who was an
Englishman and _never spoke to his crew_, but was the most just man in
the world, and ended by saying that when she met with English people she
felt _in Paradise_.

Although we listened to her continued chattering with amused attention,
it was far otherwise with some quiet, silent, women who sat beside us;
we soon gathered, by certain contemptuous glances which they exchanged,
that they did not give credit to half our little Dejazet was telling;
and when to crown the whole, she related a story of a beautiful maiden
of Lisieux, who had been distinguished by the notice of the Duke de
_Nemours_ when he visited that place on his way to join _his ship_ at
Havre, they could support their impatience no longer, and broadly
contradicted her on the ground that the Prince de Joinville and _not_
Nemours was the sailor.

Nothing daunted, our gay whaler's wife insisted on every part of her
history being true, asserting that she must know best, and if the young
prince had _left the navy_ since, it was not her affair.

As she approached Lisieux she became more and more animated, darting her
body half way out of the window every minute to look out for her _papa_
or her other relations; - at length, with a scream which would have
secured Dejazet three rounds of applause, she recognised her parent in a
peasant _en blouse_, trudging along the road carrying his bundle - on his
way, no doubt, as she assured us, to see her sister, who lived at a
village near. Tears and smiles alternately divided the expression of her
countenance, as she now feared her sister was ill, and now rejoiced at
seeing her father. All was however happily settled when the coach
stopped and she sprang out into the arms of her papa, who had followed
the diligence, and came up out of breath; and it was then that we became
aware that a remarkably ill-looking, dirty, elderly, Jewish featured
man, to whom she had occasionally spoken on the journey, was the
identical perfection of a _mari_, of whom she had been boasting all the
way. The incredulous listeners, whom she had so annoyed, now revenged
themselves by sundry depreciatory remarks on the appearance of this
phoenix, whom they pronounced to have the air of a tinker or old
clothesman, and by no means that of the hero he had been represented.

As it was raining violently on our arrival at Lisieux, the town
presented to us but an uncomfortable appearance; and as we had to search
for an hotel, and were at last obliged to be content with one far from
inviting, our first impression was by no means agreeable; nor does
Lisieux offer anything to warrant a change in the traveller's opinion
who considers it dreary, slovenly, and ruinous. There is much, however,
to admire in the once beautiful cathedral, and the church of St.
Jacques, both grand specimens of the massive architecture of the twelfth

In this town lived and died the traitor Bishop of Bayeux, Pierre
Cauchon, who sold the heroic Jeanne d'Arc for English gold. An
expiatory chapel was erected by him in the cathedral, where it was
hoped the tears of the pious would help to wash his sins away; but no
one now remembers either him or his crime, for we asked in vain for the
spot; and when prayers are offered at the shrine of the Virgin in the
chapel dedicated to her, which we eventually discovered to be its site,
not one is given to the cruel bishop, whose ill-gotten money was
therefore expended in vain; for the centuries it must have required to
rescue his soul from purgatory cannot have expired by this time. The
churches are being restored, and building, as usual in all French towns,
is going on: when numerous ugly striped houses are removed, and their
places filled up, the principal square of Lisieux may deserve to be
admired, though whether it will ever merit the encomium of an old lady
who resides in it, and who assured us it would in a short time be
_superbe_, time will determine. The public promenades are good, and the
views round the town pretty, but we did not feel tempted to wait for
finer weather, and took our departure for Falaise with little delay.

The drive from Lisieux to Falaise is charming; and, although the
appearance of the hotels is not in their favour, there is nothing to
complain of in regard to cleanliness or attention: at least so we found
it at La Croix Blanche, where the singular beauty of our hostess added
to the romance of our position, perched, as we were, on a balcony
without awning, in a building which had evidently been part of an old
tower. It is true that we should have preferred something rather less
exposed when we found ourselves confined for a whole day, in consequence
of the pouring rain, and found that a stream of water had made its way
from our balcony into each of our rooms; whose bricked floors were
little improved by their visit. Our suggestion of covering the way, in
order that, in wet weather, both the dinner and its bearers might be
sheltered, appeared to excite surprise, though our attendants came in
constantly with their high caps wet through and their aprons soaked.

Our nearly exhausted patience, as we gazed hopelessly on the dull sky of
an _August_ day, was at length rewarded; and the sun, which had
obstinately concealed himself for several days, burst forth on the
second morning of our arrival, and changed by its power the whole face
of things at Falaise. We lost no time in taking advantage of the fine
day which invited us, and sallied forth, all expectation, into the
streets, which we found, as well as the walks, as dry as if no rain had
fallen for months; so fresh and bright is the atmosphere in this
beautiful place.

The town is clean and neat; most of the ruinous, striped houses, with
projecting stories, such as deform the streets of Lisieux, being
cleared away; leaving wide spaces and pure air, at least in the
centre-town, where the best habitations are situated. There are other
divisions, less airy and more picturesque, called the fauxbourgs of
Guibray and St. Laurent, and le Val d'Ante; where many antique houses
are still standing, fit to engage the pencil of the antiquarian artist.

The churches of Falaise are sadly defaced, but, from their remains, must
have been of great beauty. The Cathedral, or Eglise de St. Laurent, is
partly of the twelfth century; the exterior is adorned with carving, and
gargouilles, and flying-buttresses, of singular grace; but the whole
fabric is so built in with ugly little shops, that all fine effect is
destroyed. The galleries in the church of La Trinité are elaborately
ornamented, as are some of the chapels, whose roofs are studded with
pendants. Much of this adornment is due to the English, under Henry V.,
and a good deal is of the period of the _renaissance_.

The church of Guibray was founded by Duke William, as the Norman windows
and arches testify; but a great deal of bad taste has been expanded in
endeavouring to turn the venerable structure into a Grecian temple,
according to the approved method of the time of Louis XIV. A statue of
the wife of Coeur de Lion was once to be seen here, but has long
disappeared. That princess resided in this part of Falaise, at one
period of her widowhood, and contributed greatly to the embellishment of
the church.

There are many columns and capitals, and arches and ornaments of
interest in the church of St. Gervais, defaced and altered as it is; but
it is impossible to give all the attention they deserve to these
buildings, when the towers of the splendid old castle are wooing you to
delay no longer, but mount at once the steep ascent which leads to its

Rising suddenly from the banks of a brawling crystal stream, a huge mass
of grey rocks, thrown in wild confusion one on the other, sustains on
its summit the imposing remains of the castle, whose high white tower,
alone and in perfect preservation, commands an immense tract of smiling
country, and seems to have defied the attacks of ages, as it gleams in
the sun, the smooth surface of its walls apparently uninjured and
unstained. This mighty donjon is planted in a lower part of the height;
consequently, high as it appears, scarcely half of its real elevation is
visible. Its walls are of prodigious thickness, and seem to have proved
their power through centuries of attack and defence to which it has been
exposed; careless alike of the violence of man and the fury of the
elements. Adjoining the keep are ranges of ruined walls, pierced with
fine windows, whose circular arches, still quite entire, show their
early Norman construction. Close to the last of these, whose pillars,
with wreathed capitals, are as sharp as if just restored, is a low door,
leading to a small chamber in the thickness of the wall. There is a
little recess in one corner, and a narrow window, through whose minute
opening a fine prospect may be seen.

This small chamber, tradition says, was once adorned with "azure and
vermilion;" though it could scarcely have ever presented a very gay
appearance, even when used as the private retreat of the luxurious
master of the castle. However, such as it is, we are bound to look upon
this spot with veneration; for it is asserted, that here a child was
born in secrecy and mystery, and that here, by this imperfect light, his
beautiful mother gazed upon the features of the future hero of Normandy.

However unlike a bower fitted for beauty and love, it is said that here
Arlette, the skinner's daughter, was confined of William the Conqueror.
It is said, too, that from this height, the sharp-sighted Duke his
father, gazing from his towers, first beheld the lovely peasant girl
bathing in the fountain which still bears her name. In this retreat,
concealed from prying eyes, and where inquisitive ears found it
difficult to catch a sound, the shrill cry of the wondrous infant was
first uttered, - a sound often to be repeated by every echo of the land,
when changed to the war note which led to victory.

Little, perhaps, did his poor mother exult in his birth, for she was of
lowly lineage, and had never raised her eyes to the castle but with awe,
nor thought of its master but with fear; her pleasures were to dance, on
holidays, under the shade of trees with the simple villagers, her
companions; her duties, to wash her linen on the stones of the silver
stream, as her townswomen do still at the present day - that silver
stream which probably flowed past her father's cottage, as it still
flows, bathing the base of cottages as humble and as rudely built as his
could have been. There might, perchance, have been one, amongst the
youths who admired her beauty, whom she preferred to the rest; her
ambition might have been to become his bride, her dreams might have
imaged his asking her of her father, whose gracious consent made them
both happy: in her ears might have rung the pealing bells of St.
Gervais - the vision of maidens, in bridal costumes, strewing flowers in
her path, might have risen before her view - her lover with his soft
words and smiles - his cottage amongst the heath-covered rocks of
Noron - all this might have flitted across her mind, as she stood beside
the fountain, beneath the castle walls, unconscious that eyes were
gazing on her whose influence was to fix her destiny. A mail-clad
warrior, terrible and powerful, whose will may not be resisted, whose
gold glitters in her father's eyes, or whose chains clank in his ears,
has seen and coveted her for his own, and her simple dream must be
dispersed in air to make way for waking terrors. The unfortunate father
trembles while he feebly resists, he listens to the duke's proposal, he
has yet a few words of entreaty for his child: he dares not tell her
what her fate must be, he hopes that time and new adventures will efface
Arlette from the mind of her dangerous lover; but, again, he is urged,
heaps of gold shine before him, how shall he turn from their tempting
lustre? Is there not in yonder tower an _oubliette_ that yawns for the
disobedient vassal? He appeals to Arlette, she has no reply but tears;
men at arms appear in the night, they knock at the skinner's door and
demand his daughter, they promise fair in the name of their master; they
mount her on a steed before the gentlest of their band, his horse's
hoofs clatter along the rocky way - the father hears the sobs of his
child for a little space, and his heart sinks, - he hides his eyes with
his clenched hand, but suddenly he starts up - his floor is strewn with
glittering pieces - he stoops down and counts them, and Arlette's sorrows

Online LibraryLouisa Stuart CostelloBéarn and the Pyrenees → online text (page 1 of 45)