Richard Boyle Bernard.

A tour through some parts of France, Switzerland, Savoy, Germany and Belgium online

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vessel from the great number of transports (I believe not less than
thirty-two) which crowded the harbour, being engaged for some time in
bringing home a large portion of our cavalry, who added to the military
glory they had acquired in Spain and Portugal, by their forbearance in
tolerating insults to which they were but too often exposed in their
passage through France, by a people whose vanity forbids them to admire
valour, except in Frenchmen, but whose conduct on those occasions served
only to increase the obligations which they had in so many instances
experienced from the humanity which always attends on British valour.

If we had to regret the delay we experienced in getting out to sea, that
sentiment soon vanished before the favourable breeze which, in about
four hours, brought us to the French coast. As the day was hazy, we had
not long to admire the venerable castle of Dover, and the cliff which
Shakspeare has celebrated; and some time elapsed before we could
distinguish the shores of France, which differ entirely from those of
England, rising gradually from the water's edge, with the single
exception of _Scales Cliff_, which seems to correspond with some of
those bulwarks which characterize our coast from Dover to Portland,
where, I think, chalk cliffs are succeeded by masses of rock and grey
stone.

The tide being out on our arrival before Calais, we could not get into
the harbour, and with that impatience to leave a ship, which is natural
to landsmen, we were glad to accept the offers of some boats which
hastened around the packet, to offer their services in landing us; this,
however, they did not exactly perform, being too large to get very near
the shore, to which we were each of us carried by three Frenchmen, one
to each leg, and a third behind. This service I had often had performed
by one of my fellow-subjects, and it seemed to verify the old saying,
that '_one Englishman is equal to three Frenchmen_.'

Each Monsieur however insisted on a shilling for his services, and the
boatmen five shillings from every passenger. But I had travelled enough
to know, that extortion on such occasions is so general, as not to be
peculiarly the characteristic of the inhabitants of any country, and if
ever there is _pleasure in being cheated_, it is surely on such an
occasion as that of exchanging the misery of a ship for the comforts of
the most indifferent inn.

The arrival for the first time in a foreign country, of a person who has
never before quitted his own, is an epoch of considerable moment in his
life. Most things are different from those he has been accustomed to,
and the force of first impressions is then stronger than, perhaps, at
almost any other period. We are, in general, not much disposed to like
any custom, or mode of dress, which is greatly at variance with what we
have been long used to, and the enormous height of the bonnets in France
produces, in my opinion, an effect far from pleasing; the ladies, by
their strange costume, _out-top_ many of the military.

I found the town of Calais in a state of equal bustle with Dover, and
from the same cause. It is regularly fortified, and contains many very
good houses. The population is estimated at between seven and eight
thousand. The market-place forms a spacious square. The town-house and
church are handsome buildings, and altogether it must be allowed much to
surpass Dover as to appearance.

The search which ray portmanteau had undergone the day before in
England, was here renewed by the officers of the French _Douane_, but
with no better success on the part of the officers in being able to
seize any thing. They were, however, very polite, and their fees only
amounted to half a crown. My next care was, to attend at the town-hall,
and present my passport to the inspection of the mayor, who indorsed it
with his licence for me to proceed to Paris.

I accordingly determined on setting out without further delay, and
joined an acquaintance in hiring a cabriolet for the journey, to obviate
the trouble of changing our luggage at every post, and to avoid any
delay that might arise from not finding a carriage at every station,
which is by no means certain, as in England. We found the _Cabriolet_ a
very pleasant conveyance, it is nearly as light as a curricle, and has
a head and windows, which exclude rain. It is drawn by two or three
horses, and proceeds at a tolerably good pace. The postilions are
provided with boots of a very inconvenient size, and with whips which
they are perpetually cracking, not much to the comfort of the ears of
their passengers.

Those who have never seen any thing but an English stage-coach, cannot
but feel some surprise at the different appearance which a French
_Diligence_ presents. Most of them carry nine inside passengers, and
three in the cabriolet, and as much luggage behind, and in the Imperial,
as would load a tolerably large waggon. They are generally drawn by four
horses, which present a very different appearance from those under the
English carnages, and they are driven by one postilion, who rides the
wheel-horse. Occasionally, a second postilion and two more leaders are
necessary from the weight of the carriage, or the heaviness of the
roads. Carriages in France, in passing each other, take exactly
different sides of the road from what they are obliged to do by our
laws of travelling.

The country, for many leagues round Calais reminded me very strongly of
Cambridgeshire in its general appearance, being flat, well cultivated,
unenclosed, and abounding in wind-mills. About the villages there are
some trees and enclosures; but a few more church spires are wanting to
complete the resemblance. The distance from Calais to Paris is about 180
_English miles_, and may generally be considered as a flat country,
occasionally diversified by a few hills of no great magnitude.
Enclosures are rarely seen, but the quantity of corn is quite
astonishing. Agriculture appeared to me to be in a highly improved
state: there are artificial grasses and meliorating crops. The
appearance of the villages in general on this road is but little
inferior to those in many parts of England. But the peasants, although
not for the most part badly off, have no idea of that neatness, and of
those domestic comforts which form the great characteristic of the same
class of people in England.

An English farmer would laugh at the great cocked hat which is usually
worn by the French husbandman, and would not be disposed to change his
white frock for the blue one used on the Continent. Some wood is
occasionally to be seen; but Picardy is not famous either for the
quantity or quality of its timber. The general fuel of the lower orders
is _turf_, which, however, is not in any great quantity; and in
appearance it is inferior to that used by the Irish peasants. The roads
are in general kept in good repair, and near Paris and some other great
towns they are paved in the centre. They are flanked in many places by
avenues of trees, which are for the most part cut with great formality;
but even where left to themselves, they do not add much to the ornament
of the country or to the comfort of the traveller, affording but a
scanty shade.

The whole of this road is without turnpikes; they were, as I understood,
abolished about three years ago, and the roads are now managed by the
government. The French praise Buonaparte extremely for his attention to
the state of their _roads_, and it must be owned that in this
particular he merits the praise bestowed on him, which cannot be said
with truth of many other parts of his conduct which seem to have been
also approved of by the French. Buonaparte, it is true, made excellent
roads, but he made them only for his soldiers, either to awe those who
had submitted to his yoke, or to afford a facility of extending still
further his conquests.

The drivers in France do not tax themselves at every public-house as
with us, for porter or spirits, which they do not want; they seldom
stop, unless the stage is unusually long, and their horses require a
little rest.

Before we were admitted within the gates of Boulogne our passports were
demanded, and underwent a strict examination, probably the remains of
the etiquette established by Buonaparte, this place being chiefly
remarkable as the port, from whence he proposed making his threatened
descent into England. We observed a vast unfinished fort, which he had
ordered to be constructed; it will probably never be completed, but
crumble to pieces like the vast and ill-acquired authority of its
founder. The town of Boulogne is large and well fortified, but the
bustle in the port was chiefly occasioned by the embarkation of the
English cavalry.

We dined at Samers, and there had the first specimen of a French dinner
(as at Calais we had lodged at an hotel, which is kept by an Englishman,
and where every thing was _à l'Angloise_). The _general_ hour for dining
is twelve o'clock; many public carriages stop to dine before that hour,
however, from twelve to one o'clock, the traveller is sure at every
tolerable inn of finding a very abundant and cheap repast. We found the
bread excellent, as also a profusion of fruit; the wine of Picardy is
bad, but good wine may be had from the southern provinces, at a
reasonable price.

Their meats are so much stewed, that their real flavour can hardly be
distinguished, but were they dressed by a mode of cookery that did them
more justice, I do not apprehend the epicure would have to find fault
with their quality.

The next place which presented any thing worthy of remark, was
Abbeville, a large fortified city, which has manufactures of cloth and
damask. The church which has suffered much during the anarchy of the
revolution, is still a large and handsome edifice. We proceeded to
breakfast at Boix, where the coffee was excellent, and the milk was
served up boiled, as is generally the custom throughout France.

We also found good accommodation at Beauvais, a large and ancient city,
where the architecture of the houses reminded me much of Shrewsbury. The
streets are narrow and winding. The cathedral is well worthy the
attention of the antiquarian, although it has, like many others in
France, suffered greatly during the revolution. In the neighbourhood of
Beauvais are a vast number of vineyards, and the effect produced by them
is very striking to those who have never seen a vine but in a stove. But
the novelty soon ceases, and a vineyard is then seen with as little
astonishment as a field of corn.

We were easily persuaded to make a short deviation from the direct road,
in order to visit Chantilly, the once splendid residence of the Princes
of Condé, but which now affords a melancholy contrast to the scene which
it exhibited in more tranquil times. The Great Château has disappeared;
but a small building remains at a distance, which is to be fitted up for
the reception of its venerable owner, who is expected in the course of
the summer to pay a visit to the inheritance which the late happy
revolution has restored to him, after having undergone a sad change in
its appearance. The great stables are standing, but only serve to add to
the desolation of the scene by their vacancy, and the contrast which
they form to the small house which now only remains to the possessor of
this great domain. - St. Denis, where we soon arrived, is a small town
not far distant from Paris; it was anciently remarkable for its _abbey_,
which contained the magnificent tombs of the Kings of France. These were
mostly destroyed early in the revolution (but a few still remain, in
the museum of monuments at Paris, as I afterwards found) when the
promoters endeavoured to obliterate all traces of royalty: but when
after a long series of convulsions, Buonaparte thought his dynasty had
been firmly established on the throne of the Bourbons, he decreed that
this abbey should be restored as the burying place of the monarchs of
France; and it is probable that decree will be carried into effect,
although not in the sense which its promulgator intended.


* * * * *



CHAP. II.


The approach to Paris is certainly very striking, but considering the
vast extent of the city, its environs do not present an appearance of
any thing like that bustle and activity which marks the vicinity of the
British metropolis: nor do the villas which are to the north of Paris
display that aspect of opulence which distinguishes those streets of
villas by which London is encompassed. The gate of St. Denis, under
which we passed, is a fine piece of architecture; it stands at the end
of a long and narrow street, which is but ill calculated to impress a
stranger with those ideas of the magnificence of Paris of which the
French are perpetually boasting, although it conducts him nearly to the
centre of the city. I afterwards found that this is the most crowded
quarter of the city; the houses are from six to eight stories in height,
and are almost universally built of stone. - But although it must be
admitted that this entrance to Paris is one of the least distinguished,
yet at the same time it must be observed, that there are but very few
streets in that city which have much to boast of in point of appearance;
they are mostly narrow, and the height of the houses necessarily makes
them gloomy. They are (except in one or two new streets at the extremity
of the town) extremely incommodious for pedestrians, there being here no
place set apart for them as in London; hence they traverse the streets
in perpetual dread of being run over by some of those numerous carriages
which are continually passing along with an _impetus_ which raises just
apprehensions in the mind of the foot passenger, that he may share the
fate of Doctor Slop, if nothing more serious should befall him; as in
avoiding the carriages it is no easy task to keep clear of the _kennel_,
which is in the centre of the street; the descent to it is rapid, and it
is rarely dry even in the warmest weather.

It is when seen from one of the bridges, that Paris appears to most
advantage, as many of the quays are unquestionably very handsome, and
decorated with many elegant edifices. The Seine is in no part so much as
half the width of the Thames, in some places not a fourth part, as it
forms two islands, on one of which stands the original city of Paris.
Its waters are united at the _Pont Neuf_, on which stands the statue of
Henry IV. looking towards the Louvre, which he founded. The view from
this bridge is without comparison the most striking in Paris, and is
perhaps unequalled in any city, for the great number of royal and public
edifices which are seen from it; and inconsiderable as is the Seine
compared with many other rivers, yet nothing has been neglected to
render its banks striking to the passenger. - Many of the bridges (of
which I think there are altogether 16) are handsome, particularly those
of Austerlitz and of Jena, constructed by order of Buonaparte. There is
one bridge, the arches of which are of iron, opposite the gallery of the
Louvre, which is open only to foot passengers, each person paying two
sous for the privilege of being admitted on this promenade, which is
often much crowded with company. Very soon after my arrival at Paris I
came to this conclusion, that although Paris far exceeds London, Dublin,
or Edinburgh, in the splendour of its public buildings, and often in the
handsome appearance of many of its houses, yet those cities are far
preferable in point of all essential comforts. And after spending a
considerable time in Paris, I saw no reason to change the opinion which
I had first formed; that opinion however cannot, I should apprehend, be
questioned by a Frenchman, as it admits fully the magnificence of many
parts of his favourite city, and this is sufficient for his vanity. With
us cleanliness and comfort are preferred to shew, we find them in most
of our own cities, but those who know most of Paris will not deny that
they are rarely to be met with there.

I had been recommended to the Hotel de Pondicherry, by a gentleman who
had for some time lodged there; but I found there were no vacant
apartments. After making application in vain at many of the hotels in
the Rue de Richelieu, I at last succeeded in meeting with good
accommodation in the Hotel des Prouvaires, which was in a convenient
situation, and had the advantage of having been lately painted. I found
the people of the house very civil and attentive, and produced my
passport from the Secretary of States' Office, signed by Lord
Castlereagh, to satisfy them that I was no _avanturier_, a very numerous
class here. The expence I found differed but little from, that of most
of the hotels in London; but the French hotels are in fact more what we
should call lodging-houses, as they do not supply dinners, &c. which
must be procured from a restaurateur's, of which there are a vast
number; and I have heard it stated, that there are no less than 2500
coffee-houses in Paris.

The population of Paris is stated by Marchant, in the last edition of
his Guide to Paris at 580,000; the number of houses is estimated to be
29,400; this would give an average of nearly twenty persons to each
house. This I do not consider as too great a proportion to allow, if we
consider the vast number of hotels that can contain at least double that
number of persons; and that in many parts of the town each story is
occupied (as in Edinburgh) by a separate family.

The population of Paris has undoubtedly decreased since the revolution;
Dutens, who published his Itinerary about thirty years ago, tells us, at
that period the inhabitants of Paris amounted to 650,000: but even
supposing him to have over-rated them, still there remains a great
disparity in the two calculations, and it is reasonable to conclude,
that the present statement by Marchant is accurate, from the facilities
which the system of police affords in forming a just calculation on the
subject.

Paris, including all its suburbs, is said to be about eight leagues in
circumference, and, except London and Constantinople, exceeds all the
other cities of Europe in extent.

The markets of Paris are remarkably well supplied with provisions of
every description, and at a price which appears moderate to an
Englishman. I have been told, that fuel is sometimes at a very high
price in the winter; but not being there at that season, I cannot speak
from my own experience. What I had most reason to complain of during my
stay, was scarcity of that great essential to health and cleanliness,
_good water_. The city is for the most part supplied with this first of
necessaries from the river Seine. Adjoining to one of the bridges is a
vast machine, which raises its waters, which are conducted to all parts
of the town, and also supply several public fountains. They have,
however, an extremely bad taste from the numerous establishments for
washing for all Paris, which are established in boats on all parts of
the river, which is thus strongly impregnated with soap-suds, and its
cathartic qualities have been experienced by many strangers on their
first arrival in Paris.

The French never drink this water without mixing in it a proportion of
sugar, and then call it _eau sucré_, which is often called for at the
coffee-houses. Most houses have reservoirs of sand for filtering the
water before it is used for drinking; but those who have been accustomed
to the luxury of good water, cannot be soon reconciled to that of the
Seine. The water of the _Ville d'Arblay_ is sold in jars in the streets
for making tea, and some of the fountains are supplied by springs. I
believe the late government had a scheme in contemplation for the
construction of an aqueduct, to supply purer water for the Parisians
than what they now use.

Many fountains have been established within the last few years, and the
site of that once formidable building the _Bastile_ is now occupied by
one. None of these modern fountains (although many of them display much
taste) are, however, by any means to be compared, in point of elegance,
to that which stands in the market of Innocents, and which was erected
in the year 1550. Its situation is too confined for so handsome a
structure, and I had some difficulty in finding my way to it. It has the
following inscription from the pen of M. Santeuil, (who has furnished
many others, particularly that on the fountain near the Luxemburg
Palace:)

FONTIUM NYMPHIS.

Quos duro cernis simulatos marmore fructus
Hujus Nympha loci credidit esse suos.

Which may be thus translated,

The fruits you see on this cold marble hewn,
This Fountain's Nymph believes to be her own.

The Guide to Paris informs us, that the city is divided into several
quarters; that the vicinity of the _Palais Royal_, of the _Thuilleries_,
and of the _Chaussée d'Antin_, are the most fashionable, and of course
the most expensive; but that lodgings are to be met with on reasonable
terms in parts of the city, which are fully as desirable, particularly
in the suburb of St. Germain. There are furnished hotels to be met with
on a large scale in that quarter, it having been mostly inhabited by
foreign princes and ambassadors; and it was also much frequented by
English families, as they considered it the most healthy and quiet part
of Paris.

The Quarter du Marais was principally occupied by lawyers, financiers,
annuitants; and, in short, all the Jews of the nation lodged there.

The Quarter of the Palais Royal is chiefly inhabited by sharpers,
cheats, loungers, and idle people of all descriptions. Who could think
that a space of ground not exceeding 150 acres, contains more
heterogeneous materials blended together than are to be found in the
9910 acres (the French acre is one and a quarter, English measure) on
which the city of Paris stands? It is the great mart of pleasure, of
curiosity, and of corruption; and if the police wish to apprehend an
offender, it is in the Palais Royal that they are sure to find him.
Before the period of the revolution there were here but two public
gaming houses; but at present the number is really astonishing. The
police under Buonaparte did not discourage their increase; they argued
that these houses were the _rendezvous_ of all sharpers, villains, and
conspirators; and that they often saved an ineffectual search for them
in other quarters. A government like that of Buonaparte did not
reflect, that these houses, which thus abounded with desperate
characters, did not fail to perpetuate their number by the corruption
which they caused in the principles of the rising generation; and many
of the best informed Frenchmen are well aware that it will be the work
of time, to recover their country from the _demoralized_ state in which
it was left after the government of Buonaparte.

On the subject of gaming a French writer has justly observed: "Quand il
serait vrai que la passion du jeu ne finit pas toujours par le crime,
toujours est il constant qu'elle finit par l'infortune et le
deshonneur." "Granting it to be true, that the love of gaming does not
always terminate in crime, yet still it invariably ends in misfortune
and dishonour." But is it not rather improbable that those who have so
far transgressed as to apprehend the vigilance of the police, should
venture into the very places where they must be aware of immediate
detection?

Perhaps the same argument holds in Paris as in London, against totally
suppressing the haunts of these depredators on society, _That if there
were no thieves there would be no thief-takers_; and the police are
content to keep within moderate bounds, a set of men who often
contribute to their emolument, and whom they fear to exterminate. It
must, however, be allowed, that in all large towns, however great may be
the vigilance of the police, there still must be abundance of the
followers of _Macheath_. Perhaps Paris most abounds in sharpers who
cheat with _finesse_, and London in the number of pick-pockets and
robbers. The _nightly police_ of Paris is admirably conducted; and
during my stay there I never experienced the smallest molestation in the
streets.

The Palais Royal consists of six squares, the chief of which is large
and handsomely built on piazzas. There are rows of trees in the centre,
but they by no means contribute to its beauty.

The shops under these arcades are many of them the most shewy in Paris;
and, as the owners pay a heavy rent for them, they take care to enhance
the price of their goods, so as not to carry on a losing concern. The


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Online LibraryRichard Boyle BernardA tour through some parts of France, Switzerland, Savoy, Germany and Belgium → online text (page 2 of 15)