Philip Thicknesse.

A Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) online

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seen an hundred instances of their humanity and integrity; - when a white
man was under the lash of the executioner, at _Savannah in Georgia_,
for using an Indian woman ill, I saw _Torno Chaci_, their King, run in
between the offender and the corrector, saying, "_whip me, not
him_;" - the King was the complainant, indeed, but the man deserved a
much severer chastisement. This was a _Savage King_. Christian Kings too
often care not who is whipt, so they escape the smart.



We arrived at this city before the bustle which the coronation of
_Louis_ the 16th occasioned was quite over; I am sorry I did not see it,
because I now find it worth seeing; but I staid at _Calais_ on purpose
to avoid it; for having paid two guineas to see the coronation of George
the Third, I determined never more to be put to any extraordinary
expence on the score of _crowned heads_. However, my curiosity has been
well gratified in hearing it talked over, and over again, and in reading
_Marmontell_'s letter to a friend upon that subject; but I will not
repeat what he, or others have said upon the occasion, because you have,
no doubt, seen in the English papers a tolerably good one; only that the
Queen was so overcome with the repeated shouts and plaudits of her new
subjects, that she was obliged to retire. The fine Gothic cathedral, in
which the ceremony was performed, is indeed a church worthy of such a
solemnity; the portal is the finest I ever beheld; the windows are
painted in the very best manner; nor is there any thing within the
church but what should be there. I need not tell you that this is the
province which produces the most delicious wine in the world; but I will
assure you, that I should have drank it with more pleasure, had you been
here to have partook of it. In the cellars of one wine-merchant, I was
conducted through long passages more like streets than caves; on each
side of which, bottled _Champaigne_ was piled up some feet higher than
my head, and at least twelve deep. I bought two bottles to taste, of
that which the merchant assured me was each of the best sort he had, and
for which I paid him six livres: if he sells all he had in bottles at
that time, and at the same price, I shall not exceed the bounds of truth
if I say, I saw ten thousand pounds worth of bottled _Champaigne_ in
his cellars. Neither of the bottles, however, contained wine so good as
I often drank in England; but perhaps we are deceived, and find it more
palatable by having sugar in it; for I suspect that most of the
_Champaigne_ which is bottled for the use of English consumption, is so
prepared. That you may know however, for the future, whether Champaigne
or any other wine is so adulterated, I will give you an infallible
method to prove: - fill a small long-necked bottle with the wine you
would prove, and invert the neck of it into a tumbler of clear water; if
the wine be genuine, it will all remain in the bottle; if adulterated,
with sugar, honey, or any other sweet substance, the sweets will all
pass into the tumbler of water, and leave the genuine wine behind. The
difference between still _Champaigne_, and that which is _mousser_, is
owing to nothing more than the time of the year in which it is bottled.

I found in this town an English gentleman, from whom we received many
civilities, and who made us acquainted with a French gentleman and lady,
whose partiality to the English nation is so great, that their
neighbours call their house "THE ENGLISH HOTEL." The partiality of such
a family is a very flattering, as well as a very pleasing circumstance,
to those who are so happy to be known to them, because they are not only
the first people in the town, but the _best_; and in point of talents,
inferior to none, perhaps, in the kingdom. I must not, after saying so
much, omit to tell you, it is _Monsieur & Madame de Jardin_, of whom I
speak; they live in the GRANDE PLACE, _vis-a-vis_ the statue of the
King; and if ever you come to Rheims, be assured you will find it a GOOD
PLACE. _Madame de Jardin_ is not only one of the highest-bred women in
France, but one of the first in point of letters, and that is saying a
great deal, for France abounds more with women of that turn than
England. Mrs. Macaulay, Mrs. Carter, Miss Aikin, and Mrs. Montague, are
the only four ladies I can recollect in England who are celebrated for
their literary genius; in France, I could find you a score or two. To
give you some idea of the regard and affection _Mons. de Jardin_ has for
his wife, - for French husbands, now and then, love their wives as well
as we Englishmen do, - I send you a line I found in his study, wrote
under his lady's miniature picture:

"Chaque instant à mes yeux la rend
Plus estimable."

This town stands in a vast plain, is of great extent, and enclosed
within high walls, and a deep ditch. The public walks are of great
extent, nobly planted, and the finest in the whole kingdom. It is,
indeed, a large and opulent city, and abounds not only with the best
wine, but every thing that is good; and every thing is plenty, and
consequently cheap. The fruit market, in particular, is superior to
every thing of the kind I ever beheld; but I will not tantalize you by
saying any more upon that subject. Adieu!

_P.S._ The Antiquarian will find amusement in this town. There are some
Roman remains worthy of notice; but such as require the information of
the inhabitant to be seen.



You will laugh, perhaps, when I tell you, I could hardly refrain from
tears when I took leave of the _De Jardin_ family at _Rheims_, - but so
it was. Good-breeding, and attention, have so much the appearance of
friendship, that they may, and often do, deceive the most discerning
men; - no wonder, then, if I was unhappy in leaving a town, where I am
sure I met with the first, and had some reason to believe I should have
found the latter, had we staid to cultivate it. _Bourgogne_ is, however,
a much finer province than Champaigne; and this town is delightfully
situated; that it is a cheap province, you will not doubt, even to
English travellers, when I tell you, that I had a good supper for four
persons, three decent beds, good hay, and plenty of corn, for my horse,
at an inn upon this road, and was charged only four livres ten sols!
not quite four shillings. Nor was it owing to any mistake; for I lay the
following night at just such another inn, and was charged just the same
price for nearly the same entertainment. They were carriers' inns,
indeed, but I know not whether they were not, upon the whole, better,
and cleaner too, than some of the town _auberges_. I need not therefore
tell you, I was straggled a little out of _le Route Anglois_, when I
found such a _bon Marche_.

Dijon is pleasantly situated, well built, and the country round about it
is as beautiful as nature could well make it. The shady walks round the
whole town are very pleasing, and command a view of the adjacent
country. The excellence of the wine of this province, you are better
acquainted with than I am; though I must confess, I have drank better
burgundy in England than I have yet tasted here: but I am not surprized
at that; for at Madeira I could not get wine that was even tolerable.

I found here, two genteel English gentlemen, Mess. Plowden and Smyth,
from whom we received many marks of attention and politeness. - Here, I
imagined I should be able to bear seeing the execution of a man, whose
crimes merited, I thought, the severest punishment. He was broke upon
the wheel; so it is called; but the wheel is what the body is fixed upon
to be exposed on the high road after the execution. This man's body,
however, was burnt. The miserable wretch (a young strong man) was
brought in the evening, by a faint torch light, to a chapel near the
place of execution, where he might have continued in prayer till
midnight; but after one hour spent there, he walked to, and mounted the
scaffold, accompanied by his confessor, who with great earnestness
continually presented to him, and bade him kiss, the crucifix he
carried in his hand. When the prisoner came upon the scaffold, he very
willingly laid himself upon his back, and extended his arms and legs
over a cross, that was laid flat and fixed fast upon the scaffold for
that purpose, and to which he was securely tied by the executioner and
his mother, who assisted her son in this horrid business. Part of the
cross was cut away, in eight places, so as to leave a hollow vacancy
where the blows were to be given, which are, between the shoulder and
elbow, elbow and wrist, thigh and knee, and knee and ancle. When the man
was securely tied down, the end of a rope which was round his neck, with
a running noose, was brought through a hole in and under the scaffold;
this was to give the _Coup de Grace_, after breaking: a _Coup_ which
relieved him, and all the agitated spectators, from an infinite degree
of misery, except only, the executioner and his mother, for they both
seemed to enjoy the deadly office. When the blows were given, which
were made with a heavy piece of iron, in the form of a butcher's
cleaver without an edge, the bones of the arms and legs were broke in
eight places; at each blow, the sufferer called out, O God! without
saying another word, or even uttering a groan. During all this time, the
Confessor called upon him continually to kiss the cross, and to remember
Christ, his Redeemer. Indeed, there was infinite address, as well as
piety, in the conduct of the Confessor; for he would not permit this
miserable wretch to have one moment's reflection about his bodily
sufferings, while a matter of so much more importance was depending; but
even those eight blows seemed nothing to two dreadful after-claps, for
the executioner then untied the body, turned his back upwards, and gave
him two blows on the small of the back with the same iron weapon; and
yet even that did not put an end to the life and sufferings of the
malefactor! for the finishing stroke was, after all this, done by the
halter, and then the body was thrown into a great fire, and consumed to
ashes. There were two or three executions soon after, but of a more
moderate kind. Yet I hope I need not tell you, that I shall never attend
another; and would feign have made my escape from this, but it was
impossible. - Here, too, I saw upwards of fourscore criminals linked
together, by one long chain, and so they were to continue till they
arrived in the galleys at _Marseilles_. Now I am sure you will be, as I
was, astonished to think, an old woman, the mother of the executioner,
should willingly assist in a business of so horrid a nature; and I dare
say, you will be equally astonished that the magistrates of the city
permitted it. Decency, and regard to the sex, alone, one would think,
should have put a stop to a practice so repugnant to both; and yet
perhaps, not one person in the town considered it in that light. Indeed,
no other person would have assisted, and the executioner must have done
all the business himself, if his mother had not been one of that part
of the _fair sex_, which Addison pleasantly mentions, "_as rakers of
cinders_;" for the executioner could not have found a single person to
have given him any assistance. There was a guard of the _Marechaussee_,
to prevent the prisoners' escape; but none that would have lifted up a
little finger towards forwarding the execution; the office is hereditary
and infamous, and the officer is shut out of all society. His
perquisites, however, were considerable; near ten pounds, I think, for
this single execution; and he had a great deal more business coming on.
I would not have given myself the pain of relating, nor you the reading,
the particulars of this horrid affair, but to observe, that it is such
examples as these, that render travelling in France, in general, secure.
I say, in general; for there are, nevertheless, murders committed very
frequently upon the high roads in France; and were those murders to be
made known by news-papers, as ours are in England, perhaps it would
greatly intimidate travellers of their own, as well as other nations.
But as the murdered, and murderers, are generally foot-travellers,
though the dead body is found, the murderer is escaped; and as nobody
knows either party, nobody troubles themselves about it. All over
France, you meet with an infinite number of people travelling on foot,
much better dressed than you find, in general, the stagecoach gentry in
England. Most of these foot-travellers are young expensive tradesmen,
and artists, who have paid their debts by a light pair of heels; when
their money is exhausted, the stronger falls upon the weaker, knocks out
his brains, and furnishes himself with a little money; and these murders
are never scarce heard of above a league from the place where they are
committed; for which reason, you never meet a foot-traveller in France,
without arms, of one kind or other, and carried for one _purpose_, or
the _other_. Gentlemen, however, who travel only in the day-time, and
who are armed, have but little danger to apprehend; yet it is necessary
to be upon their guard when they pass through great woods, and to keep
in the _middle_ of the road, so as not to be too suddenly surprized;
because a _convenient_ opportunity may induce two or three _honest_
travellers to embrace a favourable occasion of replenishing their
purses; and as they always murder those whom they attack, if they can,
those who are attacked should never submit, but defend themselves to the
utmost of their power. Though the woods are dangerous, there are, in my
opinion, plains which are much more so; a high hill which commands an
extensive plain, from which there is a view of the road some miles, both
ways, is a place where a robber has nothing to fear but from those whom
he attacks; and he is morally certain of making his escape one way or
the other: but in a wood, he may be as suddenly surprized, as he is in a
situation to surprize others; for this reason, I have been more on my
guard when I have seen people approach me on an extensive plain, than
when I have passed through deep woods; nor would I ever let any of those
people come too near my chaise; I always shewed them the _utmost
distance_, and made them return the compliment, by bidding them, if they
offered to come out of their line, to keep off: this said in a
peremptory manner, and with a stern look, is never taken ill by honest
men, and has a forcible effect upon rascals, for they immediately
conclude you think yourself superior to them, and then they will think
so too: whatever comes unexpected, is apt to dismay; whole armies have
been seized with a panic from the most trifling artifice of the opposite
general, and such as, by a minute's reflection, would have produced a
contrary effect: the King's troops gave way at Falkirk; the reason was,
they were dismayed at seeing the rebels (_I beg pardon_) come down
_pell mell_ to attack them with their broad swords! it was a new way of
fighting, and, they weakly thought, an invincible one; but had General
Cope previously rode through the ranks, and apprised the troops with the
manner of their fighting, and assured them how feeble the effect of such
weapons would be upon men armed with musket and bayonet, which is
exactly the truth, not a man would have retired; yet, _trim-tram_, they
all ran, and the General, it is said, gave the earliest notice of his
own defeat! But I should have observed, above, that the laws of France
being different, in different provinces, have the contrary effect in the
southern parts, to what they were intended. The _Seigneur_ on whose land
a murdered body is found, is obliged to pay the expence of bringing the
criminal to justice. Some of these lordships are very small; and the
prosecuting a murderer to punishment, would cost the lord of the manor
more than his whole year's income; it becomes his interest, therefore,
to hide the dead body, rather than pursue the living villain; and, as
whoever has property, be it ever so small, has peasants about him who
will be glad to obtain his favour, he is sure that when any of these
peasants see a murdered body, they will give him the earliest notice,
and the same night the body is for ever hid, and no enquiry is made
after the offender. I saw hang on the road side, a family of nine, a
man, his wife, and seven children, who had lived many years by murder
and robberies; and I am persuaded that road murders are very common in
France; yet people of any condition may nevertheless, travel through
France with great safety, and always obtain a guard of the
_Marechaussee_, through woods or forests, or where they apprehend there
is any danger.

_P.S._ The following method of buying and selling the wine of this
province, may be useful to you.

To have good Burgundy, that is, wine _de la premiere tete_, as they term
it, you must buy it from 400 to 700 livres. There are wines still
dearer, up to 1000 or 1200 livres; but it is allowed, that beyond 700
livres, the quality is not in proportion to the price; and that it is in
great measure a matter of fancy.

The carriage of a queue of wine from Dijon to Dunkirk, or to any
frontier town near England, costs an hundred livres, something more than
four sols a bottle; but if sent in the bottle, the carriage will be just
double. The price of the bottles, hampers, package, &c. will again
increase the expence to six sols a bottle more; so that wine which at
first cost 600 livres, or 25 sols a bottle, will, when delivered at
Dunkirk, be worth 29 sols a bottle, if bought in cask; if in bottles, 39
sols. - Now add to this the freight, duties, &c. to London; and as many
pounds sterling as all these expences amount to upon a queue of wine,
just so many French sols must be charged to the price of every bottle.
The reduction of French sols to English sterling money is very plain,
and of course the price of the best burgundy delivered in London, easily

If the wine be sent in casks, it is adviseable to choose rather a
stronger wine, because it will mellow, and form itself in the carriage.
It should be double casked, to prevent as much as possible, the frauds
of the carriers. This operation will cost six or eight livres per piece;
but the great and principal object is, whom to trust to buy the best;
and convey it safely. I doubt, it must not pass through the hands of
Mons. C - - , if he deals in wine as he does in drapery, and bills of



Upon our arrival at _Chalons_, I was much disappointed; as I intended to
have embarked on the _Soane_, and have slipped down here in the _coche
d'eau_, and thereby have saved my horse the fatigue of dragging us
hither: but I could only spare him that of drawing my heaviest baggage.
The _coche d'eau_ is too small to take horses and _cabriolets_ on board
at _Chalons_; but at _Lyons_, they will take horses, and coaches, or
houses, and churches, if they could be put on board, to descend the
Rhone, to _Pont St. Esprit_, or _Avignon_. So after we have taken a
fortnight's rest here, I intend rolling down with the rapid current,
which the united force of those two mighty rivers renders, as I am
assured, a short, easy, and delightful passage.

Nothing can be more beautiful than the country we passed through from
_Chalons_ hither. When we got within a few leagues of this great city,
we found every mountain, hill, and dale, so covered with _chateaux_,
country houses, farms, &c. that they appeared like towns, villages, and
hamlets. Nothing can be a stronger proof of the great wealth of the
citizens of _Lyons_, than that they can afford to build such houses,
many of which are more like palaces, than the country retreat of
_bourgeois_. The prospect from the highest part of the road, a league or
two from Lyons, is so extensive, so picturesque, and so enchantingly
beautiful, that, impatient as I was to enter into the town, I could not
refrain stopping at a little shabby wine-house, and drinking coffee
under their mulberry-trees, to enjoy the warm day, the cooling breeze,
and the noble prospects which every way surrounded us.

The town of _Lyons_, too, which stands nearly in the center of Europe,
has every advantage for trade, which men in trade can desire. The
_Soane_ runs through the centre of it, and is covered with barges and
boats, loaded with hay, wood, corn, and an infinite variety of goods
from all parts of the kingdom; while the _Rhone_, on the other side, is
still more serviceable; for it not only supplies the town with all the
above necessaries of life, but conveys its various manufactures down to
the ports of the _Mediterranean_ sea expeditiously, and at little
expence. The small boats, which ply upon the Soane as ours do upon the
Thames, are flat bottomed, and very meanly built; they have, however, a
tilt to shelter them from the heat, and to preserve the complexion, or
hide the _blushes_ of your female _Patronne_: - yes, my dear Sir,
Female! - for they are all conducted by females; many of whom are young,
handsome, and neatly dressed. I have, more than once, been disposed to
blush, when I saw a pretty woman sitting just opposite me, labouring in
an action which I thought would have been more becoming myself. I asked
one of these female _sculls_, how she got her bread in the winter? Oh,
Sir, said she giving me a very significant look, such a one as you can
better conceive, than I convey, _dans l'hiver J'ai un autre talent_. And
I assure you I was glad she did not exercise _both her talents_ at the
same time of the year; yet I could not refrain from giving her a double
fee, for a single fare, as I thought there was something due to her
_winter_ as well as summer abilities.

But I must not let my little _Bateliere's_ talents prevent me, while I
think of it, telling you, that I did visit, and stay some days at the
Roman town lately discovered in Champaigne, which I mentioned to you in
a former letter: it stood upon a mountain, now called the _Chatelet_,
the foot of which is watered by a good river, and its sides with _good
wine_. _Monsieur Grignon_, whose house stands very near it, and who has
there an iron manufacture, first discovered the remains of this ancient
town; his men, in digging for iron ore, found wrought gold, beside other
things, which convinced _Mons. Grignon_ (who is a man of genius) that it
was necessary to inform the King with what they had discovered; in
consequence of which, his Majesty ordered the foundations to be laid
open; and I had the satisfaction of seeing in _Mons. Grignon_'s cabinet
an infinite number of Roman utensils, such as weights, measures, kitchen
furniture, vases, busts, locks, swords, inscriptions, pottery ware,
statues, &c. which afforded me, and would you, a great deal of pleasure,
as well as information. _Mons. Grignon_ the elder, was gone to Paris; a
circumstance which gave me great concern to hear before I went to his
house, but which was soon removed by the politeness, and hospitable
manner I was received by his son: yet, my only recommendation to either,
was my being a stranger; and being a stranger is, in general, a good
recommendation to a Frenchman, for, upon all such occasions, they are
never shy, or backward in communicating what they know, or of gratifying
the curiosity of an inquisitive traveller; their houses, cabinets, and
gardens, are always open; and they seem rather to think they receive,
than grant a favour, to those who visit them. How many fine gardens,
valuable cabinets, and curiosities, have we in England, so shut up, that
the difficulty of access renders them as unentertaining to the public,
as they are to the sordid and selfish possessors! I am thoroughly
satisfied that the town I am speaking of was destroyed by fire, and not,
as has been imagined, by any convulsion of the earth, as I found, among
a hundred other strong proofs of it, an infinite number of pieces of
melted glass, lead, &c. But though I examined the cellars of eight
hundred Roman citizens, the selfish rogues had not left a single bottle
of wine. - I longed to taste the _old Falernian_ wine, of seventeen
hundred years.

I write from time to time to you; but not without often thinking it is a
great presumption in me to suppose I can either entertain or instruct
you; but I proceed, upon your commands, and the authority of Lord Bacon,
who says, he is surprised to find men make diaries in sea voyages, where
nothing is to be seen but sky and sea, and for the most part omit it in
land travels, where so much is to be observed; as if chance were better

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Online LibraryPhilip ThicknesseA Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) → online text (page 2 of 11)