Tobias George Smollett.

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because it is the land of liberty, cleanliness, and con-
venience. But I love it still more tenderly, as the scene
of all my interesting connexions ; as the habitation of
my friends, for whose conversation, correspondence, and
esteem, I wish alone to live.

Our journey hither from Lyons produced neither
accident nor adventure worth notice ; but abundance of
little vexations, which may be termed the plagues of
posting. At Lyons, where we stayed only a few days, I
found a return-coach, which I hired to Paris for six
loui'dores. It was a fine roomy carriage, elegantly
furnished, and made for travelling, so strong and solid



in all its parts, that there was no danger of its being
shaken to pieces by the roughness of the road. But its
weight and solidity occasioned so much friction between
the wheels and the axle-tree, that we ran the risk of
being set on fire three or four times a day. Upon a just
comparison of all circumstances, posting is much more
easy, convenient, and reasonable in England than in
France. The English carriages, horses, harness, and
roads are much better ; and the postilions more obliging
and alert. The reason is plain and obvious. If I am ill
used at the post-house in England, I can be accommodated
elsewhere. The publicans on the road are sensible of
this, and therefore they vie with each other in giving
satisfaction to travellers. But in France, where the
post is monopolized, the post-masters, and postilions,
knowing that the traveller depends entirely upon them,
are the more negligent and remiss in their duty, as well
as the more encouraged to insolence and imposition. In-
deed, the stranger seems to be left entirely at the mercy
of those fellows, except in large towns, where he may
have recourse to the magistrate or commanding officer.
The post stands very often by itself in a lone country
situation, or in a paltry village, where the post-master is
the principal inhabitant ; and in such a case, if you
should be ill treated, by being supplied with bad horses ;
if you should be delayed on frivolous pretences, in order
to extort money; if the postilions should drive at a
waggon pace, with a view to provoke your impatience ;
or should you in any shape be insulted by them or their
masters ; I know not any redress you can have, except
by a formal complaint to the comptroller of the post,
who is generally one of the ministers of state, and pays



little or no regard to any such representations. I know
an English gentleman, the brother of an earl, who wrote
a letter of complaint to the Due de Villars, governor of
Provence, against the post-master of Antibes, who had
insulted and imposed upon him. The duke answered
his letter, promising to take order that the grievance
should be redressed; and never thought of it after.
Another great inconvenience which attends posting in
France is, that if you are retarded by any accident, you
cannot, in many parts of the kingdom, find a lodging,
without perhaps travelling two or three posts farther
than you would choose to go, to the prejudice of your
health, and even the hazard of your life ; whereas, on
any part of the post-road in England, you will meet
with tolerable accommodation at every stage. Through
the whole south of France, except in large cities, the
inns are cold, damp, dark, dismal, and dirty ; the land-
lords equally disobliging and rapacious; the servants
aukward, sluttish, and slothful ; and the postilions lazy,
lounging, greedy, and impertinent. If you chide them
for lingering, they will continue to delay you the longer.
If you chastise them with sword, cane, cudgel, or horse-
whip, they will either disappear entirely, and leave you
without resource, or they will find means to take ven-
geance by overturning your carriage. The best method
I know of travelling with any degree of comfort, is to
allow yourself to become the dupe of imposition, and
stimulate their endeavours by extraordinary gratifica-
tions. I laid down a resolution (and kept it,) to give no
more than four-and-twenty sols per post between the
two postilions ; but I am now persuaded, that for three-
pence a post more, I should have been much better



served, and should have performed the journey with
much greater pleasure. We met with no adventures
upon the road worth reciting. The first day we were
retarded above two hours by the Dutchess D — lie, and
her son the Due de R — f — ^t, who, by virtue of an order
from the minister, had anticipated all the horses at the
post. They accosted my servant, and asked if his
master was a lord ? He thought proper to answer in
the affirmative ; upon which the duke declared he must
certainly be of French extraction, inasmuch as he ob-
served the lilies of Prance in his arms on the coach.
This young nobleman spoke a little English. He asked
whence we had come ; and understanding we had been
in Italy, desired to know whether the man liked France
or Italy best ? Upon his giving France the preference,
he clapped him on the shoulder, and said he was a lad
of good taste. The dutchess asked if her son spoke
English well, and seemed mightily pleased when my
man assured her he did. They were much more free
and condescending with my servant than with myself ;
for, though we saluted them in passing, and were even
supposed to be persons of quality, they did not open
their lips while we stood close by them at the inn door
till their horses were changed. They were going to
Geneva ; and their equipage consisted of three coaches
and six, with five domestics a-horseback. The dutchess
was a tall, thin, raw-boned woman, with her head close
shaved. This delay obliged us to lie two posts short of
Macon, at a solitary auberge called Maison Blanche,
which had nothing white about it but the name. The
Lionnois is one of the most agreeable and best culti-
vated countries I ever beheld, diversified with hill, dale,



wood, and water, laid out in extensive cornfields and
rich meadows, well stocked with black cattle ; and
adorned with a surprising number of towns, villages,
villas, and convents, generally situated on the brows of
gently swelling hills, so that they appear to the greatest
advantage. What contributes in a great measure to the
beauty of this, and the MacOnnois, is the charming pas-
toral Soane, which from the city of Chalons * winds its
silent course so smooth and gentle, that one can scarce
discern which way its current flows. It is this placid
appearance that tempts so many people to bathe in it at
Lyons, where a good number of individuals are drowned
every summer. Whereas, there is no instance of any
person's thus perishing in the Rhone, the rapidity of it
deterring every body from bathing in its stream. Next
night we passed at Beaune, where we found nothing
good but the vtrine, for which we paid forty sols the
bottle. At Chalons our axle-tree took fire ; an accident
which detained us so long, that it was ten before we
arrived at Auxerre, where we lay. In all probability we
must have lodged in the coach, had not we been content
to take four horses, and pay for six, two posts success-
ively. The alternative was, either to proceed with four
on those terms, or stay till the other horses should come
in and be refreshed. In such an emergency, I would
advise the traveller to put up with the four, and he will
find the postilions so much upon their mettle, that those
stages will be performed sooner than the others in which
you have the full complement.

There was an English gentleman laid up at Auxerre
with a broken arm, to whom I sent my compliments,

* Chaion-sur-Sadne.


with offers of service ; but his servant told my man that
he did not choose to see any company, and had no
occasion for my service. This sort of reserve seems
peculiar to the English disposition. When two natives
of any other country chance to meet abroad, they run
into each other's embrace like old friends, even though
they have never heard of one another till that moment ;
whereas, two Englishmen in the same situation main-
tain a mutual reserve and diffidence, and keep without
the sphere of each other's attraction, like two bodies
endowed with a repulsive power. We only stopped to
change horses at Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, which
is a venerable old city ; but we passed part of a day at
Sens, and visited a manufacture of that stuff we call
Manchester velvet, which is here made and dyed to
great perfection, under the direction of English work-
men, who have been seduced from their own country.
At Fontainebleau we went to see the palace, or, as it is
called, the castle, which, though an irregular pile of
building, affords a great deal of lodging, and contains
some very noble apartments, particularly the hall of
audience, with the king's and queen's chambers, upon
which the ornaments of carving and gilding are lavished
with profusion rather than propriety. Here are some
rich parterres of flower-garden, and a noble orangerie,
which, however, we did not greatly admire, after having
lived among the natural orange groves of Italy. Hither-
to we had enjoyed fine summer weather, and I found
myself so well that I imagined my health was entirely
restored. But betwixt Fontainebleau and Paris, we were
overtaken by a black storm of rain, sleet, and hail, which
seemed to reinstate winter in all its rigour; for the cold



weather continues to this day. There was no resisting
this attack. I caught cold immediately ; and this was
reinforced at Paris, where I stayed but three days.
The same man, Pascal Sellier, rue Guenegaud, Pauxbourg
St. Germain, who owned the coach that brought us from
Lyons, supplied me with a returned berline to Boulogne,
for six loui'dores, and we came hither by easy journeys.
The first night we lodged at Breteuil, where we found
an elegant inn, and very good accommodation. But the
next we were forced to take up our quarters at the house
where we had formerly passed a very disagreeable
night at Abbeville. I am now in tolerable lodging,
where I shall remain a few weeks, merely for the sake
of a little repose; then I shall gladly tempt that in-
vidious strait which still divides you from

Yours &c.


Butler ft Tanner, The Selwood PcintmE Works, Frome, and London.





Online LibraryTobias George SmollettWorks → online text (page 30 of 30)