W.D. Fellowes.

A Visit to the Monastery of La Trappe in 1817 With Notes Taken During a Tour Through Le Perche, Normandy, Bretagne, Poitou, Anjou, Le Bocage, Touraine, Orleanois, and the Environs of Paris. Illustrate online

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Online LibraryW.D. FellowesA Visit to the Monastery of La Trappe in 1817 With Notes Taken During a Tour Through Le Perche, Normandy, Bretagne, Poitou, Anjou, Le Bocage, Touraine, Orleanois, and the Environs of Paris. Illustrate → online text (page 6 of 8)
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exaltations of personal feeling and adventure which produce the most
lively interest, and lead to the most animating results. In the
unconcerted proceedings of an insurgent population, all is experiment
and all is passion. The heroic daring of a simple peasant lifts him
at once to the rank of a leader, and kindles a general enthusiasm to
which all things become possible".

From the operation of these causes the Vendeans were enabled to send
forth formidable armies: and such was the confidence of the chiefs in
the troops, that they never would have been subdued if they had
not lost their leaders in the various hard fought actions, or
been deprived of their services by their mutual jealousy. Another
circumstance proved equally fatal to them; after the fall of the
gallant Lescure, they most imprudently quitted the strong country for
the open plains on the left bank of the Loire.



The Loire is one of the finest rivers in France; and perhaps there is
no river in the world, that equals that part of it, which flows from
Angers to Nantes: the breadth of the stream; the islands of wood; the
boldness, culture, and richness of its banks, all conspire to
render it worthy of this character. As a useful river it is equally
celebrated: its banks being bordered by rich and populous cities; and
the benefits it renders to industry and commerce being incalculable.

Its stream is so rapid and strong, that in ascending it is generally
necessary from Nantes to Angers, to track the barge: this mode of
proceeding, though slow, has its advantages; as it gives greater time
and opportunity for observing all the various beauties of scenery
which present themselves at every turn of the river.

I embarked early in the morning with a favourable breeze from the
west: we soon began to be interested, and almost enchanted, with the
rich and beautiful scenery, which almost every moment opened to our
view in endless variety. This scenery not only pleased the eye and
imagination by its beauty, but also excited high and deep interest
by the fertility which it displayed. The banks were lined with corn
fields, vineyards, or orchards. Occasionally the nature and interest
of the prospect were agreeably diversified by the spire of a convent
or the turrets of a chateau, rising above gardens or groves, or rich
woodlands. At other places there were still more decided marks of
population, for villages, country-houses, and farms, caught the eye,
and added to the charms by which it was so willingly and powerfully

The whole country on each side is well cultivated. But even this part
of France, interesting and beautiful as it is, cannot be traversed
without the recollection of the horrors of the revolution breaking in
upon, and greatly damping the interest and pleasure derived from the
view of the scenery. As we approached the ruined tower of Oudon,
it was impossible not to feel a melancholy regret at the scenes of
unparalleled bloodshed that took place on the rich and delightful
banks of this river during the phrenzy of the revolution. These
dreadful recollections assailed us most powerfully as we came in view
of Ancenis on the left, and of Saint Florent le Viel to the right.
At the latter place we stopped for the night. It was a fine serene
evening, the wind had left us, and we were forced to track the shore
for some distance before we reached it: just as the sun was setting I
made a sketch of its ruined convent on the hill.

[Illustration: TOUR D'OUDON on the RIVER LOIRE.]


After the defeat of the Vendean army, and their retreat across the
Loire at this place, says a French writer, "There were seen upon
the right bank, following the army, which increased prodigiously,
a multitude of bishops, priests, monks, religious persons, old
countesses, baronesses, &c. &c. who were carried off by cart-loads,
and which did nothing but embarrass the army.[11] There were a great
many of them killed at the battle of Mans".

[Footnote 11: On gaining the heights of St. Florent, one of the most
mournful, and at the same time most magnificent spectacles, burst upon
the eye. These heights form a vast semicircle; at the bottom of which
a broad bare plain extends to the edge of the water. Near an hundred
thousand unhappy souls now blackened over that dreary expanse, - old
men, infants and women, mingled, with the half-armed soldiery,
caravans, crowded baggage waggons and teams of oxen, all full of
despair, impatience, anxiety and terror: - Behind, were the smoke
of their burning villages, and the thunder of the hostile
artillery; - before, the broad stream of the Loire, divided by a long
low island, also covered with the fugitives, - twenty frail barks
plying in the stream - and, on the far banks, the disorderly movements
of those who had effected the passage, and were waiting there to be
rejoined by their companions. Such, Mad. de L. assures us, was the
tumult and terror of the scene, and so awful the recollections it
inspired, that it can never be effaced from the memory of any of
those who beheld it; and that many of its awe-struck spectators have
concurred in stating, that it brought forcibly to their imaginations
the unspeakable terrors of the great day of judgment. - _Edinb. Rev.
No. LI. p. 24._]

It is said that when the Prince Talmont, with the royalists, crossed
over from Saint Florent, under the fire of the republican troops who
had taken possession of the heights, they consisted of thirty thousand
individuals, but that there were not twenty thousand warriors; among
them were five thousand women: arrived in the open country, without
warlike stores, they soon wanted provisions. This multitude created
a famine wherever it went, and suffered a famine itself. The first
unsuccessful enterprize produced discouragement, and necessarily the
desertion of the army: it diminished two-thirds when it was repulsed
at Angers; and when the chiefs, despairing (after the battle of Mans)
of not being able to recross the Loire at Ancenis, led back the wrecks
of the army to Savenay, it consisted only of fifteen thousand men,
half dead with hunger and misery: the major part of these were
exterminated by the republicans; the rest dispersed themselves, and
from that time all efforts ceased. Prince de Talmont was arrested near
Erne, tried at Rennes, and executed at Laval: of the fate of Lescure
and the other chiefs, a melancholy catalogue is furnished by Madame de
la Roche-Jaquelin.

The wind favoring us the day following, we sailed at break of day, and
arrived at Angers at the close of a beautiful evening. The approach to
this town, in sailing up the river Mayenne, is highly picturesque; its
ancient castle is situated on a high rock overhanging the river; its
walls and antique towers, built by the English, have an imposing
effect. The town stands in a plain, which, in the distance, being
fringed with wood, together with the corn and meadow ground, give it
that richness and beauty that characterizes the whole country between
Nantes and Angers. The river Mayenne, and a small branch of the
Loire, divide the town. It is the chief seat of the province of
Maine-et-Loire, formerly the capital of Anjou. It is a large ancient
city, with a fine cathedral, a botanical garden, museum, and
several manufactories of cottons; one of them in imitation of India
handkerchiefs. Here the last effort was made by the Vendeans, whose
flight from it was immediately followed by the bloody and disastrous
affair of Mans.

I had now passed the provinces of Bretagne and Poitou, as they border
the Loire; and, in point of beautiful and romantic scenery, this
district can scarcely be surpassed. The left bank of the river,
running along the country of Le Bocage, from Nantes to Angers, a
distance of seventy-two miles, is a continued range of lofty hills,
agreeably diversified with corn lands, and studded with vineyards. The
opposite bank is a more flat and variegated country, with pleasant
eminences and broad plains, watered by branches of the Loire, which in
many parts contains small islands covered with trees. The whole course
of this fine river, as the eye sweeps and ranges over its banks,
presents at almost every bend the view of villas enriched with
gardens, orchards, and vineyards; castles, convents, and villages in
ruins! bearing innumerable evidences of the desolating war that has
destroyed them.

The religious communities, whose love of scenery and retirement in
general led them to prefer the most sequestered valleys, have in these
provinces chosen the most elevated and picturesque spots for the
erection of their monasteries; and these, notwithstanding their
deserted and decaying state, prove the good taste of their ancient
possessors, and the skill and industry with which they embellished
them. No situations could have been selected more abounding in
picturesque combinations of magnificent landscapes.

The pleasure of the traveller in surveying such scenes, cannot but be
frequently interrupted, by the recollection of the various atrocities
which the inhabitants of these fine provinces committed against each
other, and of the immense number of innocent victims that were driven
from their abode to perish by famine or the sword.



I hired a small carriage, called a _patache_, to convey me to Saumur
and Tours; it is driven by a postillion with two horses, and is open
in front, giving the traveller a better opportunity of viewing the
country than in a close vehicle.

The town of Saumur is built on both banks of the Loire, with a
handsome stone bridge over it; an ancient castle, built on a high
rock, commands the whole town. The road from Angers to this place is a
high raised causeway, paved, and runs parallel to the river, within
a few paces of its banks, the whole distance. Here we entered into
Touraine from the province of Anjou. From Saumur to Tours, the road
is like the former. The river Loire is on the right hand, and a flat
level country on the left, covered with orchards, groves, and meadows.
The road is every where raised so high, that it forms a very steep
declivity, with narrow pathways down to the entrance of the cottages
and villages, which are most romantically situated, - some in orchards,
some amidst vineyards, some in gardens, and others in recesses peeping
from between the trees. The fences are fantastically interwoven with
wreaths of the vines, which frequently creep up the trunk of a pear or
a cherry-tree, and cover the slated roofs of the houses, thereby, from
the natural luxuriance and wildness of their spreading branches in the
fruit season, answering at once the purposes of utility and ornament;
for the slates, retaining the heat, ripen the grape sooner than any
other mode of training. The corn was now ripe, and added to the
interest and beauty of the scenes; in many of the fields the reapers
were at work, and the harvest (which happily for France had not been
so abundant for many years) was going on with the assistance of the
female peasantry, who on all occasions partake and cheer the labours
of the field.

Approaching nearer to Tours, I had a fine view of the bridge, which is
esteemed the handsomest in France. Between the branches of the trees,
I now and then caught a glimpse of the spires of the church and
buildings, encompassed by extensive orchards and groves, and open
vales between, varied by vineyards. It was a _jour de fête_, and as I
drove through the town the streets were gay with holyday people, and
crowded in some places with groups of women and girls, whose cheerful
countenances proved the admiration with which they viewed the
performances of some mountebanks.[12] Tours is the chief seat of the
préfecture of the Indre-et-Loire, formerly the capital of the province
of Touraine, and is built on a plain on the bank of the Loire. The
houses are of a white stone, and in the principal streets well built
and lofty: it is altogether one of the handsomest towns in France. The
main street, the rue Royale, can boast of a foot pavement, which is
seldom to be met with in this country. The environs of the town are
also very beautiful; the luxuriance of the soil, abounding in vines,
fruits, and every article of life, has attracted such numbers of
English to its vicinity, that Tours may be almost considered an
English colony.

[Footnote 12: There is no city in Europe where there are more of
these sort of people to be seen than at Paris, on the boulevards and
different carrefours. The fondness of the Parisians for shows has
existed for ages. In a tariff of Saint Lewis for regulating the duties
upon the different articles brought into Paris by the gate of the
little Châtelet, it is ordained, (Hist. LVIII. cxxxiii.) that
whosoever fetches a monkey into the city for sale, shall pay four
deniers; but if the monkey belongs to a merry-andrew, the merry-andrew
shall be exempted from paying the duty, as well upon the said monkey
as on every thing else he carries along with him, by causing his
monkey to play and dance before the collector! Hence is derived the
proverb "Payer en monnoie de singe," i.e. to laugh at a man instead of
paying him. By another article, it is specified, that jugglers shall
likewise be exempt from all imposts, provided they sing a couplet of a
song before the toll-gatherer.]

Its ancient cathedral is in good preservation, notwithstanding it
became a prey to the licentious fanaticism of the republicans.

The hotel Saint Julien, where I resided during my stay, stands upon
the cloisters of an ancient abbey; and the church, with its fine
Gothic pillars, and chapels, remains a monument of those destructive
and desolating times! The side aisles are stalls for horses and
cattle, and the centre is a _remise_ for carriages and the public
diligences which run to this inn! The best hotel is the hotel du
Faisan. The vast number of English who keep pouring into all the
western provinces of this country, by degrees has affected the
markets, and will continue to do so, as long as the rage for
emigration lasts. At Tours, every article is one third dearer than at
Nantes, and in proportion as the capital is approached every thing
becomes more expensive; yet notwithstanding this, living is, and must
ever be, infinitely cheaper than in England.

It certainly is no exaggeration to say, that France is richer in the
production of fruits and vegetables than any country in Europe, for in
no other can be found so many productions of the same climates of the
earth, or a soil more naturally abundant. With the exception of some
of the northern provinces, every part of France has wine, and the
culture of that delicious fruit which produces it is mentioned in its
earliest records. By a happy distribution, those provinces which do
not bear the vine, are abundantly supplied with other productions.
Normandy and Bretagne abound in the finest fruits; Picardy, and the
adjoining provinces, in corn. The riches of Lorraine are in its woods;
Touraine has ever been famous for its plums and its pears. The banks
of the Loire, and the valleys of Dauphiné, are celebrated for the
richness of their verdure and vegetation; and the more southern
provinces of Languedoc and Provence, partake of the climate and
productions of Italy and Spain.

Between Tours and Amboise, I passed the once celebrated Château of
Chanteloup, formerly the property of the Duc de Choiseuil, now the
residence of the Comte de Chaptal, who became the purchaser when it
was sold as national property.

At the distance of six miles from Blois, the road leads near enough to
Valençay to have a good view of its magnificent palace and grounds;
this place, now belonging to M. de Talleyrand, Prince et Duc de
Benevento, (one of the most extraordinary characters who have figured
so conspicuously during the present age,) is the more interesting,
from having been so long the place of confinement of Ferdinand the
present King of Spain; and from whence our government tried to
extricate him through the agency of Baron de Kolly, who lost his life
in the attempt. This singular transaction has appeared in all the
public papers, but having had an opportunity of collecting the
particulars through a channel of undoubted authority, I consider it an
anecdote of too interesting a nature, as connected with the subject
before me, not to insert it here.

In 1810, our government laid a plan to liberate King Ferdinand VII. of
Spain, similar to the one which had already effected the escape of
the Marquis de la Romana. The person entrusted with this commission,
assumed the name of Baron de Kolly, and besides the necessary credit
and credentials, he was furnished with the original letter, written by
Charles IV. to George III. in 1802, notifying the marriage of his son,
the Prince of the Asturias, and containing a marginal note from the
Marquis W.... in corroboration of his mission. A small squadron was
also sent to cruize off that part of the coast most contiguous to
Valençay, under the orders of Commodore C.... to be in readiness to
receive the royal fugitive. On a sudden the Baron de Kolly was seized,
and the plan frustrated, but the real particulars were never known
until after the events of the campaign of 1815.

In the course of the passage to St. Helena, Admiral C.... (who
had been entrusted with the project) expressed a wish to know of
Buonaparte, by what means de Kolly had been discovered and arrested,
and the true circumstances of the affair so totally unknown in
England, adding, that if no motive of state policy intervened, he was
anxious to hear the whole disclosure. Buonaparte readily consented,
and told him that de Kolly arrived at Paris and lived in the greatest
obscurity, dressed shabbily, and eating his meals only at cheap
traiteurs in the Fauxbourg St. Antoine. However, he was not satisfied
with the common wine served up, and would ask for the best Bordeaux,
for which he paid five francs per bottle. This contrast of poverty and
luxury excited suspicions in the waiters of the two houses he thus
frequented, who being in the pay of the police, immediately sent in a
report. De Kolly was watched, and soon afterwards seized with all
his papers. Buonaparte said he then procured a person, as nearly
resembling de Kolly as could be found, to carry on the English
stratagem, under a hope that Ferdinand would have fallen into the
trap; and with all the original credentials, this agent of the French
police went into the castle of Valençay, under a pretext of selling
some trinkets. Ferdinand however, said Buonaparte, was too great a
coward to enter into the views proposed to him, but instantly gave
information of what had been communicated, to his first chamberlain,
Amazada, in a letter written to the governor of the castle! - By this
means Ferdinand escaped being placed at the mercy of Buonaparte, whose
intention was to intercept him in his flight.

Although the conduct of Ferdinand was in this instance pusillanimous
and cruel, it was next to an impossibility that he could have
effected his escape. He was surrounded by guards and spies of every
description, under the superintendence of M. Darberg, Auditor of the
Council of State, and without whose leave no admittance could be
obtained. Twenty-five horse gendarmes regularly mounted guard about
the castle, and every person found in its vicinity without a regular
passport, was confined and strictly examined.

At a small distance, is the residence of Marshal Victor, Duc de
Belluno, whom I met walking in the grounds. I was very civilly
permitted to enter, on sending a message desiring permission, as a
traveller, to see it. It stands at the entrance of the village of
Ménard, and was once the favourite residence of Madame de Pompadour,
the mistress of Louis XV. The river Loire winds beautifully beneath
the terrace. The grounds are of a vast extent, and tastefully laid
out. Over the entrance, the workmen were then placing the arms of the
Marshal, finely executed in stone.

The country is thickly enclosed on each side of the river, varied with
hill and dale, clothed with vineyards. The villages and small towns
along the banks, as far as Orléans, are numerous and invariably
picturesque. Nothing can be more beautiful than the natural festoons
which are formed by the long shoots of the vines as they project over
the road. The peasants and the vignerons live in the midst of their
vineyards; their dwellings are excavations in chalky strata of the
solid rock, which afford them warm and dry habitations; some of them
were so covered with the vines that the entrance was scarcely visible,
and the comparison of them to so many birds nests is not badly
imagined. The hedges were covered with wild thyme and rosemary; and
the clematis interwoven with honeysuckles and other fragrant flowers,
richly perfumed the air. The grapes in Touraine and Orléanois are not
abundant this year, but the wine that is expected to be made, will,
it is supposed, from the dryness of the summer, be of an excellent

The town of Orléans is memorable for the siege it sustained against
the English in 1428, when the maid of Orléans acquired so much renown,
and whose barbarous execution at Rouen, cannot be remembered without
feelings of horror and indignation, and must ever remain a stain on
the memory of that brave soldier the Duke of Bedford. The transactions
subsequent to that event, led to the almost entire expulsion of the
English from France; and those glittering conquests which were an
object of more glory than interest, and had been purchased at such an
expense of blood and treasure, were from that time lost to the English

During the Revolution, the ancient statue of this celebrated female
was taken down and unfortunately destroyed, and one more modern, but
less interesting, finely executed in bronze, has been since erected.
She is habited in armour, with a lance and shield, supposed to
be leading on the victorious troops. At the four angles, are the
emblematical figures in relief, of the principal events of her
singular career. On a marble pedestal, is inscribed:


Orléans is the chief seat of the department of the Loiret, formerly
the capital of Orléanais, on the river Loire, over which it has a
handsome bridge like the one at Tours, though not of such extent, as
the river here is not so wide, and very shallow. The communication by
water with Paris is carried on by means of a canal.

The church is one of the finest specimens of Gothic architecture I
have seen in France. The towers are of open fretwork, and in excellent
preservation. More cheerful scenes of exuberant fertility are nowhere
to be met with than along the banks of the river, and in the country
surrounding the town.

From Orléans to Etampes, there is a plain of eighteen leagues in
extent, the whole of which was covered with one entire tract of corn
and vines; not an intervening hill or hillock; and the scene was
doubly interesting from the harvest carrying on in every direction as
I traversed it.

Leaving Etampes, I passed through the beautiful villages of Sceaux,
Bourg-la-Reine, and Fontenay-aux-Roses; the latter still contains the
ruins of the Palace of Colbert, the celebrated minister of Louis XIV.

The village of Fontenay-aux-Roses, is situated in a valley six miles
from Paris, and takes its name from the culture of roses, which cover
large tracts of ground. The proprietors sell the flowers to the
distillers for making rose water and essences, and the flower market
is supplied with the choicest bouquets; it is likewise celebrated for
its produce of the finest strawberries and peaches.

The beauty of its situation, and the association of its name with the
sweetest of flowers, has attracted many of the wealthy inhabitants
of the metropolis to reside in its vicinity, where they have summer
houses; among them is the Maire de Fontenay, Monsieur Ledru, whose
history is singular and interesting.

His father, who was very wealthy, and a great miser, sent for him one
morning, at the time he had just attained his eighteenth year, and
said to him: "I began life at your age with half a crown; there is one
for you - go, and be as fortunate as I have been;" - saying which, he
turned him out of the house, and shut the door in his face.

Undismayed at such unexpected and unnatural conduct on the part of his
parent, whom he had never offended, the youth sought the advice and
assistance of a friend, by whose opinion he applied himself to the

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Online LibraryW.D. FellowesA Visit to the Monastery of La Trappe in 1817 With Notes Taken During a Tour Through Le Perche, Normandy, Bretagne, Poitou, Anjou, Le Bocage, Touraine, Orleanois, and the Environs of Paris. Illustrate → online text (page 6 of 8)