A VISIT TO THE MONASTERY OF LA TRAPPE
TAKEN DURING A TOUR THROUGH LE PERCHE, NORMANDY, BRETAGNE, POITOU, ANJOU, LE BOCAGE, TOURAINE, ORLEANOIS, AND THE ENVIRONS OF PARIS.
W.D. FELLOWES, ESQ.
ILLUSTRATED WITH NUMEROUS COLOURED ENGRAVINGS, FROM DRAWINGS MADE ON THE SPOT.
LIST OF THE PLATES.
View of the Monastery of La Trappe
Ruins of the Ancient Church of ditto
Ruins of the Gateway of the ancient Chartreuse
Les Noyades (vignette)
Grotto of Heloise at Clisson
Tomb of Abelard and Heloise
Ruins of Abelard's House
Granite Rock in the Garenne
Le Connetable de Clisson (outline)
Ruins of Clisson
Tour des Pelerins
Moulin aux chevres
Tour d'Oudon on the River Loire
View of St. Florent
In justice to the public and to myself, I must disavow for the following pages any higher literary pretension than what is conveyed by the simple title of "Notes," under which I have ventured to give them to the world. I had no other aim in writing but to occupy as rationally as I could the hours of travel, and no other object in publishing but to impart to others as plainly as I could a portion of the pleasure I myself experienced. It has somewhere been remarked to this effect, that if every man of common understanding were to put down the daily thoughts and occurrences of his life, candidly and unaffectedly as he experienced them, he must necessarily produce something of interest to his fellow men, and make a book, which, though not enlivened by wit, dignified by profundity of reasoning, nor valuable by extent of research, yet no man perhaps should throw aside with either weariness or disgust.
Whether I shall prove fortunate enough not to excite these sensations in such readers as may honour my book with a perusal, I fear to conjecture. But it was my good fortune, during a season of uncommon beauty, to make a tour through some of the most interesting parts of France, and to meet with persons who, from situation and talents, were highly calculated to give my journey every charm of society and information. The natural face of the country through which I passed was peculiarly beautiful: I could scarcely move a step without some novelty of picturesque enchantment, and had the most perfect opportunities of contemplating Nature in all her varied poetry, from the grand and terrible graces of savage sublimity, to the soft and playful loveliness of cultivated luxuriance. There was scarcely a town or village where I arrived which romance or history, religion or politics, had not invested and adorned with every interest of mental association. Under such impressions, and with such opportunities, it was scarcely possible to resist recording something of what I saw and felt; and if the publication of my hasty record be an error, it will be deemed by my friends, I hope, a pardonable one. My book can scarcely demand the serious attention of the critic; nor could criticism well expect a better style from one whose profession is seldom supposed to allow much leisure to acquire nicety in the arts of composition. I claim no other merit for my Notes than having followed the advice (of Gray, I believe) that ten words put down at the moment upon the spot, are worth a whole cart load of recollections. I have not sought to add to their attraction (if they should possess any) by the embellishments of my invention, or the graces of my periods—the decorative artifices of execution can never give value to falsehood, and truth needs them not. A simple landscape, simply described from nature, has always a charm above the most high-finished compositions of mere fancy; and, like a moderate painting from the same source, still imparts a feeling of reality. I hope, therefore, I shall be excused for attempting some description, slight and unskilful as it may be, of places and scenery where the human mind has exhibited some of its most curious and powerful features, and which awaken reflections of the deepest interest—I allude particularly to the monastery of La Trappe, and to the country of La Vendee. The former had dwelt among the earliest impressions of youth, with something like the wild and wonderful force of a romantic tale; and I was anxious to become an eye-witness of what had so long been one of the most powerful objects of my imagination. The gloomy and almost inaccessible situation chosen by this strange fraternity for their convent—their rigid separation from human intercourse—the infringible taciturnity imposed upon themselves—and the terrible severity of their penances, are certainly circumstances more resembling the visionary indulgence of fantasy and fiction, than actual realities to be met with among living men, and in the present day.
With regard to the department of La Vendee, whatever serves, trivial as it may be, to recall or illustrate the history of its wars and the character of its inhabitants, must ever possess a charm for those who delight to sympathize with the noble struggles of a gallant people, conscientiously devoting themselves to the cause of a fallen and persecuted monarchy, and resisting the cruel and destructive ferocity of a licentious enemy, who had broken down the most sacred fences of society, and trampled upon the dearest ties of human nature.
In these Notes, slight as they are, I can truly promise the reader that he will find nothing wilfully misrepresented, nor advanced without just authority; and if the rapid and cursory character of the observations, allusions, and anecdotes, shall enable an hour to pass agreeably that has no better employment, I am content, and gratified with the attainment of all I ever hoped or designed by an unpretending publication, which I cheerfully dedicate to all who love to unbend their minds from a critical attitude, and can lounge goodnaturedly over leaves written by a traveller as idle and careless as themselves, and who assures them that no one can think more humbly of his production than himself.
Route from Paris to Mortagne.—Excursion to La Trappe.—State of the Order since the restoration in 1814.—Its foundation and rules under the Abbe de Rance.
Ruins of the Convent of the Chartreux.—Forests of Le Perche.—Mortagne.
From Mortagne to Rennes.—Soeurs de la Charite.—Alencon.—Laval.—Vitre, the celebrated residence of Mad. de Sevigne.
Rennes.—Route from Rennes to Nantes.—City of Nantes.—Historical anecdotes.
Country south of the Loire.—Le Bocage.—Clisson.—Historical anecdotes.—The Garenne, and River Sevres.
General appearance and limits of Le Bocage.—Nature of the mode of warfare of the Vendeans.
The River Loire, from Nantes to Angers.
Saumur to Tours.—Tours to Blois.—Orleans—and Orleans to Paris.
Environs of Paris.—Pere la Chaise.—Castle of Vincennes, and Chateau of Saint Germain.—The Forest, and Vicinity.—Conclusion.
MONASTERY OF LA TRAPPE
ROUTE FROM PARIS TO MORTAGNE.—EXCURSION TO LA TRAPPE.—STATE OF THE ORDER SINCE THE RESTORATION IN 1814.—ITS FOUNDATION AND RULES UNDER THE ABBE DE RANCE.
I performed this journey during the months of June, July, August, and September, a distance of near one thousand miles, and had the singular good fortune to enjoy the finest weather possible. The perusal of Madame de La Roche-Jaquelin's interesting work on the Vendean war, first gave me the idea of visiting the country called le Bocage, the theatre of so many events, and sufferings of the brave royalists; and, as the province of le Perche, in which is situated the ancient convent of La Trappe, was in my route to Bretagne, I resolved to make an excursion there, in order to satisfy myself of the truth of those austerities which I had read of in the Memoirs of the Count de Comminge.
The route from Paris to Mortagne, in le Perche, leads through Marly, Versailles, Saint Cyr, Pont Chartrain, La Queue, Houdon, Marrolles, Dreux, Nonancourt, Tillieres, Verneuil, and Saint Maurice. The roads are excellent, and the country beautiful. The first post out of Paris is Nanterre. Two leagues and a half from the barriere, the village of Ruel, and the park of Malmaison, form a continuation of neat buildings. At Nanterre, in the campaign of 1815, the Prussians, after a severe engagement with the retreating troops of the French, had one regiment of cavalry cut to pieces. At Ruel, the celebrated Cardinal Richelieu had a palace, which at the Revolution became national property, and was purchased by Massena, Duc de Rivoli, Prince D'Essling, lately deceased. The Duchess still resides there. It was taken possession of by the allies in 1815, and, like Malmaison, plundered by the troops. There are extensive barracks for cavalry at this place, at present occupied by the Swiss guards.
A little farther, between Malmaison and Marly, is a beautiful chateau, formerly belonging to General Count Bertrand, who accompanied Napoleon to Saint Helena; it is now the property of M. Ouverard, the banker: nearly opposite is the residence of the celebrated Abbe Sieyes, who lives in great retirement. Whatever may have been the political transgressions of Bertrand, there is something so noble in his devotion to the fallen fortunes of his master, that it is impossible not to respect his character.
At Marly, the water-works and aqueduct for conveying the water from the river Seine to the palace and gardens of Versailles, are very curious. The palace of Marly is destroyed; but the basins, which were constructed by order of Louis XIV. are still to be seen, though in ruins. Delille, the poet, in his description of the chateau and beautiful grounds of Marly, says:
C'est la que tout est grand, que l'art n'est point timide; La tout est enchante: c'est le Palais d'Armide; C'est le jardin d'Alcine, ou plutot d'un Heros, Noble dans sa retraite et grand dans son repos. Qui cherche encore a vaincre, a dompter des obstacles, Et ne marche jamais qu'entoure de miracles.
On quitting Paris, I had procured a letter of introduction from Count La Cou to Madame de Bellou, at Mortagne, a charming old lady of an ancient and noble family in that province, who had never quitted the seat of her ancestors, but remained quiet and respected during all the storms of the revolution. She received me with kindness, and politely introduced me to the Sub-Prefect, Monsieur Lamorelie, who gave me a letter of introduction to the Pere Don Augustin, Grand Prior of La Trappe. The mayor of the commune of Solignie, who happened to be at the inn, and learned from the Aubergiste, that a stranger intended visiting La Trappe, very civilly introduced himself to me, and gave me every necessary direction how to proceed through the forest; at the same time expressing his surprise that an Englishman should take the trouble, and undergo the fatigue of penetrating through such a country, an attempt which few of his own countrymen had ever ventured to make. It was singular enough that only one person in the town could be found to accompany me as a guide, or who knew any thing of the track through the forest, although the abbey is distant only twenty-five miles.
I set out with the guide just at day-break, mounted on a small Norman horse, and armed with pistols and a sword-cane, in case of meeting with wolves, which the mayor of Solignie had cautioned me against, as abounding throughout the country. We travelled, after leaving the main road, at the distance of a league, through a country scarcely appearing to be inhabited. Here and there a lone cot, a mere speck, met the eye amidst a landscape composed of nothing but barren wastes and thick forests, nearly impervious to the light. We had penetrated about half a mile through one of the latter, my attention occupied with the romantic wildness of the scene, when we were alarmed by the howling of a wolf. My guide crossed himself, and began cracking his whip with the noise and singular dexterity peculiar to the French postillions; and as we entered a part of the forest, impenetrable but for traces known only to those who are accustomed to them, he related (by way of consolation, I suppose,) several stories of the peasantry having been recently attacked, and some destroyed, by wolves; and one instance of a woman having had her infant torn from her arms, only a short time since, in the neighbourhood.
On quitting the forest the track was now and then diversified by the ruins of a solitary cottage, or the mouldering remains of a crucifix, raised by pious hands to mark some event, or to guide the traveller; and after traversing a rocky plain, covered with heath and wild thyme, where some herds of sheep and goats were browsing, attended by the shepherd, we entered the Forest of Bellegarde. This forest spreads over a large extent of country, and is so dark and intricate, that those best acquainted with it frequently lose their way. No vestige of human footsteps or of the track of animals appeared; a mark, here and there, on some of the trees, was the only direction! Pursuing our way through turnings and windings the most perplexing, we found ourselves to be on the overhanging brow of a hill, the descent of which was so precipitous, that we were under the necessity of dismounting; and by a winding path, hollowed out in its side, descended through a sort of labyrinth towards the valley, whose sides were clothed with lofty woods, rising one above the other. The valley itself is interspersed with three lakes, connected with each other, and forming a sort of moat around the ground; in the centre of which appears the venerable abbey of La Trappe, with its dark gray towers, the deep tone of whose bell had previously announced to us, that we had nearly reached our journey's end.
The situation of this monastery was well adapted to the founder's views, and to suggest the name it originally received of La Trappe, from the intricacy of the road which descends to it, and the difficulty of access or egress, which exists even to this day, though the woods have been very much thinned since the revolution. Perhaps there never was any thing in the whole universe better calculated to inspire religious awe than the first view of this monastery. It was imposing even to breathlessness. The total solitude—the undisturbed and chilling silence, which seem to have ever slept over the dark and ancient woods—the still lakes, reflecting the deep solemnity of the objects around them—all impress a powerful image of utter seclusion and hopeless separation from living man, and appear formed at once to court and gratify the sternest austerities of devotion—to nurse the fanaticism of diseased imaginations—to humour the wildest fancies—and promote the gloomiest schemes of penance and privation!
In descending the steep and intricate path the traveller frequently loses sight of the abbey, until he has actually reached the bottom; then emerging from the wood, the following inscription is seen carved on a wooden cross:
C'est ici que la mort et que la verite Elevent leurs flambeaux terribles; C'est de cette demeure, au monde inaccessible, Que l'on passe a l'eternite.
A venerable grove of oak trees, which formerly surrounded the monastery, was cut down in the revolution. In the gateway of the outer court is a statue of Saint Bernard, which has been mutilated by the republicans: he is holding in one hand a church, and in the other a spade—the emblems of devotion and labour. This gateway leads into a court, which opens into a second enclosure, and around that are the granaries, stables, bakehouse, and other offices necessary to the abbey, which have all been happily preserved.
Owing to the fatigue of the journey, the heat of the weather, and having frequently been obliged to retrace our steps, from losing our way in the woods, it was late before we arrived at the abbey. To the west, under the glow of the setting sun, the forests were still tinged with the warmest yet softest colours that faded fast away; and as we descended towards the Convent, quickening our pace to reach it before the last gleams of evening departed, there was a silence around us, which at such a moment, and in such a spot, sunk sorrowfully upon the heart! Just as I reached the gate the bell tolled in so solemn and melancholy a tone that it vibrated through my whole frame, and called strongly to mind the beautiful lines in "Parisina":
The Convent bells are ringing, But mournfully and slow; In the gray square turret swinging, With a deep sound, to and fro, Heavily to the heart they go!
On entering the gate, a lay-brother received me on his knees; and in a low and whispering voice informed me they were at vespers. The stillness and gloom of the building—the last rays of the sun scarcely penetrating through its windows—the deep tones of the monks chanting the responses, which occasionally broke the silence, filled me with reverential emotions which I felt unwilling to disturb: it was necessary however to present my letter of introduction, and Frere Charle, the secretaire, soon after came out, and received me with great civility. He appeared a young man about five-and-twenty, with a handsome and prepossessing countenance. He informed me that the Pere Abbe was then absent, visiting a convent of Female Trappistes, a few leagues distant, but that he should be happy to show me every attention; and requested that in going over the Convent, I would neither speak nor ask him any questions in those places where I saw him kneel, or in the presence of any of the Monks. I followed him to the chapel, where, as soon as the service was over, the bell rung to summon them to supper. Ranged in double rows, with their heads enveloped in a large cowl, and bent down to the earth, they chanted the grace, and then seated themselves. During the repast one of them, standing, read passages from scripture, reminding them of death, and of the shortness of human existence; another went round the whole community, and on his knees kissed their feet in succession, throwing himself prostrate on the floor at intervals before the image of our Saviour; a third remained on his knees the whole time, and in that attitude took his repast. These penitents had committed some fault, or neglected their religious duties, of which, according to the regulations, they had accused themselves, and were in consequence doomed to the above modes of penance.
The refectory was furnished with long wooden tables and benches; each person was provided with a trencher, a jug of water, and a cup, having on it the name of the brother to whom it is appropriated, as Frere Paul, Frere Francois, &c. which name they assume on taking the vow. Their supper consisted of bread soaked in water, a little salt, and two raw carrots, placed by each; water alone is their beverage. The dinner is varied with a little cabbage or other vegetables: they very rarely have cheese, and never meat, fish, or eggs. The bread is of the coarsest kind possible.
Their bed is a small truckle, boarded, with a single covering, generally a blanket, no mattress nor pillow; and, as in the former time, no fire is allowed but one in the great hall, which they never approach.
Within these three years a small cabaret has been built near the Convent for the accommodation of those who may occasionally visit it, the buildings that remain being but barely sufficient for their own members, which have been rapidly increasing since its restoration. In this cabaret I took up my abode for the night, in preference to the accommodation very kindly offered me by Frere Charle, and retired to rest, wearied with the day's excursion, and fully satisfied, that all I had heard, all I had imagined of La Trappe, was infinitely short of the reality, and that no adequate description could be given of its awful and dreary solitude;
Monsieur Elzear de Sabran, in a poem called Le Repentir, lately published, describing this Monastery, says very justly;
Temoins d'une commune et secrete souffrance, Ces freres de douleur, martyrs de l'esperance, D'une lente torture epuisant les degres, Constamment reunis, constamment separes, L'un a l'autre etrangers, a cote l'un de l'autre, Joignent tout ce malheur encore a tout le notre, Jamais, dans ses pareils cherchant un tendre appui, Un coeur ne s'ouvre aux coeurs qui souffrent comme lui.
The following morning the matin bell summoned me to the Convent, and Frere Charle attended me to the burial ground; here have been deposited the remains of two of the brothers, deceased since the restoration of their order in 1814. Another grave was ready prepared; as soon as an interment takes place, one being always opened for the next that may die. The two graves were marked with simple wooden crosses, bearing the following inscriptions:
F. Nicolas. Frere DONNE Decede. le 24 Fevrier 1816.
* * * * *
On the other:
F. AUGUSTINUS. NOVITIUS die 26 mensis novembris ANNO. 1816 DECESSIT. REQUIESCAT IN PACE AMEN.
* * * * *
In the centre of the cemetery is the grave of M. De Rance. His monument, with his figure carved at full length in a recumbent posture, was removed when the destruction of the old church took place; it is now a complete ruin, and a few stones alone mark the spot of its ancient founder's grave, which is kept free from weeds with pious reverence and care. The revolution, which like a torrent swept all before it, did not even spare the dead.
While I was contemplating the ruins around me, and watching the motions of a venerable figure in silent prayer at one of the angles, the bell tolled, when both Frere Charle and the Monk dropped instantly on their knees. How forcibly were the following lines of Pope recalled to my mind!
Lo, the struck deer, in some sequester'd part, Lies down to die, (the arrow in his heart;) There, hid in shades, and wasting day by day, Inly he bleeds, and pants his soul away.
The number of Monks who have taken the vow are not in proportion to the others, who are lay brothers, and Freres Donnes; in all there are about one hundred, besides novices, who are principally composed of boys, and who do not wear the same habit. The Trappistes, who compose the first order, are clothed in dark brown, with brown mantle and hood; the others are in white, with brown mantle and hood. I occasionally caught a glimpse of their faces, but it was only momentarily; and I can easily believe, with their perpetual silence, that two people well known to each other, might inhabit the same spot, without ever being aware of it, so completely are their faces hidden by their large cowl. The Trappistes, or first order, are distinguished by the appellation of Freres Convers, the others by that of Religieux de Coeur.
The hardships undergone by these monks appear almost insupportable to human nature, and notwithstanding the immense number of deaths occasioned by their rigorous austerities, the Cenobites of La Trappe, at the suppression of their order, amounted to one hundred monks, sixty-nine lay brothers, and fifty-six Freres Donnes. The inmates are classed under these three heads; but the lay brothers, who take the same vows, and follow the same rules, are principally employed as servants, and in transacting the temporal concerns of the abbey. The Freres Donnes are brothers given for a time; these last are not properly belonging to the order, they are rather, religious persons, whose business or connexions prevent their joining the order absolutely, but, who wishing to renew serious impressions, or to retire from the world for a given period, come here and conform strictly to the regulations while they remain, without wishing to join the order for life. Many persons on their first conversion, or after some peculiar dispensations of Providence, retire here for a season.
In the refectory I observed a board hung up, with "Table pour l'Office Divin," written over it, and under it the regulations or order of service to be performed for that week, which are occasionally varied, but never diminished in their rigour. Frere Charle said, that the whole were strictly observed, and were frequently much more severe; for the Pere Abbe had instituted more austere regulations than formerly, with the only one exception, of the sick being allowed medicines; and, in cases of great debility, a small quantity of meat.
The Table "pour l'Office Divin," was as follows.
Dimanche....12 Lecons et Communion. Lundi....... 3 Lecons. Mardi.......12 Lecons—a jeun—Travail. Mercredi....12 Lecons. Jeudi....... 3 Lecons. Vendredi....12 Lecons—a jeun—Travail. Samedi......12 Lecons—a jeun—Travail.
Their mode of life and regulations exist nearly in the same state as established by the founder; in reciting them, such horrible perversions of human nature and reason make it almost difficult to believe the existence of so severe an order, and lead us to wonder at the artificial miseries, which the ingenuity of pious but morbid enthusiasm can inflict upon itself. The abstinence practised at La Trappe allows not the use of meat, fish, eggs, or butter; and a very limited quantity of bread and vegetables. They only eat twice a day; which meals consist of a slender repast at about eleven in the morning, and two ounces of bread and two raw carrots in the evening: both together do not at any time exceed twelve ounces. The same spirit of mortification is observable in their cells, which are very small, and have no other furniture than a bed of boards, a human skull, and a few religious books.
Silence is at all times rigidly maintained; conversation is never permitted: should two of them even be seen standing near each other, though pursuing their daily labour, and preserving the strictest silence, it is considered as a violation of their vow, and highly criminal; each member is therefore as completely insulated as if he alone existed in the Monastery. None but the Pere Abbe knows the name, age, rank, or even the native country of any member of the community: every one, at his first entrance, assumes another name, as I before observed, and with his former appellation, each is supposed to abjure, not only the world, but every recollection and memorial of himself and connexions: no word ever escapes from his lips by which the others can possibly guess who he is, or where he comes from; and persons of the same name, family, and neighbourhood, have often lived together in the Convent for years, unknown to each other, without having suspected their proximity.
The abstraction of mind practised at La Trappe, and the prevention of all external communication with the world is such, that few but the superior know any thing of what is passing in it. It has been related, that so little information of the affairs of mankind did these people receive, that the death of Louis XIV. was not known there for years, except by the Father Abbe; and such was their state of seclusion, that a Nobleman having taken a journey of five hundred miles, purposely to see the Monastery, could scarcely find in the neighbouring villages one person who knew where it was situated. Indeed, at the present day, it is quite astonishing how little is known of this place, and how very few, even among those in its immediate vicinity, have ever visited it.
On the great festivals they rise at midnight; otherwise they are not called until three quarters past one: at two they assemble in the Chapel, where they perform different services, public and private, until seven in the morning, according to the regulations of the week, as exemplified in the "Table pour l'Office Divin". At this hour they go out to labour in the open air. Their work is of the most fatiguing kind, is never intermitted, winter or summer, and admits of no relaxation from the state of the weather.
[Footnote 1: Among the most frequent visitors of La Trappe, was the unfortunate James the Second. His first visit was on the 20th November, 1690, where he was received by M. de Rance, whose account of it is very interesting.]
When their labour is over, they go into Chapel for a short time, until eleven o'clock, the hour of repast; at a quarter after eleven they read till noon; and afterwards lie down to rest for an hour: they are then summoned into the garden, where they again work until three; then read again for three quarters of an hour, and retire for another quarter to their private meditations, by way of preparation for vespers, which begin at four, and end at six; at seven they again enter the Chapel, and at eight they leave it, and retire to rest.
At the hour of their first repast, I again attended Frere Charle to the eating-room, where nearly the same forms were observed as at their evening-meal; a small basin of boiled cabbage, two raw carrots, and a small piece of black bread, with a jug of water, constituted their solitary meal. A Monk, during the whole time, read sentences from Scripture; and a small hand-bell filled up the intervals of his silence, and proclaimed a cessation from eating, or movement of any sort. Over the door of the Refectory I observed the following inscription in Latin:—"Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is, than a stalled ox, and hatred therewith".
Frere Charle invited me to partake of the frugal fare of his order. He said, "You will forgive my laying before you a vegetable repast; it is all that I have in my power to offer you, but you will confer a pleasure by accepting it". It was impossible to refuse, for I felt I should appear ungrateful after the attentions that had been shown me, if I had. Frere Charle conducted me into an apartment, in which I was gratified to observe a well executed portrait of the Abbe de Rance, which, at the destruction of the Monastery, had been preserved by the surgeon of the ancient fraternity, who continued to reside there until the period of his death, four or five years since. This person was greatly respected by all the people round the country, and resorted to by all who sought relief either from sickness or misery!—Had the other brothers followed his example of remaining, in all probability their Convent might have been spared, for the accumulation of wealth could not be laid to their charge; and as their monastic vows obliged them to remain within the Monastery, they were most unlikely to incur the suspicion of any political intrigues.—How indeed could men, whose whole existence was passed in solitude and penance, and who never conversed even among themselves, have been dangerous to those turbulent spirits who had overturned the government and all the religious institutions of their country!
In the portrait, the Abbe is dressed in the habit of the order, a white gown and hood, and sitting with a book before him, in which he appears to be writing; on the same table, before him, are a crucifix and a skull. The following inscription is painted in one corner by the artist:
"ARM'D. LE BOUTTHILLIER DE RANCE. S'R SCAUANT. et celebre Abbe Reformateur De La Trappe. Mort en 1700. a pres de 77 ans, et de 40 ans de la plus austere penitence".
The Monastery of La Trappe is one of the most ancient Abbeys of the order of Benedictins: it was established under the pontificate of Innocent the Second, during the reign of Louis VII. in the year 1140, by Rotrou, the second Count of Perche, and is said to have been built to accomplish a vow, made in the peril of shipwreck. In commemoration of this circumstance, the roof was made in the shape of the bottom of a ship inverted. It was founded under the auspices of Saint Bernard, the first Abbot of Clairvaux, the celebrated preacher in favour of the Crusades. Many ages, however, had elapsed, since its first institution, when the Father Abbot de Rance, the celebrated reformer of his time, determined to become a member, whose singular history and conversion was the subject of a poem by Monsieur Barthe.
The Abbe de Rance became a Monk of the Benedictin order of La Trappe, in 1660, and his conversion was attributed to a lady whom he tenderly loved. They had been separated for some time by her parents; she having written to him to remove her for the purpose of becoming united in marriage, he set off, but, during his journey, she was seized with a fever and died. Totally ignorant of the circumstance, he approached the house under cover of the night, and got into her apartment through the window. The first object he beheld was the coffin which contained the body of his beloved mistress! It had been made of lead, but being found to be too short, they had, with unheard of brutality; severed her head from her body! Horror-struck with the shocking spectacle, he, from that hour, renounced all connexion with the world, and imposed upon himself the most rigid austerities, which he continued until his death, forty years after.
When M. de Rance undertook the superintendance of the Monastery, it exhibited a melancholy picture, of the greatest declension, and it is curious to peruse the steps by which he effected so wonderful a change; and how men could ever feel it either an inclination or a duty to enter upon a mode of life so different from the common ways of thinking or feeling.
[Footnote 2: Reglements de L'Abbaye, La Maison-Dieu Notre Dame de La Trappe, par Dom. Armand de Rance.]
The Monks of La Trappe were not only immersed in luxury and sloth, but were abandoned to the most scandalous excesses; most of them lived by robbery, and several had committed assassinations on the travellers who had occasion to traverse the woods. The neighbourhood shrunk with terror from the approach of men who never went abroad unarmed, and whose excursions were marked with bloodshed and violence. The Banditti of La Trappe was the appellation by which they were most generally distinguished. Such were the men amongst whom M. de Rance resolved to fix his abode; all his friends endeavouring to dissuade him from an undertaking, they deemed alike hopeless and dangerous.
"Unarmed, and unassisted,"  says his historian, "but in the panoply of God, and by his Spirit, he went alone amidst this company of ruffians, every one of whom was bent on his destruction. With undaunted boldness, he began by proposing the strictest reform, and not counting his life dear to him, he described the full intent of his purpose, and left them no choice but obedience or Expulsion".
[Footnote 3: The work from which I have taken this, is a translation by Mrs. Schimmelpenninck of Dom. Claude Lancelot's Narrative, published in 1667. The present regulations not differing from the former, I have extracted some of the most important.]
"Many were the dangers M. de Rance underwent; plans were laid, at various times, to poison him, to waylay and assassinate him, and even once one of his monks shot at him; but the pistol, which was applied close to his head, flashed in the pan, and missed fire. By the good providence of God all these plans were frustrated, and M. de Rance not only brought his reform to bear, but several of his most violent persecutors became his most stedfast adherents; many were, after a short time, won over by his piety—the rest left the Monastery. He especially, who had shot at M. de Rance, became eminently distinguished for his piety and learning, and was afterwards Sub-Prior of La Trappe".
M. de Rance lived forty years at the head of this singular society, and the same ardor and piety continued to distinguish him to the last. The excess of self-denial and discipline, exercised by this order, which might readily be doubted, became more known, especially to this country, at the time of the French Revolution, when they shared the fate of dissolution with the various religious orders in France. On that occasion many of them sought an asylum in England, and were settled in Dorsetshire, where they received the kind protection and benevolent assistance of Mr. Weld, until the restoration enabled most of them to return; and, surprising as it may appear in the present age, notwithstanding the perpetual violence imposed by their regulations on every human feeling, many are found anxious to enter the establishment.
When I was about to take my leave of Frere Charle, he said, "he hoped I was pleased with my humble fare: to such as it was I had been truly welcome". Indeed he had treated me with the kindest, most unaffected hospitality; he had laid the table, spread the dishes before me, stood the whole time by the side of my chair, and pressed me to eat: How could I not be thankful? I requested he would be seated, but he observed that it was not proper for him to be so. His manners and general deportment bespoke him a well-bred gentleman; and when I ventured to ask if I might make a memorandum of his name, he bowed his head with meekness and resignation, and said, "I have now no other but that which was bestowed on me when I took the vow, which severs me from the world for ever!" It was impossible not to be affected at the manner and tone of voice in which he uttered this. When I said that perhaps he would like that I should leave an acknowledgment in writing, expressive of the gratitude I felt at my kind and hospitable reception, he appeared much pleased, and instantly procured me paper. I left with him the following lines:
"Convent of La Trappe, July 20, 1817.
"I have this day visited the Convent of La Trappe, and in the absence of the Grand Prior, to whom I brought a letter of introduction from Monsieur Lamorelie, Sub-Prefect of Mortagne, I was received and have been entertained by Frere Charle Marie, his Secretary.
"It is quite impossible that I can do justice to the kind, polite, and hospitable reception I have met with from him, by any expressions in writing. I can only observe, that it has made an impression on my mind never to be effaced! If these worthy and pious people have abandoned the world for the solitude and austerities of La Trappe, they have not forgotten, in their own self-denial, the benevolence and benignity due to strangers. May their self-devotion meet with its reward!"
I now took my leave of the Convent with feelings which I will not pretend to describe, but which, together with the impressions I received when I first entered it, and the whole circumstances of my visit, I am conscious of retaining while "Memory holds her seat". The following lines, by P. Mandard, on quitting La Trappe, convey a very faithful and poetical picture of this extraordinary solitude:
—Saint desert, sejour pur et paisible, Solitude profonde, au vice inaccessible; Impetueux torrens, et vous sombres forets, Recevez mes adieux, comme aussi mes regrets! Toujours epris de vous, respectable retraite, Puisse-je, dans le cours d'une vie inquiete, Dans ce flux eternel de folie et d'erreur, Ou flotte tristement notre malheureux coeur; Puisse-je, pour charmer mes ennuis et mes peines, Souvent fuir en esprit au bord de vos fontaines, Egarer ma pensee au milieu de vos bois, Par un doux souvenir rappeler mille fois De vos Saints habitans les touchantes images, Penetrer, sur leurs pas, dans vos grottes sauvages, Me placer sur vos monts, et la, prennant l'essort, Aller chercher en Dieu ma joie, et mon tresor!
VAL-DIEU.—RUINS OF THE CONVENT OF THE CHARTREUSE.—FORESTS OF LE PERCHE, MORTAGNE.
I quitted La Trappe in the afternoon of the third day after my arrival there, for the Val-Dieu, which lies three leagues to the east of Mortagne, taking the villages of Rinrolles and Prepotin in my way; the latter stands in the midst of a forest. By this road, so bad that it scarcely deserves the name, a great distance is saved, but the romantic scenery of the approach to La Trappe is lost. The one we took through the forest of Bellegarde more than doubles the distance; but the Abbey is seen as in the centre of a lake beneath, and the continual beauty and wildness of the landscape render it far preferable. Until the Revolution this was the only road, the other having been made when the lands became national property, and were sold to the peasantry.
After passing through the above villages, we came round by Tourouvre, a village on a height, which has a manufactory for glass. I did not stop to view it, having several leagues to go through a wooded country. Soon after crossing the main road leading into Bretagne, we rode by the side of cultivated lands and orchards resembling the western parts of Devonshire, of which the narrow lanes and high hedges reminded me very much, until we entered the forest leading to the Val-Dieu. Between eight and nine in the evening we came to the edge bounding that part of the Vale by which it is approached, in the direction we had taken. It was very considerably out of our way, owing to the guide having mistaken his road and turned to the left instead of the right. After resting a few minutes on the brow of the hill, we began our descent by a steep and narrow pathway. When we were midway down the glen, the ruins of the ancient Chartreuse suddenly burst upon the view! At this moment all the terrors of the declivity, and the momentary expectation of meeting some of the wolves with which the forest abounds, vanished from my mind before the feelings of delight which the enchanting scene called forth. The almost perpendicular view of the Vale beneath, had an effect tremendous yet pleasing: on the left was a lake, seeming to encircle an ancient convent embosomed in a wood; a thick forest covered the surrounding heights, and before me stood the remains of the ancient Priory, with its gateway and lodge so perfect as to create no suspicion of the destruction within.
This had been the hottest day and finest weather I had experienced during my journey. It was a sweet evening, and the rich tints of the departing sun-beams among the woods, with the solitary calmness of the scenery around, were circumstances that made a strong impression on my feelings. Those who have never traversed the forests of this country can form but a very imperfect idea of what they are, or of the death-like awful stillness that reigns within them; for many miles together they form a dense shade, which, like a dark awning, completely conceals the sun from the view: even on the brightest day the sun's rays are only visible as from the bottom of a deep well! The forests in Le Perche are reckoned the most extensive in France, and every where abound with vast quantities of game.
I was received on alighting from my horse by a M. Boderie, a good humoured hospitable man, who, with his family, are the only inhabitants of this lonesome spot. I found afterwards that he had seen better days: he informed me the Val-Dieu property was purchased at the dissolution of the Monastery by the present proprietor, who resided at Paris, and allowed him, being his friend, to occupy that part of the building which had not been destroyed. He made many apologies for the badness of the accommodations and the homeliness of the fare he had to offer me, which I considered as unnecessary, as what he possessed was tendered with unaffected cheerfulness.
The Prussians in 1815 occupied this country, and notwithstanding M. Boderie was absent at that time serving in the body guard of Louis XVIII, whom he had accompanied in his retreat to Ghent, they plundered him of every article, not even leaving his wife a change of linen. The numerous accounts I have heard from people of respectability and loyalty, of the treatment experienced from the Prussians, excites the greatest regret that they were not able to distinguish the innocent from the guilty. Many families have been ruined, or greatly distressed in their circumstances who were devoted to the cause of their Sovereign. Such are the inevitable consequences of war!
The Val-Dieu extends upwards of three miles in length, surrounded by almost impenetrable woods, except where paths have been cut. It has three lakes, one communicating with the other, containing great quantities of fish. The Monastery, it is evident from the remains of its ruins, and from the boundary wall, still entire, must have been of prodigious extent. M. Boderie informed me, that the plan, of which he had seen an engraving, showed it to have been one of the most considerable in the kingdom: some idea may be formed of its former celebrity and extent by the remains of six hundred fire-places being still traceable. A colonnade surrounded the whole, forming an oblong square, in the centre of which was a jet d'eau, with several smaller ones, the basins of which are still to be seen; the space within formed a garden, with delicious walks, resembling those in the Palais Royal.
The gate-way remains perfect, excepting only that the images over the side doors have been mutilated. The one in the centre (over the great entrance) is still in excellent preservation, and appears to be finely executed: it is the figure of the Virgin Mary in gray marble, the size of life, seated, with the infant Jesus in her arms. On a scroll beneath are these letters:—
ECCE MATER TVA. 1760.
Several old chesnut trees and elms still remain, which once formed a fine avenue in front of the building, from whence the prospect is strikingly beautiful. The eye passes over rocks, rugged, broken, and abrupt towards their summits, crowned and darkened with wood; and the narrow road winding between the trees, until it loses itself in the forest, forms a feature very gratifying to the traveller. The solitude of the place, as I viewed it at the close of day, occasioned mingled sensations of pleasure and pain. It was impossible to resist the imposing power of a situation, where every natural object was deeply tinged with the poetical character, and every remnant of architecture associated with the romance of religious feeling. I recalled and dwelt upon various passages of the poets inspired by similar scenes, and thought of the holy and enthusiastic minds which had here devoted themselves to the sublimest duties and severest sacrifices of the altar; and felt, that had I lived in those days, I, perhaps, could have become an inmate of walls which seem to have been erected to exclude the evils of life, and to nurture only the enchanting abstractions of unpolluted virtue and happiness: but the present day has brought with it a general philosophy and knowledge of human nature, which lessen the delight of contemplating the calm repose of such a seclusion, and have taught that these retreats from the world were not always retreats from vice; that the sacrifices of monkish privacy were not always those of selfish feelings; and that the austerities once practised here, as now at La Trappe, might perhaps arise more frequently from disappointed pride and ambition, than from the pure feelings of pious resignation. In the overthrow of the monarchy and that of the priesthood, this venerable pile became the object of popular vengeance; and had the Revolution done no more than effected the dissolution of the different orders of monks and nuns, every reflecting mind must have been pleased: the removal of those abuses, like the division of landed property into smaller portions, (whereby the country in general became more cultivated and productive,) was serviceable to France; and, if any circumstance can restore permanent tranquillity, it will be the interest which the different landholders have in the soil and the representative system, which will serve to check the ambition of its future governors. Already the good effects of these are to be perceived; and the excessive abuses, insolence, and profligacy, of ancient ministerial oppression, which paved the way for the downfall of the monarchy, and, like a pestilence, destroyed that which was good with that which was evil, will be prevented in future.
It is, nevertheless, melancholy to observe the traces of devastation visible in all directions: the people themselves appear not to regard it, but this may arise partly from the long and habitual feelings generated by the scenes to which the Revolution daily gave rise, and partly from the constitutional cheerfulness of the natives, who seldom view objects through the same dark medium that ours are supposed to do, and who, though they are not celebrated for patience, are of all mankind the least liable to despondency. When I spoke to M. Boderie of my regret at the destruction of an ancient structure like the one in question, his answer was, immediately, "oui c'est bien malheureux; mais enfin que voulez-vous?" He was "desole" or had "le coeur tres sensible a tout cela;" but finished by "il faut se consoler". With this sort of philosophy they are always ready to view the past, and accept of consolation, and in amusement, seek to bear or dissipate the calamities inseparable from such a state of events, without even appearing to repine. None of them will ever enter into conversation on the subject if it can be avoided.
The following day, having taken leave of my hospitable host, who refused any compensation, I returned to Mortagne by another route, through the Forest of Val-Dieu, more dark and difficult to penetrate than the other; but the guide was better acquainted with it, and took the road by Saint Maure and Saint Eloi, through a fine country, highly cultivated, and abounding in beautiful scenery and distant landscapes. It was late at night before I reached Mortagne, greatly fatigued from the excessive heat of the weather.
I dined the following day with Madame de Bellou, whose kind attention and elegant hospitality, during the time I remained at Mortagne, I must ever remember with sentiments of sincere gratitude. This lady had invited Monsieur Lamorelie, the Sub-Prefect, one of the most elegant men I had met with in France, with several other gentlemen and ladies, to meet me. Among the party were Madame de Fontenay, Monsieur and Mademoiselle Claire de Vanssay—very agreeable people: the latter possessed, without great beauty, all the charms and vivacity of her countrywomen. In the evening we went to an assembly, where I had an opportunity of seeing, and being presented to, all the respectable families that yet remained in town; for at this season many were at their country-seats. The ease, elegance, and good manners of the company composing this society, I never saw excelled in any country. It is but common justice to observe, that in Mortagne, which is the residence of all the best families in the province, there is to be found all the characteristic good breeding for which the French were so long, and so deservedly celebrated.
The town of Mortagne stands on the declivity of a hill, in the province of Le Perche, bordering on Normandy. The high road to Bretagne passes through it. It has only one church remaining out of seven, six having been destroyed at the Revolution. It has some manufactories for serges and coarse cloths, and contains between five and six thousand inhabitants, in the department of L'Orne. From its elevated position and chalky soil, the air is pure and the situation healthy. The inhabitants are under the necessity of supplying themselves with water from the valley, as there are no wells on account of the rocky height it stands on, which is attended with inconvenience and expense; otherwise it would be a desirable residence for those who wish to unite economy with a change of climate.
During the Vendean war, this town became, at different periods, the victim of either party as they were successful; and it suffered severely. The hotel kept by Gautier (Les trois Lions), which is likewise la Poste, and le Bureau des Diligences, is the best, and the people are very obliging; but it partakes of the same want of cleanliness, that so invariably distinguishes all similar establishments in this country.
FROM MORTAGNE TO RENNES, SOEURS DE LA CHARITE. ALENCON, LAVAL, VITRE, THE RESIDENCE OF THE CELEBRATED MADAME DE SEVIGNE. RENNES.
I travelled by the diligence from Mortagne to Alencon and Laval: we arrived at the former place to dinner, and at the latter to remain all night. The carriage was filled with Soeurs de la Charite,
"Qui, pour le malheur seul connoissant la tendresse, Aux besoins du vieil-age immollent leur jeunesse,"
on their way to different places in Bretagne, on charitable missions, by the order of the Superior at Paris. Four of these were young and beautiful women, none of whom could have attained the age of twenty; yet these females had already devoted themselves to attend on the sick and poor wherever their services might be required, for which purpose they receive a suitable education, in an Hospital at Paris, in such branches of medicine and surgery as may render them useful. They are distributed throughout the kingdom to attend the hospitals and prisons, which they do with the delicacy and attention peculiar to their sex. Of all the classes of females who thus devote themselves to a religious life, and to acts of charity, none are more respected, or more truly serviceable to their fellow-creatures. Their dress consists of a coarse brown jacket and gown, with a high linen cap, sloping down over the shoulders, and a rosary hanging round their waist.
Quitting Beauregard we crossed the river Sart: here the Province of Le Perche terminates, and we enter that of Normandy. For many miles, travelling close to the Forest of Bourse, the roads are excellent, though hilly, and the country highly cultivated in all directions. The peasantry were getting in the hay and rye harvest, and large tracts of wheat and barley were nearly ready for cutting.
The town of Alencon is the capital of L'Orne-sur-Sart. It stands in the middle of a fertile plain. The lace made here is the most valuable of any manufactured in France. The Hotel of the Prefecture is a fine building. After dinner I went to the theatre, (formerly an old manufactory), to see the Hotel Garni and Les deux Suisses: both performances were of a very moderate cast. The audience consisted principally of the military in garrison.
On the road from Alencon to Laval, we were guarded the whole day by two troopers of the Gendarmerie, who are quartered along the whole line of road from the capital; they are well armed and mounted, and keep a very vigilant guard. At every place we stopped our passports were examined. The police of this country is observed with greater rigor than at any former period of its history, with regard to passports. The circumstances under which the restoration took place, the political state of France, in regard to other powers, the conflicting interests and opinions of various parties, probably render it highly expedient. On the arrival of a stranger at Paris, his passport must be presented, and inscribed in the police book. The revision of the one under which the person has travelled is indispensably necessary. It is then carried to the British Ambassador, (if the stranger be of that nation), or to the minister of that country to which he belongs, where it must obtain the Ambassador's signature. It is next taken to the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, where it is deposited until the following day, for which ten livres are charged, and afterwards to the Prefecture of the Police, to be signed there in its turn: and when all this is done no one can quit the capital for the interior without its being again signed at the Prefecture of the police.
From Alencon, we passed the Briante, a small river, at Ville Neuve, where the road begins to skirt the Forest of Moultonue. At Mayenne, the river of that name divides the provinces. The whole of this country is singularly beautiful. I observed vast quantities of buck wheat, which the French call bled noir or sarazin. The country was very much enclosed, producing a great contrast to the vast tracts of land through which I had passed without a single division.
At two leagues from Mayenne we crossed the river Aisne, winding through a beautiful valley, between Martigne and Louverne. On the left the river forms a small lake, surrounded by a wood at the foot of a very long and steep hill.
The town of Mayenne is ancient and irregularly built, the river Mayenne running through it. The ruins of an old wall and some decayed towers remain of the fortifications which were taken by assault, after several bloody attempts, during the siege by the English, in 1424.
At Laval, where I stopped, after again crossing the Mayenne, I entered the province of Bretagne: it is an old dirty town, completely intersected by the river, and has a manufactory for coarse cloths and cottons. The Tete Noire is one of the worst inns I have met with in the country. The department of the Isle-et-Vilaine commences here.
This place is celebrated in the history of the Vendean war by the refuge Madame de Laroche-Jaquelin sought there, after the deplorable defeat of the royalist army at the battle of Mans, where it received its death-blow. The wreck of that army, under M. de Laroche-Jaquelin, were driven from it again on the following day, and from that hour never rallied so as to make any stand against the victorious republicans.
Quitting Laval the day after my arrival, I ascended a long and steep hill, travelled by the side of the forest of Petre, and came to Vitre, where I remained all night for the purpose of visiting the chateau of the celebrated Madame de Sevigne, whose estate has descended to a distant branch of her family, who had the good fortune to save it from destruction during the revolution. The grounds are kept in excellent order. Her picture hangs in the apartment in which she composed her interesting and elegant letters, and every article of furniture carefully preserved is shown to strangers. The distance from Vitre to Rennes is seven leagues, over a road which becomes gradually less and less Interesting.
[Footnote 4: Marie de Rabutin, Marchioness de Sevigne, was the daughter of the Baron de Chantal, and born in 1626: she espoused at the age of eighteen the Marquis de Sevigne, who fell in a duel in 1651, leaving her with one son and a daughter, to whose education she paid strict attention: the daughter married in 1669 the Count de Grignan, Commandant in Provence, and it was on a visit to her that the Marchioness caught a fever and died in 1696. Her son Charles, Marquis de Sevigne, was one of the admirers of Ninon de L'Enclos, and had a dispute with Madame Dacier respecting the sense of a passage in Horace. He died in 1713. (Moreri.)]
Rennes is the chief city of the Isle-et-Vilaine, and in former times was the capital of Bretagne. It is a large ancient built town, standing on a vast plain, between the rivers Isle and Vilaine. It has a hall of justice, (Cour Royale,) an episcopal palace, and a foundry for cannon. A more dismal dirty looking city, or a more uninteresting one to a stranger, is seldom to be seen. Few traces remain of its ancient splendor; the old rampart, which once encompassed it, now forms a promenade.
Its commerce is considerable, being the entrepot for grain and cattle, with which it supplies Paris and the Southern Provinces, not so abundant in their produce. Jane of Flanders, Countess of Montfort, the most extraordinary woman of her time, resided here, during the imprisonment of her husband in the palace of the Louvre, by Philippe de Valois, when Edward the Third of England invaded France. Hennebon, when attacked by Charles of Blois, was defended by the Countess, and relieved by Sir Walter Manny, whom Edward had sent with a body of 6,000 archers to her succour. The garrison, encouraged by so rare an example of female valour, defended themselves against an immense army, composed of French, Spaniards, Genoese, and Bretons, who frequently assaulted it, and were as vigorously repulsed. On one occasion, Froissart mentions her sallying out at the head of a body of two hundred cavalry, throwing the enemy into great confusion, doing great execution among them, and setting fire to the tents and magazines, which were entirely destroyed.
[Footnote 5: Among the brave knights who engaged in so many battles and perilous adventures, and other feats of arms, Froissart mentions Philip, as opposed to those heroes of high renown, Edward of England, the Prince of Wales his son, the Duke of Lancaster, Sir Reginald Lord Cobham, Sir Walter Manny of Hainault, Sir John Chandos, Sir Fulk Harley, and many others recorded in his book for worth and prowess. "In France also was found good chivalry, strong of limb and stout of heart, and in great abundance, for the kingdom of France was never brought so low as to want men ever ready for combat. Such was King Philipe de Valois, a bold and hardy knight, and his son King John, also John king of Bohemia, and Charles Count of Alencon his son".]
The population of Rennes is 27,000. It is at present garrisoned by one thousand troops, and people are of opinion that government finds it no easy task to keep down the spirit of the Vendeans, who are said to be, "plus Royalistes que le Roi". There appears every where a strong spirit of dissatisfaction on the part of the Royalists, at the general preference given to those who were employed under the late ruler in places of public trust, and who were avowed enemies to the restoration of Louis XVIII.
ROUTE FROM RENNES TO NANTES. CITY OF NANTES. HISTORICAL ANECDOTES.
Arriving at the first post, we crossed the river Vilaine, and between this and Rondun passed the river Bruck, and ascended a high mountain between Rondun and La Breharaye. At this place we quitted the department of the Isle-et-Vilaine. Crossing the Cher, we arrived at Derval, and from thence at Nozai, passing several large lakes, and then over the river Don. The whole of this distance, with the exception of the hill already mentioned, is composed of flat sandy plains, mostly uncultivated, and the road is very rough.
From Nozai to Ancenis we crossed the river Isac; from thence to Redon, Herie, to La Croix Blanche, along the bank of the river; and after mounting another steep hill, we descended into an extensive plain, leading to Gesvres and Nantes.
The whole of this country north of the Loire, from Rennes to Nantes, the triangular point resting upon Angers, is the country of the Chouans, which it is necessary, in reference to the Vendean war, to distinguish from the country south of the Loire, in the department of the Loire Inferieure, called le Bocage, or la Vendee. Although the latter was the scene of the more desperate warfare between the republicans and the royalists, yet the former had its share of bloodshed and misery. The whole country on both banks of the Loire, as far as Angers, is classic ground to those who revere the efforts by which the Vendeans so long resisted the republicans.
The city of Nantes is the chief seat of the Prefecture of the department of the Loire Inferieure, standing on the right bank of the river, surrounded by its ancient rampart, of a circular form, and in good preservation: on the opposite bank stand the ruined tower and mouldering bastions of Permil. This spot is interesting to an Englishman, from the memorable events to which the fatal pretensions of Edward the Third gave rise, and which occupy the pages of French and English history, during a period of more than a century.
[Footnote 6: In 1343, Edward the Third laid siege to this place. Froissart mentions the English army being drawn out on a hill, in battle array, near the town. The ground rises a little in this direction, but, I should suppose, it must have been on the right bank, as the country there is hilly, and this ancient fortress must have defended the passage of the river. "The king himself," says the Chronicle, "with the rest of his army, advanced towards Rennes, burning and ruining the country on all sides, and was most joyfully received by the whole army who lay before it, and had been there for a considerable time. When he had tarried there five days, he learned that the Lord Charles of Blois was at Nantes, collecting a large force of men at arms. He set out, therefore, leaving those whom he had found at Rennes, and came before Nantes, which he besieged as closely as he could, but was unable to surround it, such was its size and extent. The marshals, therefore, and their people, overran the country and destroyed it. The king of England, one day, drew out his army in battle array on a hill near Nantes, in expectation that the Lord Charles would come forth and offer him an opportunity of fighting with him: but, having waited from morning until noon in vain, they returned to their quarters: the light horse, however, in their retreat, galloped up to the barriers, and set fire to the suburbs".
"The king of England, during the siege, made frequent skirmishes, but without success, always losing some of his men; when, therefore, he found he could gain nothing by his assaults, and that the Lord Charles would not come out into the plains to fight him, he established there the Earl of Oxford, Sir Henry Beaumont, the Lord Percy, the Lord Roos, the Lord Mowbray, the Lord Delawar, Sir Reginald Cobham, Sir John Lisle, with six hundred men armed, and two hundred archers".
The king himself advanced into the country of Bretagne, wasting it wherever he went, until he came to the town of Dinant, of which Sir Peter Porteboeuf was governor. He immediately laid siege to it all round, and ordered it to be vigorously assaulted. Those within made a valiant resistance. Thus did the king of England in one season, and in one day, make an assault by himself, or those ordered by him, upon three cities in Bretagne, and a good town, viz. Rennes, Vannes, and Nantes. The brave Sir Walter Manny was left before Vannes, with five hundred men at arms, and six thousand archers, while the king with the rest of his army advanced towards Rennes and Nantes. This gallant soldier, at the battle of Calais, had this singular honour conferred on him by his sovereign, who, with his valiant son the Prince of Wales, both served under his banner.—Edward said to Sir Walter Manny, "Sir Walter, I will that you be the chief of this enterprise, and I and my son will fight under your banner".
The lively and picturesque historian then gives a very interesting account of the above action, which was fought the last day of December 1348, and of the gallantry of Edward's conduct to his prisoner, Sir Eustace de Ribeaumont.
"We will now speak of the King of England, who was there incognito, under Sir Walter Manny's banner. He advanced with his men on foot, to meet the enemy, who were formed in close order, with their pikes shortened to five feet, planted out before them. The first attack was very sharp and severe. The King singled out Sir Eustace de Ribeaumont, who was a strong and hardy knight: he fought a long time marvellously well with the King, so that it was a pleasure to see them; but, by the confusion of the engagement, they were separated; for two large bodies met where they were fighting, and forced them to break off the combat.
"On the side of the French there was excellent fighting, by Sir Geoffrey de Chargny, Sir John de Landas, Sir Hector, and Sir Gavin de Ballieul, and others; but they were all surpassed by Sir Eustace de Ribeaumont, who that day struck the King twice down on his knees: at last, however, he was obliged to present his sword to the King, saying, 'Sir Knight, I surrender myself your prisoner, for the honour of the day must fall to the English.'
"All that belonged to Sir Geoffry de Chargny were either slain or captured: among the first was Sir Henry du Bois, and Sir Peppin de Werre; Sir Geoffry and the rest were taken prisoners. The last that was taken, and who in that day had excelled all, was Sir Eustace de Ribeaumont.
"When the engagement was over, the King returned to the Castle at Calais, and ordered all the prisoners to be brought before him. The French taken, knew for the first time, that the King of England had been there in person, under the banner of Sir Walter de Manny.
"The King said he would this evening of the new year entertain them all at supper in the Castle. When the hour for supper was come, the tables spread, and the King and his Knights dressed in new robes, as well as the French, who, notwithstanding they were prisoners, made good cheer (for the King wished it should be so), the King seated himself at table, and made those Knights do the same around him in a most honourable manner. The gallant Prince of Wales, and the Knights of England, served up the first course, and waited on their guests. At the second course, they went and seated themselves at another table, where they were served, and attended on very quietly.
"When supper was over, and the tables removed, the King remained in the Hall among the English and French Knights, bare-headed, except a chaplet of fine pearls, which was round his head. He conversed with all of them; but when he came to Sir Geoffry de Chargny, his countenance altered, and looking at him askance, he said, 'Sir Geoffry, I have but little reason to love you, when you wished to seize upon me by stealth last night, what had given me so much trouble to acquire, and cost me such sums of money' (Sir Geoffry had endeavoured to bribe the garrison to put him in possession of it in the night previous to the battle): 'I am, however, rejoiced to have caught you thus in attempting it.'—When he came to Sir Eustace de Ribeaumont, he assumed a cheerful look, and said with a smile, 'Sir Eustace, you are the most valiant knight in Christendom that I ever saw attack his enemy, or defend himself. I never yet found any one in battle, who, body to body, had given me so much to do as you have done this day. I adjudge to you the prize of valour, above all the knights of my Court, as what is justly due to you.'—The King then took off his chaplet, which was very rich and handsome, and placing it on the head of Sir Eustace, said, 'Sir Eustace, I present you with this chaplet, as being the best combatant this day, either within or without doors; and I beg of you to wear it this year for the love of me. I know that you are lively and amorous, and love the company of ladies and damsels; therefore say, wherever you go, that I gave it to you. I also give you your liberty, free of ransom; and you may set out to-morrow, and go whither you will.'"]
The river Loire, which is crossed by seven bridges, winds through the town. They are the Pont Rousseau, De Permil, D'Aiguillon, Feydeau, De la Belle Croix, Brisebois, and Toussaint. The houses are regular and handsome, having in some places a very singular appearance, from the ground having sunk, and the foundations given way, causing them to lean in various directions from the perpendicular line. In point of commerce, at one period antecedent to the Revolution, Nantes was the most considerable sea-port in France: since the loss of its West India trade, especially with Saint Domingo, it has been greatly reduced. The rich plains which surround it on three sides, in the form of an amphitheatre, and the river covered with vessels and boats, give it a most lively appearance. It has a large Theatre, a Royal College (lately the Lyceum), a Commercial Tribunal, a handsome Exchange, a Bishop's Palace, Hall of the Prefecture, Public Library, Anatomical and Surgical Academies, Botanical Garden, Museum of Natural History, and a foundry for cannon.
The latter is in the old and decaying Chateau on the bank of the river, called Goulemme. One of its bastions was blown up a few years since by accident, which has shaken and destroyed the whole fabric; but it is still capable of holding a garrison, and is a fine monument of ancient fortification. It was once the residence of Henry IV. of France, at the time he signed the celebrated edict, (1598,) in favour of the reformed religion, afterwards revoked by Louis XIV. in 1685, and which occasioned such deplorable consequences to the French nation.
M. de Sainte Foix, in his historical Essays upon Paris, vol. i. p. 113, speaking of the Rue de Grenelle, in the quarter of Saint Eustache, gives the following curious account of the birth of this great King, whose memory is revered in France, beyond that of all the other monarchs who have swayed the Gallic sceptre.
"Jeanne d'Albret, being desirous of following her husband to the wars of Picardy, the King her father told her, that in case she proved with child, he wanted her to come and lie-in at his house; and that he would bring up the child himself, whether a boy or a girl. This Princess finding herself pregnant, and in her ninth month, set out from Compiegne, passed through all France as far as the Pyrenees, and arrived in fifteen days at Pau in Bearn. She was very desirous to see her father's will. It was contained in a thick gold box, on which was a gold chain, that would have gone twenty-five or thirty times round her neck. She asked it of him:—'It shall be yours,' said he, 'as soon as you have shown me the child that you now carry; and that you may not bring into the world a crying or a pouting child, I promise you the whole, provided that whilst you are in labour, you sing the Bearnese song Notre Dame du bout du Pont aidez-moi en cette heure". No sooner was the Princess safely delivered, than her father, placing the gold chain on her neck, and giving her the gold box wherein was his will, said to her: 'These are for you, daughter, but this is for me;' and took the child in his gown, without waiting for its being dressed in form, and carried it into his chamber. The little Prince was brought up in such a manner as to be able to undergo fatigue and hardship; frequently eating nothing but common bread. The good King his grandfather ordered it thus, and would not let him be delicately pampered, in order that from his infancy he might be inured to privation. He has often been seen, according to the custom of the country, amongst the other children of the Castle and village of Coirazze, bare-footed and bare-headed, as well in winter as in summer. Who was this Prince?—Henry IV.
"Being descended from the Kings of France, he became the heir to that Kingdom; but as he was educated a Protestant, his claim was resisted. He early distinguished himself by feats of arms. After the peace of Saint Germain, in 1570, he was taken to the French Court, and two years afterwards married Margaret, sister of Charles IX. (At the rejoicings on this occasion the infamous massacre of La Saint Barthelemy took place.) In 1589 he succeeded to the throne of France; but his religion proving an obstacle to his coronation, he consented to abjure it in 1593. In 1598 he issued the edict of Nantes, granting toleration to the Protestants".
Mezeray, speaking of the marriage of the King of Navarre (afterwards Henry IV.) with Margaret de Valois, says, "There were many diversions, tournaments, and ballets at Court; and amongst others, one which seemed to presage the calamity that was so near bursting out upon the Huguenots—the King and his brothers defending Paradise against the King of Navarre and his brothers, who were repulsed and banished to Hell;" and Sainte Foix, in his relation of the horrible massacre, gives a detail, which in the present age appears almost incredible.
Catherine of Medicis, whose abominable politics had corrupted the disposition of her son, was at the head of the cabinet council who agreed to the murder of more than one hundred thousand Protestants; and the miserable bigot Charles IX. stationed during the massacre at the window of a house then belonging to the Constable of Bourbon, fired with his own hands upon the Huguenots with a long blunderbuss, whilst they were trying to escape across the river.
The River Erdre runs northward of the city, and forms a beautiful feature, winding for many miles among cultivated fields and woodlands, through a country agreeably diversified with villas, to which the wealthier inhabitants retire during the summer months. The river resembles a lake for the greater part of its course, and is called the Barban.
The Gothic church of Saint Pierre, built by the English in 1434, is a fine old structure: having been much neglected for many years, and greatly defaced during the Revolution, it was at this time restoring. Among the monuments about to be replaced, was an excellent one of Anne de Bretagne, whose effigy, and that of her husband, are as large as life. The allegorical figures of Justice, Temperance, Prudence, and Fortitude, the twelve Apostles, and the supporters to the Arms (a greyhound and a lion), are all executed in the finest white marble. They were hidden during the Revolution, and have only very lately been discovered, as have also some capital paintings piously preserved for the Church. Anne was first married to Charles VIII. in 1499, and afterwards to Louis XII. She died at the Chateau de Blois in 1514, and Louis in 1515.
The climate of Nantes is mild, and reckoned remarkably healthy: every article of life is cheap, and from its mild temperature it abounds in the finest fruits and most excellent wines. Its population is estimated at 60,000 inhabitants. The numbers that were destroyed during the Revolution, or, as the French emphatically term it, "Le regne de la Terreur," were never ascertained; but the frightful history of that bloody period would probably justify the computation at half the number of its present population, many having fallen victims to the murders that were termed "Noyades," independent of those who perished in the Vendean war.
The spot where the gallant Charette was shot, with several other leaders of the Vendean army, is shown; and in the cemetery, a large mound of earth marks the place where the bodies were thrown in, at the time of the "Fuzillades" when the infamous Carrier presided at the execution of the brave Royalists. The print beneath represents this monster on the banks of the Loire directing the Noyades.
[Footnote 7: Chaque nuit on venait en prendre par centaines, pour les mettre sur les bateaux. La on liait les malheureux deux a deux, et on les poussait dans l'eau a coups de baionette. On saisissait indistinctement tout ce qui se trouvait a l'entrepot, tellement qu'on noya un jour l'etat major d'une corvette Anglaise, qui etait prisonnier de guerre. Une autre fois, Carrier, voulant donner un exemple de l'austerite des moeurs republicaines, fit enfermer trois cent filles publiques de la ville, et les malheureuses creatures furent noyees. Enfin, l'on estime qu'il a peri a l'entrepot quinze mille personnes en un mois.—Memoires de Madame la Marquise de Laroche-Jaquelin.]
At the end of a fine avenue of trees, on the Boulevard, is a large and splendid mansion built by that Deputy, and which is at present inhabited by a merchant. Carrier's mistress (to whom he left it, together with a very considerable fortune, amassed from the spoils of his plunder, and the murder of the innocent inhabitants) was very lately sentenced to two years' hard labour for some crime she had committed: and it is no less remarkable, that, of the remaining inhabitants known to have participated in the atrocities of that frightful period, there is not one but is reduced to poverty, and most of them in the extreme of wretchedness, shunned by all, and suffering the ignominy they have so justly merited!
COUNTRY SOUTH OF THE LOIRE.—LE BOCAGE.—CLISSON.—HISTORICAL ANECDOTES.—THE GARENNE, AND RIVER SEVRES.
The best method of travelling in this country is on horseback: in fact, it is impossible to proceed in any other way, after quitting the main road. Having procured a guide and horses, I set out early in the morning, crossing the Loire by the Pont Rosseau, to Verton, keeping along the banks of the River Sevres. Verton is a romantic village standing on a hill: most of the houses are in ruins, from the effect of the destructive war of La Vendee. From thence to Le Palet, most intricate narrow roads, or more properly speaking, pathways, darkened by the overhanging branches of trees, and in many parts deep with mire, from the sun's rays not being able to dry the ground, make it difficult to proceed, and we several times lost our way. It was late before we reached Le Palet, and though I had not tasted food for many hours, I could not resist stopping to view so interesting a spot, and making a hasty sketch of the ruins of the house in which Abelard was born, and in which Heloise resided with him before their final separation. The ruins of the House of Berenger, the father of Abelard, are close to the church of Palet, on the left of the high road, three miles distant from Clisson. Le Palet is thus described by a French author, in the history of the Province.
"Cet homme si celebre par son savoir, ses amours, et ses infortunes, amena Heloise au Palet lorsqu'il l'eut enlevee de chez le Chanoine Fulbert, pour la soustraire au ressentiment de cet oncle jaloux et barbare; mais, oblige de quitter cette retraite paisible pour retourner a Paris, ou l'appelaient ses nombreux disciples, le soin de sa gloire et de sa fortune, Abelard confia a sa soeur sa chere Heloise et le gage precieux qu'elle portait dans son sein. Elle accoucha au Palet d'un fils d'une si rare beaute, qu'elle le nomma Astralabe, c'est-a-dire, astre brillant; mais l'absence de celui qu'elle adorait rendait moins vifs pour elle les doux plaisirs de la maternite; son ame expansive et brulante etait livree sans cesse a une inquiete et sombre melancholie qu'elle ne parvenait sans doute a dissiper qu'en venant sur les bords de la Sevres rever a l'objet de sa tendresse, et soupirer apres son retour. Sept siecles se sont ecoules depuis cette epoque, et les noms d'Abelard et d'Heloise embellissent toujours ce delicieux ravage. On interroge avec une curiosite avide ces roches eternelles et ces grottes mysterieuses qui furent les temoins discrets de leurs peines et de leurs plaisirs. On se reporte a ces temps recules ou ces amants venaient dans cette solitude enchanteresse, se confier mutuellement leur vifs inquietudes; on croit les voir s'egarer sous ces riants ombrages, et s'abandonner a toutes les inspirations de l'eloquence, a toutes les illusions de l'amour".
I arrived at Clisson just as the sun was disappearing, and its rays were only sufficiently strong to reflect the ruined towers of the Castle in the river which runs at its foot. It will be much easier to imagine, than for me to convey the sensations I felt when I first caught a glimpse of it, with the story of La Roche-Jaquelin full in my recollection! I alighted at a small cabaret, dignified by the appellation of the Hotel de la Providence, which seemed preferable to another recommended to me by my guide,—such an one, indeed, as might be expected in a remote place like this: part of the roof was off, and, like most of the houses in the place, bore evident marks of the desolating war that had been carried on here: many are still in ruins. The descent into the town is very steep and rugged, the road being formed out of the solid rock. The master of the cabaret was sitting with his family at the door, but the appearance of his mansion was so unpromising, that I thought it best to make some agreement, and a few inquiries before dismounting;—these preliminaries being settled, and having consented to pay him fifty sous for supper and my bed, and thirty for breakfast, I entered the house: and never recollect having a keener relish for a meal, or enjoying one more heartily, for I had been sixteen hours on horseback.
Fatigued and exhausted as I was, I rambled after dinner towards the delightful grounds of La Garenne, belonging to Monsieur La Motte, who has embellished them in a most interesting and romantic manner.
The river Sevres runs along the side, and separates them from the fine old Castle of Clisson, whose high and decaying towers and battlements give the beholder a noble idea of its ancient grandeur. The evening was a very fine one,—one of those delightful soft, clear skies usual at this season, the latter end of July. I sat myself down in the grotto of Heloise,—a spot of the deepest seclusion, formed, by the hand of Nature, of large masses of granite. The nightingales were singing in the lofty trees at the back; on the sides were shrubs of every description intermingled with fruit trees, and the river having several falls and little rocky islets, gave an air of delightful enchantment to this most romantic scene.
Heloise! a ce nom, qui ne doit s'attendrir? Comme elle sut aimer! comme elle sut souffrir!
At the entrance of the grotto are engraved these lines, nearly effaced by the hand of time.
Heloise peut-etre erra sur ce rivage, Quand, aux yeux des jaloux derobant son sejour, Dans les murs du Palet elle vint mettre au jour Un fils, cher et malheureux gage De ses plaisirs furtifs et de son tendre amour. Peut-etre en ce reduit sauvage, Seule, plus d'une fois, elle vint soupirer, Et gouter librement la douceur de pleurer; Peut-etre sur ce roc assise Elle revait a son malheur. J'y veux rever aussi; j'y veux remplir mon coeur Du doux souvenir d'Heloise.
I had but a few weeks before seen the tomb of Abelard and Heloise in the Cemetery of Pere la Chaise at Paris, whither it had been recently removed from the Convent of the Augustins, at which latter place I had formerly made the annexed drawing of it. I had likewise been very lately at Argenteuil, once the place of her asylum described by Pope:
In these deep solitudes and awful cells—
and had the same day witnessed the ruins of the house in which Abelard was born, and in which Heloise resided and became a mother, and from whence she used to make frequent visits to this spot: all these circumstances combined, gave the scene before me a most powerful interest. I rose early the next day, anxious to revisit a place which had afforded me such delight the previous evening. Wandering by the beautiful banks of the river, along its green meadows, in a woody recess, I observed the following lines beneath an urn, cut in the rock on which it rested:
Consacrer dans l'obscurite, Ses loisirs a l'etude, a l'amitie sa vie, Sont des plaisirs dignes d'envie; Etre cheri vaut mieux qu'etre vante!
A little further on, is a stone pillar, with a venerable accacia tree spreading its leaves over it. It has the following Latin inscription:
IM CAESAR AVGVSTVS PONTIFEX MAX VIAM. OLIM A CONIVINCO AD LIMONEM
IMP. CAESAR. TRAJ. ADRIANVS AVG PM. TRIB. POT. VIAM AB AVGVSTO STATAM REFICIT.
[Footnote 8: Auguste etendit jusqu'a La Loire La Gaule Aquitanique, autrefois bornee par la Garonne, et comprit L'Armorique dans la Province Celtique ou Lyonnaise. L'Empereur Adrian, ayant fait depuis une nouvelle distribution des Gaules, divisa La Lyonnaise en deux, et mit L'Armorique dans la seconde; enfin cette Lyonnaise ou Celtique ayant ete encore divisee en deux, Tours devint la Metropole de la troisieme, qui comprenait la Touraine, le Maine, l'Anjou, et la Bretagne.—Histoire de Bret.]
Farther on several large blocks of granite are piled together in so strange and curious a manner, that it must have been the work of Nature alone:—one of them has these beautiful lines carved on it:
O! Limpide Riviere! O Riviere cherie! Puisse la sotte vanite Ne jamais dedaigner ta rive humble et fleurie! Que ton simple sentier ne soit point frequente Par aucun tourment de la vie Tels que l'ambition, l'envie, L'avarice, et la faussete! Un bocage si frais, un sejour si tranquille, Aux tendres sentiments doit seul servir d'azile. Ces rameaux amoureux entrelasses expres Aux Muses, aux Amours, offrent leur voile epais; Et ce cristal d'une onde pure A jamais ne doit reflechir Que les graces de la nature Et les images du plaisir.
Close to the brink of the river stands a prodigiously large granite rock, immediately facing the waterfall called le Bassin de Diane: on it are these words:
SA MASSE INDESTRVCTIBLE A FATIGVE LE TEMS. a quotation from Delille.
The French writers, speaking of this interesting place, observe: "Comment soupconner en effet qu'au milieu de cette terrible Vendee, qu'au centre de cet impenetrable et sombre Bocage, il existe un pays delicieux et fertile, couvert de mines seculaires qui rappelent tous les souvenirs historiques de notre ancienne France, comme le caractere de ses habitans en rappele les moeurs, le courage, et la loyaute".
On the opposite side of the river, a little to the right, stands the ancient Chateau de Clisson, celebrated in the modern as well as the ancient history of Bretagne. Its lofty turrets, and decaying bastions, extend a considerable distance along the shore of the Sevres, recalling to mind the ancient days of chivalry, when bravery, love, and religion, were so singularly blended together, and gave a romantic half-polished manner to the greatest barbarians. In later times it became the scene of events which no one can contemplate without the deepest interest. In viewing this magnificent ruin, it is impossible not to regret that a place so frequently the theatre of noble achievements, inhabited by one of the greatest men that France has produced, Francois I. Connetable de Clisson, father to Anne of Bretagne, should have been so recently the scene of such savage horrors and bloodshed! Now, all is silence and solitude: and amidst the noble ruins which were once decorated with banners, and the hard-earned trophies of victory,—where high-born knights and splendid dames mingled in mirth and festivity to the echoes of the minstrels, singing lays of love or battle,—are now only to be seen and heard the birds of prey, hovering over a solitary tree, planted to mark the spot where a deed was committed which has not often its parallel in the darkest histories of the most ferocious nations.
[Footnote 9: In the "Histoire Genealogique de France", tom. vi. is an account of the Constable's death. "The Duke of Orleans, brother to the king, was very fond of a Jewess, whom he privately visited. Having some reason to suspect that Peter de Craon, Lord of Sable and de la Ferte-Bernard, his chamberlain and favourite, had joked with the Duchess of Orleans upon his intrigue, he turned him out of his house with infamy. Craon imputed his disgrace partly to the Constable of Clisson. On the night of the 13th June, having waited for him at the corner of the street Coulture Ste. Catherine, and finding he had but little company with him, he fell upon him at the head of a score of ruffians. Clisson defended himself for some time without any other weapon than a small cutlass; but after receiving three wounds, fell from his horse, and pitched against a door, which flew open. The report of this assassination reached the king's ears just as he was stepping into bed. He put on a great coat and his shoes, and repaired to the place where he was informed his constable had been killed. He found him in a baker's shop, wallowing in his blood. After his wounds were examined, "Constable, (said he to him), nothing was or ever will he so severely punished". It was given out that Clisson made his will the next day, and there was a mighty outcry about the sum of 1,700,000 livres, which it amounted to. It should be observed, that during twenty-five years that he was in the service of France, he had sought for and beaten the English every where; that he gained the famous battle of Robeck, and chastised the Flemish; that he enjoyed for twelve years the salary and appointments of Constable; and that, moreover, his landed estate, (which included many castles inherited from his ancestors, in Bretagne and Poitou,) was very considerable."]
During the Vendean war, the royalists had been driven out of Clisson by the republicans, under the command of a ferocious jacobin. The town was pillaged and burnt before they quitted it. Twenty-seven females had, during the battle, concealed themselves among the ruins: when information of it was given to the troops, who had already quitted the place, they were ordered to return, and the whole of these unhappy women were thrown alive into a well, where they perished!!! It has since been filled up, and the lonely tree, just mentioned, now records the bloody and inhuman deed.
In the account of Clisson, by a late French author, no notice is taken of this circumstance. He merely observes, when mentioning the destruction of the place, after the de la Roche-Jaquelin had quitted it, "Les Rives ombragees de la Sevres, si seduisante par ses belles cascades et l'ensemble de ce paysage poetique, feroient de cette contree un sejour delicieux, si de tristes debris, qui heureusement disparoissent tous les jours, ne rappelaient encore le souvenir affligeant de nos discordes civiles. Les armees Revolutionnaires qui combattirent les Vendeens, en 1793 et en 1794, employerent inutilement pour les reduire le fer et le feu; la flamme atteignit les villes, les villages, les metairies, et jusqu'aux humbles chaumieres; et, dans ce vaste et epouvantable incendie, Clisson ne put echapper a une ruine complete. Jamais peut-etre cette petite ville ne se seroit entierement reedifie, sans une circonstance particuliere qui contribua puissamment a la faire renoitre de ces cendres".
In the town of Clisson was born the celebrated Barin de la Galissonniere, Admiral of France, who fought the well-known action off Mahon, in the month of June, 1756, with Admiral Byng, who, in consequence of his conduct on that occasion, was brought to a court martial and shot. The French writers make the following absurd remark, as to the cause of his fate: "Les Anglais, furieux d'avoir ete vaincus par un Amiral Francois, firent fusiller l'Amiral Byng". It is now well known that he was sacrificed to an unprincipled ministerial faction.
The ancient Chateau de Clisson is built on a rock, on the bank of the Sevres, facing the mouth of the river, called Le Moine, which empties itself into the Sevres at this place, so that the town of Clisson stands between the two rivers at their junction. An ancient bridge, from whence this view is taken, joins one part of the town to the other, and leads to the castle, which was once considered the barrier of Bretagne. The two rivers run over a bed of granite rock, which, in some places, forming a cataract, adds considerably to the surrounding scenery: large masses of this rock in many parts seem as if piled up by nature for the purpose of giving it a more romantic effect. The whole forms a most picturesque object, when viewed from the opposite shore, from whence the sketch of the temple erected on the ruin of St. Gilles is taken; and the remembrance of its recent fate throws over the scene a strong and melancholy interest.
The castle is supposed to have been first erected by the Romans, as the Province formed a part of the Gaule Aquitanique, under the Emperors Augustus and Adrian.
The French repaired it during the reign of Louis VIII. in 1223, under Olivier I. Sire de Clisson, as he is styled; and it was made a regular fortification, and surrounded by a wall a century after, by the Connetable: in 1464 the Duc de Bretagne, Francis II. entirely finished it.
The Sire de Clisson, Olivier I. who had served during one of the Crusades in Palestine, was knighted with several others, in 1218. "Un nombre prodigieux de Seigneurs Anglais, Normands, Angevins, Manceaux, Tourangeaux, et Bretons, prirent la Croix; Le Pape, Innocent III. envoya en Bretagne, en 1197, Helvain, Moine de St. Denis, pour y precher une croisade. Une grande quantite de Bretons se laisserent conduire en Syrie par ce Moine; et, en 1218, plusieurs Seigneurs Bretons suivirent leur exemple, entre autres, Herve de Leon, Morvau, Vicomte du Fou, et le Sire de Clisson".
From the construction of the towers and bastions, it is supposed that at his return from the Holy Land, he had copied the Syrian style of building; and one of the towers, which is represented in the sketch of the gateway of the Chateau de Clisson, is still called La Tour des Pelerins.
This tower, which has been used as a dungeon, is the most perfect of any remaining. In it are subterranean galleries, anciently used as a prison, and appropriated by the republicans to the same purpose. It is dreadful to think of the horrors that have been practised within its walls, in our own time.
From the top of this tower the prospect is very extensive, and, during the year 1793, when the republican army quartered themselves in it, a sentinel was placed there to give notice in case of the approach of an enemy. The historian of that period, speaking of the entrance to this tower, observes, in reference to the cruelties committed there in the Vendean war: