PART OF SPAIN.
DUBLIN Printed by J. Williams, (No. 21.) Skinner-Row. M,DCC,LXXVII.
Transcriber's Note: The long-s has been modernized to s.
* * * * *
CALAIS, June 20th, 1775
As you are kind enough to say, that those letters which I wrote from this kingdom, nine or ten years ago, were of some use to you, in the little tour you made through France soon after, and as they have been considered in some degree to be so to many other persons, (since their publication) who were unacquainted with the manners and customs of the French nation, I shall endeavour to bring together, in this second correspondence with you, not only some of the former hints I gave you, but such other remarks as a longer acquaintance with the country, and a more extensive tour, may furnish me with; but before I proceed any further, let me remind you, of one great fault I was then guilty of; for though your partiality to me might induce you to overlook it, the public did not, I mean that of writing when my temper was disturbed, either by cross incidents I met with upon the road, or disagreeable news which often followed me from my own country into this. I need not tell a man of your discernment, in what a different light all objects, whether animate, or inanimate, appear to those, whose temper is disturbed, either by ill health, ill treatment, or, what is perhaps more prevalent than either, the chagrin he may feel at not being rated in the estimation of others, according to that value he puts upon himself. Could Dr. Smollett rise from the dead, and sit down in perfect health, and good temper, and read his travels through France and Italy, he would probably find most of his anger turned upon himself. But, poor man! he was ill; and meeting with, what every stranger must expect to meet at most French inns, want of cleanliness, imposition, and incivility; he was so much disturbed by those incidents, that to say no more of the writings of an ingenious and deceased author, his travels into France, and Italy, are the least entertaining, in my humble opinion, of all his works. Indeed I have observed that most travellers fall into one extreme, or the other, and either are all panegyric or all censure; in which case, all they say cannot be just; for, as all nations are governed by men, and the bulk of men of all nations live by artifice of one kind or other, the few men who pass among them, without any sinister views, cannot avoid feeling, and but few from complaining of the ill treatment they meet with; not considering one of Swift's shrewd remarks; I never said he, knew a man who could not bear the misfortunes of another perfectly like a Christian.
Remember therefore, when I tell you how ill I have been treated either by Lords or Aubergists, or how dirtily served by either, it is to prepare myself and you too, to be content with neighbours' fare.
When a man writes remarks upon the manners and customs of other nations, he should endeavour to wean himself from all partiality for his own; and I need not tell you that I am in full possession of that single qualification, which I hope will make you some amends for my defects in all the others; for it is certainly unjust, uncandid, and illiberal, to pronounce a custom or fashion absurd, because it does not coincide with our ideas of propriety. A Turk who travelled into England, would, upon his return to Constantinople, tell his countrymen, that at Canterbury; (bring out of opium,) his host did not know even what he demanded; and that it was with some difficulty he found out, that there were shops in the town where opium was sold, and even then, it was with greater, he could prevail upon the vender of it to let him have above half an ounce: if he were questioned, why all these precautions? he would tell them, laughingly, that Englishmen believe opium to be a deadly poison, and those people suspected that he either meant to kill himself, or to poison another man with it.
A French gentleman, who travelled some years since into Spain, had letters of recommendation to a Spanish Bishop, who received him with every mark of politeness, and treated him with much hospitality: soon after he retired to his bedchamber, a priest entered it,[A] holding a vessel in his hand, which was covered with a clean napkin; he said something; but the Frenchman understanding but little Spanish, intimated by signs his thanks, and desired him to put it down, believing, that his friend, the Bishop, had sent him a plate of sweetmeats, fruit, iced cream, or some kind of refreshment to eat before he went to bed, or to refresh his exhausted spirits in the night; but his astonishment was great indeed, when he found the priest put the present under the side of the bed; and more so, when he perceived that it was only a pot de chambre;—for, says the Frenchman, "in Spain, they do not use the chaise percee!" The Frenchman is surprized at the Spaniard, for not using so convenient a vehicle; the Englishman is equally surprized, that the Frenchman does;—the Frenchman is always attentive to his own person, and scarce ever appears but clean and well dressed; while his house and private apartments are perhaps covered with litter and dirt, and in the utmost confusion;—the Englishman, on the other hand, often neglects his external dress; but his house is always exquisitely clean, and every thing in it kept in the nicest order; and who shall say, which of the two judge the best for their own ease and happiness? I am sure the Frenchman will not give up his powdered hair, and laced coat, for a clean house; nor do I believe those fineries would sit quietly upon the back of an Englishman, in a dirty one. In short, my dear sir, we must take the world, and the things in it, as they are; it is a dirty world, but like France, has a vast number of good things in it, and such as I meet with, in this my third tour, which shall be a long one, if I am not stopped by the way, you shall have such an account of as I am able to convey to you: I will not attempt to top the traveller upon you, nor raise monuments of wonder, where none are to be seen; there is real matter enough to be found upon this great continent, to amuse a man who travels slowly over it, to see what is to be seen, and who wishes not to be seen himself. My style of travelling is such, that I can never be disturbed in mind for want of respect, but rather be surprised when I meet with even common civility. And, after all, what does it signify, whether Monsieur ou Tel travels in a laced coat et tres bien mis, attended by half a dozen servants, or, as Pope says,
"will run The Lord knows whither in a chaise and one."
I am, your's &c.
[A] The Bishops in Spain are attended and waited upon by inferior clergy.
June 25th, 1766.
Before I leave Calais, let me remind you, that an English guinea is worth more than a Louis d'or; and observe, that the first question my friend Mons. Dessein, at the Hotel D'Angleterre will put to you, (after he has made his bow, and given you a side look, as a cock does at a barley-corn) is, whether you have any guineas to change? because he gets by each guinea, full weight, ten Sols. By this hint, you will conclude, he will not, upon your return, ask you for your French Gold; but in this too you will be mistaken, for he finds an advantage in that also; he will, not indeed give you guineas, but, in lieu thereof, he has always a large quantity of Birmingham Shillings, to truck with you for your Louis d'ors. I am afraid, when Lord North took into consideration the state of the gold coin, he did not know, that the better state it is put into in England, is the surest means of transporting it into France, and other countries; and that scarce a single guinea which travellers carry with them to France, (and many hundred go every week) ever returns to England: Beside this, the quantity of gold carried over to the ports of Dunkirk, Boulogne, and Calais, by the Smugglers, who always pay ready money, is incredible; but as money, and matters of that kind, are what I have but little concern in, I will not enlarge upon a subject no way interesting to me, and shall only observe, that my landlord, Mons. Dessein, who was behind-hand with the world ten years ago, is now become one of the richest men in Calais, has built a little Theatre in his garden, and has united the profitable business of a Banker, to that of a Publican; and by studying the Gout of the English nation, and changing their gold into French currency, has made, they say, a Demi Plumb.
Notwithstanding the contiguity of Calais to England, and the great quantity of poultry, vegetables, game, &c. which are bought up every market-day, and conveyed to your coast, I am inclined to believe, there are not many parts of France where a man, who has but little money, can make it go further than in this town; nor is there any town in England, where the fishery is conducted with so much industry.
Yesterday I visited my unfortunate daughter, at the convent at Ardres;—but why do I say unfortunate? She is unfortunate only, in the eyes of the world, not in her own; nor indeed in mine, because she assured me she is happy. I left her here, you know, ten years ago, by way of education, and learning the language; but the small-pox, which seized her soon after, made such havock on a face, rather favoured by nature, that she desired to hide it from the world, and spend her life in that retirement, which I had chosen only to qualify her for the world. I left her a child; I found her a sensible woman; full of affection and duty; and her mangled and seamed face, so softened by an easy mind, and a good conscience, that she appeared in my partial eyes, rather an agreeable than a plain woman; but she did not omit to signify to me, that what others considered her misfortune, she considered (as it was not her fault) a happy circumstance; "if my face is plain (said she) my heart is light, and I am sure it will make as good a figure in the earth, as the fairest, and most beautiful." My only concern is, that I find the Prieure of this convent, either for want of more knowledge, or more money, or both, had received, as parlour boarders, some English ladies of very suspicious characters. As the conversation of such women might interrupt, and disturb that peace and tranquillity of mind, in which I found my daughter, I told the Prieure my sentiments on that subject, not only with freedom, but with some degree of severity; and endeavoured to convince her, how very unwarrantably, if not irreligiously she acted. An abandoned, or vicious woman, may paint the pleasures of this world in such gaudy colours, to a poor innocent Nun, so as to induce her to forget, or become less attentive to the professions she has made to the next.
It was near this town, you know, that the famous interview passed between Henry the Eighth, and Francis the First, in the year 1520; and though it lasted twenty-eight days, and was an event which produced at that time so many amusements to all present, and so much conversation throughout Europe, the inhabitants of this, town, or Calais, seem to know little of it, but that one of the bastions at Ardres is called the Bastion of the Two Kings.—There still remains, however, in the front of one of the houses in Calais, upon an ornamented stone, cut in old letter,
God Save the King;
And I suppose that stone was put, where it now remains, by some loyal subject, before the King arrived, as it is in a street which leads from the gate (now stopped up) which Henry passed through.
In a very few days I shall leave this town, and having procured letters of recommendation from some men of fashion, now in England, to their friends in Spain, I am determined to traverse this, and make a little tour into that kingdom; so you may expect something more from me, than merely such remarks as may be useful to you on any future tour you make in France; I mean to conduct you at least over the Pyrenean hills to Barcelona; for, though I have been two or three times before in Spain, it was early in life, and when my mind was more employed in observing the customs and manors of the birds, and beasts of the field, than of their lords and masters, and made too, on the other side of that kingdom. Having seen as much of Paris as I desired, some years ago, I intend to pass through the provinces of Artois, Champaigne, Bourgogne, and so on to Lyons; by which route you will perceive, I shall leave the capital of this kingdom many leagues on my right hand, and see some considerable towns, and taste now and then of the most delicious wines, on the spots which produce them; beside this, I have a great desire to see the remains of a Roman subterranean town, lately discovered in Champaigne, which perhaps may gratify my curiosity in some degree, and thereby lessen that desire I have: long had of visiting Herculaneum, an under-ground town you know, I always said I would visit, if a certain person happened to be put under-ground before me; but the CAUSE, and the event, in all human affairs, are not to be fathomed by men; for though the event happened, the cause frustrated my design; and I must cross the Pyranean not the Alpian hills. But lest I forget it, let me tell you, that as my travelling must be upon the frugal plan, I have sold my four-wheel post-chaise, to Mons. Dessein, for twenty-two guineas, and bought a French cabriolet, for ten, and likewise a very handsome English coach-horse, (a little touched in the wind indeed) for seven. This equipage I have fitted up with every convenience I can contrive, to carry me, my wife, two daughters, and all my other baggage; you will conclude therefore, light as the latter may be, we are bien charge; but as we move slowly, not above seven leagues a day, I shall have the more leisure to look about me, and to consider what sort of remarks may prove most worthy of communicating from time to time to you. I shall be glad to leave this town, though it is in one respect, something like your's,[B] everyday producing many strange faces, and some very agreeable acquaintance. The arrival of the packet-boats from Dover constitutes the principal amusement of this town.
The greater part of the English transports who come over, do not proceed much further than to see the tobacco plantations near St. Omer's; nor is their return home less entertaining than their arrival, as many of them are people of such quick parts, that they acquire, in a week's tour to Dunkirk, Bologne, and St. Omer's, the language, dress and manners of the country. You must not, however, expect to hear again from me, till I am further a-field. But lest I forget to mention it in a future letter, let me refresh your memory, as to your conduct at Dover, at Sea, and at Calais. In the first of these three disagreeable places, (and the first is the worst) you will soon be applied to by one of the Captains of the packets, or bye-boats, and if you hire the boat to yourself, he will demand five guineas; if you treat with another, it is all one, because they are all, except one, partners and equally interested; and therefore will abate nothing. Captain Watson is the only one who swims upon his own bottom; and as he is a good seaman, and has a clean, convenient, nay an elegant vessel, I would rather turn the scale in his favour, because I am, as you will be, an enemy to all associations which have a tendency to imposition upon the public, and oppression to such who will not join in the general confederacy; yet I must, in justice to the Captains of the confederate party, acknowledge, that their vessels are all good; well found; and that they are civil, decent-behaved men. As it is natural for them to endeavour to make the most of each trip, they will, if they can, foist a few passengers upon you, even after you have taken the vessel to your own use only. If you are alone, this intrusion is not agreeable, but if you have ladies with you, never submit to it; if they introduce men, who appear like gentlemen upon your vessel, you cannot avoid treating them as such; if women, you cannot avoid them treating them with more attention than may be convenient, because they are women; but were it only in consideration of the sea-sickness and its consequences, can any thing be more disagreeable than to admit people to pot and porringer with you, in a small close cabin, with whom you would neither eat, drink, or converse, in any other place? but these are not the only reasons; every gentleman going to France should avoid making new acquaintance, at Dover, at Sea, or at Calais: many adventurers are always passing, and many honest men are often led into grievous and dangerous situations by such inconsiderate connections; nay, the best, and wisest men, are the most liable to be off their guard, and therefore you will excuse my pointing it out to you.
I could indeed relate some alarming consequences, nay, some fatal ones, which have befallen men of honour and character in this country, from such unguarded connections; and such as they would not have been drawn into, on the other side of the "invidious Streight." When an Englishman leaves his own country, and is got no further from it than to this town, he looks back upon it with an eye of partial affection; no wonder then, if he feels more disposed to be kind to a countryman and a stranger he may meet in this.—I do not think it would be difficult to point out, what degree of intimacy would arise between two men who knew but little of each other, according to the part of the world they were to meet in.—I remember the time, when I only knew your person, and coveted your acquaintance; at that time we lived in the same town, knew each other's general character, but passed without speaking, or even the compliment of the hat; yet had we met in London, we should certainly have taken some civil notice of each other: had the interview been at York, it is five to one but it would have produced a conversation: at Edinburgh, or Dublin, we should have dined, or gone to the play together: but if we had met at Barbadoes, I should have been invited to spend a month at your PENN, and experienced many of those marks of hospitality, friendship, and generosity, I have found from the Creoles in general. When you get upon the French coast, the packet brings to, and is soon boarded by a French boat, to carry the passengers on shore; this passage is much longer than it appears to be, is always disagreeable, and sometimes dangerous; and the landing, if the water be very low, intolerable: in this case, never mind the advice of the Captain; his advice is, and must be regulated by his own and his owner's interest, more than your convenience; therefore stay on board till there is water enough to sail up to the town, and be landed by a plank laid from the packet to the shore, and do not suffer any body to persuade you to go into a boat, or to be put on shore, by any other method, tho' the packet-men and the Frenchmen unite to persuade you so to do, because they are mutually benefited by putting you to more expence, and the latter are entertained with seeing your cloaths dirted, or the ladies frighted. If most of the packet-boats are in Calais harbour, your Captain will use every argument in his power to persuade you to go on shore, in the French boat, because he will, in that case, return directly to Dover, and thereby save eight-and-twenty shillings port duty. When we came over, I prevailed upon a large company to stay on board till there was water enough to sail into the harbour: it is not in the power of the Captain to deceive you as to that matter, because there is a red flag hoisted gradually higher and higher, as the water flows into the harbour, at a little fort which stands upon stilts near the entrance of it. When you are got on shore, go directly to Dessein's; and be in no trouble about your baggage, horses, or coach; the former will be all carried, by men appointed for that purpose, safely to the Custom-house, and the latter wheeled up to your Hotel, where you will sit down more quietly, and be entertained more decently, than at Dover.
RHEIMS, in Champagne.
Little or nothing occurred to me worth remarking to you on my journey hither, but that the province of Artois is a fine corn country, and that the French farmers seem to understand that business perfectly well. I was surprised to find, near St. Omer's, large plantations of tobacco, which had all the vigour and healthy appearance of that which I have seen grow in poor America. On my way here, (like the countryman in London, in gazing about) I missed my road; but a civil, and, in appearance, a substantial farmer, conducted us half a league over the fields, and marked out the course to get into it again, without returning directly back, a circumstance I much hate, though perhaps it might have been the shorter way. However, before I gained the high road, I stumbled upon a private one, which led us into a little village pleasantly situated, and inhabited by none other but the poorest peasants; whose tattered habits, wretched houses, and smiling countenances, convinced me, that chearfulness and contentment shake hands oftener under thatched than painted roofs. We found one of these villagers as ready to boil our tea-kettle, provide butter, milk, &c. as we were for our breakfasts; and during the preparation of it, I believe every man, woman, and child of the hamlet, was come down to look at us; for beside that wonderful curiosity common to this whole nation, the inhabitants of this village had never before seen an Englishman; they had heard indeed often of the country, they said, and that it was un pays tres riche. There was such a general delight in the faces of every age, and so much civility, I was going to say politeness, shewn to us, that I caught a temporary chearfulness in this village, which I had not felt for some months before, and which I intend to carry with me. I therefore took out my guittar, and played till I set the whole assembly in motion; and some, in spite of their wooden shoes, and others without any, danced in a manner not to be seen among our English peasants. They had "shoes like a sauce-boat," but no "steeple-clock'd hose." While we breakfasted, one of the villagers fed my horse with some fresh-mowed hay, and it was with some difficulty I could prevail upon him to be paid for it, because the trifle I offered was much more than his Court of Conscience informed him it was worth. I could moralize here a little; but I will only ask you, in which state think you man is best; the untaught man, in that of nature, or the man whose mind is enlarged by education and a knowledge of the world? The behaviour of the inhabitants of this little hamlet had a very forcible effect upon me; because it brought me back to my earlier days, and reminded me of the reception I met with in America by what we now call the Savage Indians; yet I have been received in the same courteous manner in a little hamlet, unarmed, and without any other protection but by the law of nature, by those savages;—indeed it was before the Savages of Europe had instructed them in the art of war, or Mr. Whitfield had preached methodism among them. Therefore, I only tell you what they were in 1735, not what they are at present. When I visited them, they walked in the flowery paths of Nature; now, I fear, they tread the polluted roads of blood. Perhaps of all the uncivilized nations under the sun, the native Indians of America were the most humane; I have seen an hundred instances of their humanity and integrity;—when a white man was under the lash of the executioner, at Savannah in Georgia, for using an Indian woman ill, I saw Torno Chaci, their King, run in between the offender and the corrector, saying, "whip me, not him;"—the King was the complainant, indeed, but the man deserved a much severer chastisement. This was a Savage King. Christian Kings too often care not who is whipt, so they escape the smart.
We arrived at this city before the bustle which the coronation of Louis the 16th occasioned was quite over; I am sorry I did not see it, because I now find it worth seeing; but I staid at Calais on purpose to avoid it; for having paid two guineas to see the coronation of George the Third, I determined never more to be put to any extraordinary expence on the score of crowned heads. However, my curiosity has been well gratified in hearing it talked over, and over again, and in reading Marmontell's letter to a friend upon that subject; but I will not repeat what he, or others have said upon the occasion, because you have, no doubt, seen in the English papers a tolerably good one; only that the Queen was so overcome with the repeated shouts and plaudits of her new subjects, that she was obliged to retire. The fine Gothic cathedral, in which the ceremony was performed, is indeed a church worthy of such a solemnity; the portal is the finest I ever beheld; the windows are painted in the very best manner; nor is there any thing within the church but what should be there. I need not tell you that this is the province which produces the most delicious wine in the world; but I will assure you, that I should have drank it with more pleasure, had you been here to have partook of it. In the cellars of one wine-merchant, I was conducted through long passages more like streets than caves; on each side of which, bottled Champaigne was piled up some feet higher than my head, and at least twelve deep. I bought two bottles to taste, of that which the merchant assured me was each of the best sort he had, and for which I paid him six livres: if he sells all he had in bottles at that time, and at the same price, I shall not exceed the bounds of truth if I say, I saw ten thousand pounds worth of bottled Champaigne in his cellars. Neither of the bottles, however, contained wine so good as I often drank in England; but perhaps we are deceived, and find it more palatable by having sugar in it; for I suspect that most of the Champaigne which is bottled for the use of English consumption, is so prepared. That you may know however, for the future, whether Champaigne or any other wine is so adulterated, I will give you an infallible method to prove:—fill a small long-necked bottle with the wine you would prove, and invert the neck of it into a tumbler of clear water; if the wine be genuine, it will all remain in the bottle; if adulterated, with sugar, honey, or any other sweet substance, the sweets will all pass into the tumbler of water, and leave the genuine wine behind. The difference between still Champaigne, and that which is mousser, is owing to nothing more than the time of the year in which it is bottled.
I found in this town an English gentleman, from whom we received many civilities, and who made us acquainted with a French gentleman and lady, whose partiality to the English nation is so great, that their neighbours call their house "THE ENGLISH HOTEL." The partiality of such a family is a very flattering, as well as a very pleasing circumstance, to those who are so happy to be known to them, because they are not only the first people in the town, but the best; and in point of talents, inferior to none, perhaps, in the kingdom. I must not, after saying so much, omit to tell you, it is Monsieur & Madame de Jardin, of whom I speak; they live in the GRANDE PLACE, vis-a-vis the statue of the King; and if ever you come to Rheims, be assured you will find it a GOOD PLACE. Madame de Jardin is not only one of the highest-bred women in France, but one of the first in point of letters, and that is saying a great deal, for France abounds more with women of that turn than England. Mrs. Macaulay, Mrs. Carter, Miss Aikin, and Mrs. Montague, are the only four ladies I can recollect in England who are celebrated for their literary genius; in France, I could find you a score or two. To give you some idea of the regard and affection Mons. de Jardin has for his wife,—for French husbands, now and then, love their wives as well as we Englishmen do,—I send you a line I found in his study, wrote under his lady's miniature picture:
"Chaque instant a mes yeux la rend Plus estimable."
This town stands in a vast plain, is of great extent, and enclosed within high walls, and a deep ditch. The public walks are of great extent, nobly planted, and the finest in the whole kingdom. It is, indeed, a large and opulent city, and abounds not only with the best wine, but every thing that is good; and every thing is plenty, and consequently cheap. The fruit market, in particular, is superior to every thing of the kind I ever beheld; but I will not tantalize you by saying any more upon that subject. Adieu!
P.S. The Antiquarian will find amusement in this town. There are some Roman remains worthy of notice; but such as require the information of the inhabitant to be seen.
You will laugh, perhaps, when I tell you, I could hardly refrain from tears when I took leave of the De Jardin family at Rheims,—but so it was. Good-breeding, and attention, have so much the appearance of friendship, that they may, and often do, deceive the most discerning men;—no wonder, then, if I was unhappy in leaving a town, where I am sure I met with the first, and had some reason to believe I should have found the latter, had we staid to cultivate it. Bourgogne is, however, a much finer province than Champaigne; and this town is delightfully situated; that it is a cheap province, you will not doubt, even to English travellers, when I tell you, that I had a good supper for four persons, three decent beds, good hay, and plenty of corn, for my horse, at an inn upon this road, and was charged only four livres ten sols! not quite four shillings. Nor was it owing to any mistake; for I lay the following night at just such another inn, and was charged just the same price for nearly the same entertainment. They were carriers' inns, indeed, but I know not whether they were not, upon the whole, better, and cleaner too, than some of the town auberges. I need not therefore tell you, I was straggled a little out of le Route Anglois, when I found such a bon Marche.
Dijon is pleasantly situated, well built, and the country round about it is as beautiful as nature could well make it. The shady walks round the whole town are very pleasing, and command a view of the adjacent country. The excellence of the wine of this province, you are better acquainted with than I am; though I must confess, I have drank better burgundy in England than I have yet tasted here: but I am not surprized at that; for at Madeira I could not get wine that was even tolerable.
I found here, two genteel English gentlemen, Mess. Plowden and Smyth, from whom we received many marks of attention and politeness.—Here, I imagined I should be able to bear seeing the execution of a man, whose crimes merited, I thought, the severest punishment. He was broke upon the wheel; so it is called; but the wheel is what the body is fixed upon to be exposed on the high road after the execution. This man's body, however, was burnt. The miserable wretch (a young strong man) was brought in the evening, by a faint torch light, to a chapel near the place of execution, where he might have continued in prayer till midnight; but after one hour spent there, he walked to, and mounted the scaffold, accompanied by his confessor, who with great earnestness continually presented to him, and bade him kiss, the crucifix he carried in his hand. When the prisoner came upon the scaffold, he very willingly laid himself upon his back, and extended his arms and legs over a cross, that was laid flat and fixed fast upon the scaffold for that purpose, and to which he was securely tied by the executioner and his mother, who assisted her son in this horrid business. Part of the cross was cut away, in eight places, so as to leave a hollow vacancy where the blows were to be given, which are, between the shoulder and elbow, elbow and wrist, thigh and knee, and knee and ancle. When the man was securely tied down, the end of a rope which was round his neck, with a running noose, was brought through a hole in and under the scaffold; this was to give the Coup de Grace, after breaking: a Coup which relieved him, and all the agitated spectators, from an infinite degree of misery, except only, the executioner and his mother, for they both seemed to enjoy the deadly office. When the blows were given, which were made with a heavy piece of iron, in the form of a butcher's cleaver without an edge, the bones of the arms and legs were broke in eight places; at each blow, the sufferer called out, O God! without saying another word, or even uttering a groan. During all this time, the Confessor called upon him continually to kiss the cross, and to remember Christ, his Redeemer. Indeed, there was infinite address, as well as piety, in the conduct of the Confessor; for he would not permit this miserable wretch to have one moment's reflection about his bodily sufferings, while a matter of so much more importance was depending; but even those eight blows seemed nothing to two dreadful after-claps, for the executioner then untied the body, turned his back upwards, and gave him two blows on the small of the back with the same iron weapon; and yet even that did not put an end to the life and sufferings of the malefactor! for the finishing stroke was, after all this, done by the halter, and then the body was thrown into a great fire, and consumed to ashes. There were two or three executions soon after, but of a more moderate kind. Yet I hope I need not tell you, that I shall never attend another; and would feign have made my escape from this, but it was impossible.—Here, too, I saw upwards of fourscore criminals linked together, by one long chain, and so they were to continue till they arrived in the galleys at Marseilles. Now I am sure you will be, as I was, astonished to think, an old woman, the mother of the executioner, should willingly assist in a business of so horrid a nature; and I dare say, you will be equally astonished that the magistrates of the city permitted it. Decency, and regard to the sex, alone, one would think, should have put a stop to a practice so repugnant to both; and yet perhaps, not one person in the town considered it in that light. Indeed, no other person would have assisted, and the executioner must have done all the business himself, if his mother had not been one of that part of the fair sex, which Addison pleasantly mentions, "as rakers of cinders;" for the executioner could not have found a single person to have given him any assistance. There was a guard of the Marechaussee, to prevent the prisoners' escape; but none that would have lifted up a little finger towards forwarding the execution; the office is hereditary and infamous, and the officer is shut out of all society. His perquisites, however, were considerable; near ten pounds, I think, for this single execution; and he had a great deal more business coming on. I would not have given myself the pain of relating, nor you the reading, the particulars of this horrid affair, but to observe, that it is such examples as these, that render travelling in France, in general, secure. I say, in general; for there are, nevertheless, murders committed very frequently upon the high roads in France; and were those murders to be made known by news-papers, as ours are in England, perhaps it would greatly intimidate travellers of their own, as well as other nations. But as the murdered, and murderers, are generally foot-travellers, though the dead body is found, the murderer is escaped; and as nobody knows either party, nobody troubles themselves about it. All over France, you meet with an infinite number of people travelling on foot, much better dressed than you find, in general, the stagecoach gentry in England. Most of these foot-travellers are young expensive tradesmen, and artists, who have paid their debts by a light pair of heels; when their money is exhausted, the stronger falls upon the weaker, knocks out his brains, and furnishes himself with a little money; and these murders are never scarce heard of above a league from the place where they are committed; for which reason, you never meet a foot-traveller in France, without arms, of one kind or other, and carried for one purpose, or the other. Gentlemen, however, who travel only in the day-time, and who are armed, have but little danger to apprehend; yet it is necessary to be upon their guard when they pass through great woods, and to keep in the middle of the road, so as not to be too suddenly surprized; because a convenient opportunity may induce two or three honest travellers to embrace a favourable occasion of replenishing their purses; and as they always murder those whom they attack, if they can, those who are attacked should never submit, but defend themselves to the utmost of their power. Though the woods are dangerous, there are, in my opinion, plains which are much more so; a high hill which commands an extensive plain, from which there is a view of the road some miles, both ways, is a place where a robber has nothing to fear but from those whom he attacks; and he is morally certain of making his escape one way or the other: but in a wood, he may be as suddenly surprized, as he is in a situation to surprize others; for this reason, I have been more on my guard when I have seen people approach me on an extensive plain, than when I have passed through deep woods; nor would I ever let any of those people come too near my chaise; I always shewed them the utmost distance, and made them return the compliment, by bidding them, if they offered to come out of their line, to keep off: this said in a peremptory manner, and with a stern look, is never taken ill by honest men, and has a forcible effect upon rascals, for they immediately conclude you think yourself superior to them, and then they will think so too: whatever comes unexpected, is apt to dismay; whole armies have been seized with a panic from the most trifling artifice of the opposite general, and such as, by a minute's reflection, would have produced a contrary effect: the King's troops gave way at Falkirk; the reason was, they were dismayed at seeing the rebels (I beg pardon) come down pell mell to attack them with their broad swords! it was a new way of fighting, and, they weakly thought, an invincible one; but had General Cope previously rode through the ranks, and apprised the troops with the manner of their fighting, and assured them how feeble the effect of such weapons would be upon men armed with musket and bayonet, which is exactly the truth, not a man would have retired; yet, trim-tram, they all ran, and the General, it is said, gave the earliest notice of his own defeat! But I should have observed, above, that the laws of France being different, in different provinces, have the contrary effect in the southern parts, to what they were intended. The Seigneur on whose land a murdered body is found, is obliged to pay the expence of bringing the criminal to justice. Some of these lordships are very small; and the prosecuting a murderer to punishment, would cost the lord of the manor more than his whole year's income; it becomes his interest, therefore, to hide the dead body, rather than pursue the living villain; and, as whoever has property, be it ever so small, has peasants about him who will be glad to obtain his favour, he is sure that when any of these peasants see a murdered body, they will give him the earliest notice, and the same night the body is for ever hid, and no enquiry is made after the offender. I saw hang on the road side, a family of nine, a man, his wife, and seven children, who had lived many years by murder and robberies; and I am persuaded that road murders are very common in France; yet people of any condition may nevertheless, travel through France with great safety, and always obtain a guard of the Marechaussee, through woods or forests, or where they apprehend there is any danger.
P.S. The following method of buying and selling the wine of this province, may be useful to you.
To have good Burgundy, that is, wine de la premiere tete, as they term it, you must buy it from 400 to 700 livres. There are wines still dearer, up to 1000 or 1200 livres; but it is allowed, that beyond 700 livres, the quality is not in proportion to the price; and that it is in great measure a matter of fancy.
The carriage of a queue of wine from Dijon to Dunkirk, or to any frontier town near England, costs an hundred livres, something more than four sols a bottle; but if sent in the bottle, the carriage will be just double. The price of the bottles, hampers, package, &c. will again increase the expence to six sols a bottle more; so that wine which at first cost 600 livres, or 25 sols a bottle, will, when delivered at Dunkirk, be worth 29 sols a bottle, if bought in cask; if in bottles, 39 sols.—Now add to this the freight, duties, &c. to London; and as many pounds sterling as all these expences amount to upon a queue of wine, just so many French sols must be charged to the price of every bottle. The reduction of French sols to English sterling money is very plain, and of course the price of the best burgundy delivered in London, easily calculated.
If the wine be sent in casks, it is adviseable to choose rather a stronger wine, because it will mellow, and form itself in the carriage. It should be double casked, to prevent as much as possible, the frauds of the carriers. This operation will cost six or eight livres per piece; but the great and principal object is, whom to trust to buy the best; and convey it safely. I doubt, it must not pass through the hands of Mons. C——, if he deals in wine as he does in drapery, and bills of exchange.
Upon our arrival at Chalons, I was much disappointed; as I intended to have embarked on the Soane, and have slipped down here in the coche d'eau, and thereby have saved my horse the fatigue of dragging us hither: but I could only spare him that of drawing my heaviest baggage. The coche d'eau is too small to take horses and cabriolets on board at Chalons; but at Lyons, they will take horses, and coaches, or houses, and churches, if they could be put on board, to descend the Rhone, to Pont St. Esprit, or Avignon. So after we have taken a fortnight's rest here, I intend rolling down with the rapid current, which the united force of those two mighty rivers renders, as I am assured, a short, easy, and delightful passage.
Nothing can be more beautiful than the country we passed through from Chalons hither. When we got within a few leagues of this great city, we found every mountain, hill, and dale, so covered with chateaux, country houses, farms, &c. that they appeared like towns, villages, and hamlets. Nothing can be a stronger proof of the great wealth of the citizens of Lyons, than that they can afford to build such houses, many of which are more like palaces, than the country retreat of bourgeois. The prospect from the highest part of the road, a league or two from Lyons, is so extensive, so picturesque, and so enchantingly beautiful, that, impatient as I was to enter into the town, I could not refrain stopping at a little shabby wine-house, and drinking coffee under their mulberry-trees, to enjoy the warm day, the cooling breeze, and the noble prospects which every way surrounded us.
The town of Lyons, too, which stands nearly in the center of Europe, has every advantage for trade, which men in trade can desire. The Soane runs through the centre of it, and is covered with barges and boats, loaded with hay, wood, corn, and an infinite variety of goods from all parts of the kingdom; while the Rhone, on the other side, is still more serviceable; for it not only supplies the town with all the above necessaries of life, but conveys its various manufactures down to the ports of the Mediterranean sea expeditiously, and at little expence. The small boats, which ply upon the Soane as ours do upon the Thames, are flat bottomed, and very meanly built; they have, however, a tilt to shelter them from the heat, and to preserve the complexion, or hide the blushes of your female Patronne:—yes, my dear Sir, Female!—for they are all conducted by females; many of whom are young, handsome, and neatly dressed. I have, more than once, been disposed to blush, when I saw a pretty woman sitting just opposite me, labouring in an action which I thought would have been more becoming myself. I asked one of these female sculls, how she got her bread in the winter? Oh, Sir, said she giving me a very significant look, such a one as you can better conceive, than I convey, dans l'hiver J'ai un autre talent. And I assure you I was glad she did not exercise both her talents at the same time of the year; yet I could not refrain from giving her a double fee, for a single fare, as I thought there was something due to her winter as well as summer abilities.
But I must not let my little Bateliere's talents prevent me, while I think of it, telling you, that I did visit, and stay some days at the Roman town lately discovered in Champaigne, which I mentioned to you in a former letter: it stood upon a mountain, now called the Chatelet, the foot of which is watered by a good river, and its sides with good wine. Monsieur Grignon, whose house stands very near it, and who has there an iron manufacture, first discovered the remains of this ancient town; his men, in digging for iron ore, found wrought gold, beside other things, which convinced Mons. Grignon (who is a man of genius) that it was necessary to inform the King with what they had discovered; in consequence of which, his Majesty ordered the foundations to be laid open; and I had the satisfaction of seeing in Mons. Grignon's cabinet an infinite number of Roman utensils, such as weights, measures, kitchen furniture, vases, busts, locks, swords, inscriptions, pottery ware, statues, &c. which afforded me, and would you, a great deal of pleasure, as well as information. Mons. Grignon the elder, was gone to Paris; a circumstance which gave me great concern to hear before I went to his house, but which was soon removed by the politeness, and hospitable manner I was received by his son: yet, my only recommendation to either, was my being a stranger; and being a stranger is, in general, a good recommendation to a Frenchman, for, upon all such occasions, they are never shy, or backward in communicating what they know, or of gratifying the curiosity of an inquisitive traveller; their houses, cabinets, and gardens, are always open; and they seem rather to think they receive, than grant a favour, to those who visit them. How many fine gardens, valuable cabinets, and curiosities, have we in England, so shut up, that the difficulty of access renders them as unentertaining to the public, as they are to the sordid and selfish possessors! I am thoroughly satisfied that the town I am speaking of was destroyed by fire, and not, as has been imagined, by any convulsion of the earth, as I found, among a hundred other strong proofs of it, an infinite number of pieces of melted glass, lead, &c. But though I examined the cellars of eight hundred Roman citizens, the selfish rogues had not left a single bottle of wine.—I longed to taste the old Falernian wine, of seventeen hundred years.
I write from time to time to you; but not without often thinking it is a great presumption in me to suppose I can either entertain or instruct you; but I proceed, upon your commands, and the authority of Lord Bacon, who says, he is surprised to find men make diaries in sea voyages, where nothing is to be seen but sky and sea, and for the most part omit it in land travels, where so much is to be observed; as if chance were better to be registered than observation. When you are tired of my register, remember, I can take as well as give a hint.
PORT ST. ESPRIT.
After a voyage of one whole, and one half day, without sail or oar, we arrived here from Lyons. The weather was just such as we could wish and such as did not drive us out of the seat of my cabriolet into the cabbin, which was full of priests, monks, friars, milleners, &c. a motley crew! who were very noisy, and what they thought, I dare say, very good company; the deck, indeed, afforded better and purer air; three officers, and a priest; but it was not till late the first day before they took any civil notice of us; and if a Frenchman shews any backwardness of that sort, an Englishman, I think, had better hold up; this rule I always religiously observe. When the night came on, we landed in as much disorder as the troops were embarked at St. Cas, and lodged in a miserable auberge. It was therefore no mortification to be called forth for embarkation before day-light. The bad night's lodging was, however, amply made up to us, by the beautiful and picturesque objects and variety which every minute produced. For the banks of this mighty river are not only charged on both sides with a great number of towns, villages, castles, chateaux, and farm-houses; but the ragged and broken mountains above, and fertile vales between and beneath, altogether exhibit a mixture of delight and astonishment, which cannot be described, unless I had Gainsborough's elegant pencil, instead of my own clumsy pen. Upon comparing notes, we found that the officers, (and no men understand the etiquette of travelling better than they do,) had not fared much better than we had; one of them therefore proposed, that we should all sup together that night at Pont St.-Esprit, where, he assured us, there was one of the best cooks in France, and he would undertake to regulate the supper at a reasonable price. This was the first time we had eat with other company, though it is the general practice in the southern parts of France. Upon entering the house, where this Maitre Cuisinier and prime minister of the kitchen presided, I began to conceive but an indifferent opinion of the Major's judgment; the house, the kitchen, the cook, were, in appearance, all against it; yet, in spite of all, I never sat down to so good a supper; and should be sorry to sit often at table, where such a one was set before me. I will not—nay, I cannot tell you what we had; but you will be surprised to know what we paid,—what think you of three livres each? when I assure you, such a supper, if it were to be procured in London, could not be provided for a guinea a head! and we were only seven who sat down to it.
I must not omit to tell you, that all the second day's voyage we heard much talk of the danger there would be in passing the Bridge of Pont St. Esprit; and that many horses and men landed some miles before we arrived there, choosing rather to walk or ride in the hot sun, than swim through so much danger. Yet the truth is, there was none; and, I believe, seldom is any. The Patron of the barge, indeed, made a great noise, and affected to shew how much skill was necessary to guide it through the main arch, for I think the bridge consists of thirty; yet the current itself must carry every thing through that approaches it, and he must have skill, indeed, who could avoid it. There was not in the least degree any fall; but yet, it passed through with such violence, that we run half a league in a minute; and very soon after landed at the town of Pont. St. Esprit, which has nothing in it very remarkable, but this long bridge, the good cook, and the first olive tree we had seen.
This is Lower Languedoc, you know, and the province in which ten thousand pounds were lately distributed by the sagacious Chancellor of England, among an hundred French peasants; and though I was weak enough to think it my property, I am not wicked enough to envy them their good fortune. If the decision made one man wretched; it made the hearts of many glad; and I should be pleased to drink a bottle of wine with any of my fortunate cousins, and will if I can find them out; for they are my cousins; and I would shake an honest cousin by the hand tho' he were in wooden shoes, with more pleasure than I would the honest Chancellor, who put them so unexpectedly upon a better footing. I think, by the laws of England, no money is to be transported into other kingdoms; by the JUSTICE of it, it may, and is;—if so, law and justice are still at variance; which puts me in mind of what a great man once said upon reading the confirmation of a decree in the House of Lords, from an Irish appeal:—"It is (said he) so very absurd, inconsistent, and intricate, that, in truth, I am afraid it is really made according to law."
On our way here we eat an humble meal; which was, nevertheless, a most grateful repas, for it was under the principal arch of the Pont du Gard. It will be needless to say more to you of this noble monument of antiquity, than that the modern addition to it has not only made it more durable, but more useful: in its original state, it conveyed only horse and man, over the River Gordon, (perhaps Gardon) and water, to the city of Nismes. By the modern addition, it now conveys every thing over it, but water; as well as an high idea of Roman magnificence; for beside the immense expence of erecting a bridge of a triple range of arches, over a river, and thereby uniting the upper arches to the mountains on each side, the source from whence the water was conveyed, is six leagues distant from Nismes. The bridge is twenty-four toises high, and above an hundred and thirty-three in length, and was my sole property for near three hours; for during that time, I saw neither man nor beast come near it; every thing was so still and quiet, except the murmuring stream which runs gently under two or three of the arches, that I could almost have persuaded myself, from the silence, and rude scenes which every way presented themselves, that all the world were as dead as the men who erected it. That side of the bridge where none of the modern additions appear, is nobly fillagreed by the hand of time; and the other side is equally pleasing, by being a well executed support to a building which, without its aid, would in a few ages more have fallen into ruins.
I was astonished to find so fine a building standing in so pleasant a spot, and which offers so many invitations to make it the abode of some hermit, quite destitute of such an inhabitant; but it did not afford even a beggar, to tell the strange stories which the common people relate; tho' it could not fail of being a very lucrative post, were it only from the bounty of strangers, who visit it out of curiosity; but a Frenchman, whether monk, or mumper, has no idea of a life of solitude: yet I am sure, were it in England, there are many of our, first-rate beggars, who would lay down a large sum for a money of such a walk. If a moiety of sweeping the kennel from the Mews-gate to the Irish coffee-house opposite to it, could fetch a good price, and I was a witness once that it did, to an unfortunate beggar-woman, who was obliged by sickness to part with half of it; what might not a beggar expect, who had the sweeping of the Pont du Gard; or a monk, who erected a confessional box near it for the benefit of himself, and the fouls of poor travellers?
After examining every part of the bridge, above and below, I could not find the least traces of any ancient inscription, except three initial letters, C, P, A; but I found cut in demi relief very extraordinary kind of priapus, or rather group of them; the country people, for it is much effaced, imagine it to be dogs in pursuit of a hare; but if I may be permitted to imagine too perhaps, indeed, with no better judgment, might not the kind of representations be emblematical of the populousness, of the country? though more probably the wanton fancies of the master mason, or his journeymen; for they are too diminutive pieces of work to bear any proportion to the whole, and are therefore blemishes, not ornaments, even allowing that in those ages such kind of works were not considered in the light they would be in these days of more delicacy and refinement.
I have now been here some time, and have employed most of it, in visiting daily the Maison Carree, the Amphitheatre, the Temple of Diana, and other Roman remains, which this town abounds with above all others in France, and which is all the town affords worthy of notice, (for it is but a very indifferent one.) The greater part of the inhabitants are Protestants, who meet publicly between two rocks, at a little distance from the city, every Sunday, sometimes not less than eighteen thousand, where their pastors, openly and audibly, perform divine service, according to the rites of the reformed church: Such is the difference between the mild government of Louis the 16th, and that which was practised in the reign of his great grandfather. But reason and philosophy have made more rapid strides in France, within these few years, than the arts and sciences. It is, however, a great and mighty kingdom, blest with every convenience and comfort in life, as well as many luxuries, beside good wine; and good wine, drank in moderation (and here nobody drinks it otherwise) is not only an excellent cordial to the nerves, but I am persuaded it contributes to long life, and good health. Here, where wine and eau de vie is so plenty, and so cheap too, you seldom meet a drunken peasant, and never see a gentleman (except he be a stranger) in that shameful situation.
Perhaps there is not, on any part of the Continent, a city or town which has been so frequently sacked by foreign invaders, nor so deeply stained with human blood, by civil and religious wars, as this: every street and ancient building within its walls still exhibit many strong marks of the excesses committed by the hands of domestic as well as foreign barbarians, except only the Temple now called, and so called from its form, the Maison Carree, which has stood near eighteen hundred years, without receiving any other injuries than the injuries of time; and time has given it rather the face of age, than that of ruins, for it still stands firm and upright; and though not quite perfect in every part, yet it preserves all its due proportions, and enough of its original and lesser beauties, to astonish and delight every beholder, and that too in a very particular manner. It is said, and I have felt the truth of it in part, that there does not exist, at this day, any building, ancient or modern, which conveys so secret a pleasure, not only to the connoisseur, but to the clown also, whenever, or how often soever they approach it. The proportions and beauties of the whole building are so intimately united, that they may be compared to good breeding in men; it is what every body perceives, and is captivated with, but what few can define. That it has an irresistible beauty which delights men of sense, and which charms the eyes of the vulgar, I think must be admitted; for no other possible reason can be assigned why this building alone, standing in the very centre of a city, wherein every excess which religious fury could inspire, or barbarous manners could suggest, has stood so many ages the only uninsulted monument of antiquity, either within or without the walls; especially, as a very few men might, with very little labour, soon tumble it into a heap of rubbish.
The Amphitheatre has a thousand marks of violences committed upon it, by fire, sledges, battering rams, &c. which its great solidity and strength alone resisted.
The Temple of Diana is so nearly destroyed, that, in an age or two more no vestige of it will remain; but the Maison Carree is still so perfect and beautiful, that when Cardinal Alberoni first saw it, he said it wanted only une boete d'or pour le defendre des injures de l'air; and it certainly has received no other, than such as rain, and wind, and heat, and cold, have made upon it; and those are rather marks of dignity, than deformity. What reason else, then, can be assigned for its preservation to this day; but that the savage and the saint have been equally awed by its superlative beauty.
Having said thus much of the perfections of this edifice, I must however confess, it is not, nor ever was, perfect, for it has some original blemishes, but such as escape the observation of most men, who have not time to examine the parts separately, and with a critical eye. There are, for example, thirty modillions on the cornice, on one side and thirty-two on the other; there are sixty-two on the west side, and only fifty-four on the east; with some other little faults which its aged beauty justifies my omitting; for they are such perhaps as, if removed, would not add any thing to the general proportions of the whole. No-body objected to the moles on Lady Coventry's face; those specks were too trifling, where the tout ensemble was so perfect.
Cardinal Richlieu, I am assured, had several consultations with builders of eminence, and architects of genius, to consider whether it was practicable to remove all the parts of this edifice, and re-erect it at Versailles: and, I have no doubt, but Lewis the 14th might have raised this monument to his fame there, for half the money he expended in murdering and driving out of that province sixty thousand of his faithful and ingenious subjects, merely on the score of Religion; an act, which is now equally abhorred by Catholics, as well as Protestants. But, Lord Chesterfield justly observes, that there is no brute so fierce, no criminal so guilty, as the creature called a Sovereign, whether King, Sultan, or Sophy; who thinks himself, either by divine or human right, vested with absolute power of destroying his fellow-creatures.
Louis the XIth of France caused the Duke of Nemours, a descendant of King Clovis, to be executed at Paris, and placed his children under the scaffold, that the blood of their father might run upon their heads; in which bloody condition they were returned to the Bastile, and there shut up in iron cages: and a King of SIAM, having lost his daughter, and fancying she was poisoned, put most of his court, young and old, to death, by the most exquisite torture; by this horrid act of cruelty, near two thousand of the principal courtiers suffered the most dreadful deaths; the great Mandarins, their wives, and children, being all scorched with fire, and mangled with knives, before they were admitted to his last favour,—that of being thrown to the elephants.
But to have done with sad subjects.—It was not till the year 1758 that it was certainly known at what time, or for what purpose, the Maison Carree was erected; but fortunately, the same town which produced the building so many ages ago, produced in the latter end of the last, a Gentleman, of whom it may be justly said, he left no stone unturned to come at the truth. This is Mons. Seguier, whose long life has been employed in collecting a cabinet of Roman antiquities, and natural curiosities, and whose penetrating genius alone could have discovered, by the means he did, an inscription, of which not a single letter has been seen for many ages; but this habile observateur, perceiving a great number of irregular holes upon the frontal and frize of this edifice, concluded that they were the cramp-holes which had formerly held an inscription, and which, according to the practice of the Romans, were often composed of single letters of bronze. Mons. Seguier therefore erected scaffolding, and took off on paper the distances and situation of the several holes, and after nicely examining the disposition of them, and being assisted by a few faint traces of some of the letters, which had been impressed on the stones, brought forth, to the full satisfaction of every body, the original inscription, which was laid before l'Academie des Inscriptions & de Belles Lettres de Paris of which he is a member, and from whom he received their public thanks; having unanimously agreed that there was not a doubt remained but that he had produced the true reading: which is as follows:
- TAUROBOLIO MATRIS DEUM MAGNAE IDAEAE QUOD FACTUM EST EX IMPERIO MATRIS IDAEAE DEUM PRO SALUTE IMPERATORIS CAESARIS TITI AELII ADRIANI ANTONINI AUGUSTI PII PATRIS PATRIAE LIBERORUMQUE EJUS ET STATUS COLONIAE LUGDUNENSIS LUCIUS AEMILIUS CARPUS SEXTUMVIS AUGUSTALIS ITEM DENDROPHORUS VIRES EXCEPIT ET A VATICANO TRANSTULIT ARAMET BUCRANIUM SUO IMPENDIO CONSECRAVIT SACERDOTE QUINTO SAMMIO SECUNDO AB QUINDECEMVIRIS OCCABO ET CORONA EXORNATO CUI SANCTISSIMUS ORDO LUGDUNENSIS PERPETUITATEM SACERDOTIS DECREVIT APPIO ANNIA ATILIO BRADUA TITO CLODIO VIBIO VARO CONSULIBUS LOCUS DATUS DECRETO DECURIONUM. -
The Maison Carree is not however, quite square, being something more in length than breadth; it is eighty-two feet long and thirty-seven and a half high, exclusive of the square socle on which it stands, and which is, at this time, six feet above the surface; it is divided into two parts, one enclosed, the other open; the facade is adorned with six fluted pillars of the Corinthian order, and the cornice and front are decorated with all the beauties of architecture. The frize is quite plain, and without any of those bas-reliefs or ornaments which are on the sides, where the foliage of the olive leaf is exquisitely finished. On each side over the door, which opens into the enclosed part, two large stones, like the but-ends of joists, project about three feet, and these stones are pierced through with two large mortices, six inches long, and three wide; they are a striking blemish, and must therefore have been fixed, for some very necessary purpose—for what, I will not risque my opinion; it is enough to have mentioned them to you. As to the inside, little need be said; but, that, being now consecrated to the service of GOD, and the use of the order of Augustines, it is filled up with altars, ex votos, statues, &c. but such as we may reasonably conclude, have not, exclusive of a religious consideration, all those beauties which were once placed within a Temple, the outward structure of which was so highly finished.
Truth and concern compel me to conclude this account of the Maison Carree, in lamenting, that the inhabitants of Nismes (who are in general a very respectable body of people) suffer this noble edifice to be defiled by every species of filth that poverty and neglect can occasion. The approach to it is through an old ragged kind of barn door: it is surrounded with mean houses, and disgraced on every side with filth, and the offerings of the nearest inhabitants. I know not any part of London but what would be a better situation for it, than where it now stands: I will not except even Rag-fair, nor Hockly in the Hole.
The state in which that once-superb edifice, the Temple of Diana, now appears; with concern, I perceived that there remains only enough to give the spectator an idea of its former beauty; for though the roof has been broken down, and every part of it so wantonly abused yet enough remains, within, and without, to bear testimony that it was built, not only by the greatest architect, but enriched also by the hands of other great artists: indeed, the mason's work alone is, at this day, wonderful; for the stones with which it is built, and which are very large, are so truly worked, and artfully laid, without either cement or mortar, that many of the joints are scarce visible; nor is it possible to put the point of a penknife between those which are most open. This Temple too is, like the Maison Carree, shut up by an old barn-door: a man, however, attends to open it; where, upon entering, you will find a striking picture of the folly of all human grandeur; for the area is covered with broken statues, busts, urns, vases, cornices, frizes, inscriptions, and various fragments of exquisite workmanship, lying in the utmost disorder, one upon another, like the stript dead in a field of battle. Here, the ghost of Shakespeare appeared before my eyes, holding in his hand a label, on which was engraven those words you have so often read in his works, and now see upon his monument.
I have often wondered, that some man of taste and fortune in England, where so much attention is paid to gardening, never converted one spot to an Il Penseroso, and another to L'Allegro. If a thing of that kind was to be done, what would not a man of such a turn give for an Il Penseroso, as this Temple now is?—where sweet melancholy sits, with a look
"That's fastened to the ground, A tongue chain'd up, without a sound."
The modern fountain of Nismes or rather the Roman fountain recovered, and re-built, falls just before this Temple; and the noble and extensive walks, which surround this pure and plentiful stream, are indeed very magnificent: what then must it have been in the days of the Romans, when the Temple, the fountain, the statues, vases, &c. stood perfect, and in their proper order? Though this building has been called the Temple of Diana, by a tradition immemorial, yet it may be much doubted, whether it was so. The Temples erected, you know, to the daughter of Jupiter, were all of the Ionic order, and this is a mixture of the Corinthian, and Composit. Is it not, therefore, more probable, from the number of niches in it to contain statues, that it was, in fact, a Pantheon? Directly opposite to the entrance door, are three great tabernacles; on that of the middle stood the principal altar; and on the side walls were twelve niches, six on the right-hand are still perfect. The building is eleven toises five feet long, and six toises wide, and was thrown into its present ruinous state during the civil wars of Henry the Third; and yet, in spite of the modern statues, and gaudy ornaments, which the inhabitants have bestrewed to decorate their matchless fountain, the Temple of Diana is still the greatest ornament it has to boast of.
Never was a traveller more disappointed than I was upon entering into this renowned city; a city, the name of which my ears have been familiar to, ever since I first heard of disease or medicine. I expected to find it filled with palaces; and to perceive the superiority of the soft air it is so celebrated for, above all other places; instead of which, I was accompanied for many miles before I entered it with thousands of Moschettos, which, in spite of all the hostilities we committed upon them, made our faces, hands and legs, as bad in appearance as persons just recovering from a plentiful crop of the small-pox, and infinitely more miserable. Bad as these flies are in the West-Indies, I suffered more in a few days from them at, and near Montpellier, than I did for some years in Jamaica.
However fine and salubrious the air of this town might have been formerly, it is far otherwise now; and it may be naturally accounted for; the sea has retired from the coast, and has left three leagues of marshy ground between it and the town, where the hot sun, and stagnated waters, breed not only flies, but distempers also; beside this, there is, and ever was, something very peculiar in the air of the town itself: it is the only town in France where verdigris is made in any great quantity; and this, I am inclined to think, is not a very favourable circumstance; where the air is so disposed to cankerise, and corrode copper, it cannot be so pure, as where none can be produced; but here, every cave and wine-cellar is filled with sheets of copper, from which such quantities of verdigris are daily collected, that it is one of the principal branches of their trade. The streets are very narrow, and very dirty; and though there are many good houses, a fine theatre, and a great number of public edifices beside churches, it makes altogether but an indifferent figure.
Without the walls of the town, indeed, there stands a noble equestrian statue of Louis the XIVth, surrounded with spacious walks, and adorned with a beautiful fountain. Their walks command a view of the Mediterranean Sea in front, and the Alps and Pyrenees on the right and left. The water too is conducted to a most beautiful Temple d' Eau over a triple range of arches, in the manner of the Pont du Gard, from a very considerable distance. The modern arches over which it runs, are indeed, a great and mighty piece of work; for they are so very large, extended so far, and are so numerous, that I could find no person to inform me of their exact number; however, I speak within the bounds of truth, I hope, when I say there are many hundred; and that it is a work which the Romans might have been proud of, and must therefore convey an high idea of the riches and mightiness of a kingdom, wherein one province alone could bear, and be willing too to bear, so great an expence, and raise so useful, as well as beautiful a monument; for beside the immense expence of this triple range of arches, the source from whence the water is conveyed is, I think, three leagues distant from the town, by which means every quarter of it is plentifully supplied with fountains which always run, and which in hot climates are equally pleasing, refreshing, and useful.
The town abounds with apothecaries' shops, and I met a great many physical faces; so that if the air is not good, I conclude the physic is, and therefore laid out two sols for a pennyworth of ointment of marsh-mallows which alleviated a little the extreme misery we all were in, during our stay at this celebrated city. If, however, it still has a reputation for the cure of a particular disorder, perhaps that may arise from the impurity of the air,—and that the air which is so prone to engender verdigris, may wage war with other subtile poisons; yet, as I found some of my countrymen there, who had taken a longer trial of the air, and more of the physic, than I had occasion for, who neither admired one, nor found benefit from the other, I will not recommend Montpellier as having any peculiar excellencies within its walls, but good wine, and some good actors. It is a dear town, even to the natives, and a very imposing one to strangers; and therefore I shall soon leave it, and proceed southward.
Perhaps you will expect me to say something of the Sweets which this town is so famed for: there are indeed some sweet shops of that sort; and they are bien places. At these shops they have ladies' silk pockets, sachels for their shifts, letter cases, and a multitude of things of that kind, quilted and larded with something, which does indeed give them a most pleasing and lasting perfume. At these shops too, beside excellent lavender water, essence of bergamot, &c. they sell eau de jasmin de pourri, de cedre, de girofle, sans pareille, de mille fleurs, de zephir, de oiellet, de sultan and a hundred other sorts; but the essence of bergamot is above all, as a single drop is sufficient to perfume a handkerchief; and so it ought to be, for it is very dear.
I was very impatient till I had drove my horse from the British to the Mediterranean coast, and looked upon a sea from that land which I had often, with longing eyes, viewed from the sea, in the year 1745, when I was on board the Russel, with Admiral Medley. I have now compleatly crossed this mighty kingdom and great continent, and it was for that reason I visited Cette. This pretty little sea-port, though it is out of my way to Barcelona, yet it proves to be in the way for my poor horse; as I found here a Spanish bark, upon which I put part of my baggage. I was obliged to have it, however, opened and examined at the Custom-house; and as the officer found in it a bass viol, two guittars, a fiddle, and some other musical instruments, he very naturally concluded I was a musician, and very kindly intimated to me his apprehensions, that I should meet with but very little encouragement in Spain: as I had not any better reason to assign for going there, but to fiddle, I did not undeceive this good-natured man till the next morning, when I owned, I was not sufficiently cunning in the art of music to get my bread by it; and that I had unfortunately been bred to a worse profession, that of arms; and if I got time enough to Barcelona to enter a volunteer in the Walloon guards, and go to Algiers, perhaps I might get from his Catholic Majesty, by my services, more than I could acquire from his Britannic—something to live upon in my old age: but I had no better encouragement from this Frenchman as an adventurer in arms, than in music; he assured me, that Spain was a vilain pays, and that France was the only country in the world for a voyageur. But as I found that France was the only country he had voyaged in, and then never above twenty leagues from that spot, I thanked him for his advice, and determined to proceed; for though it is fifteen miles from Montpellier, we are not got out of the latitude of the Moschettos.
On the road here, we met an infinite number of carts and horses, loaded with ripe grapes; the gatherers generally held some large bunches (for they were the large red grape) in their hands, to present to travellers; and we had some from people, who would not even stay to receive a trifling acknowledgment for their generosity and politeness.
Nothing could be more beautiful than the prospects which every way surrounded us, when we came within three or four miles of this town; both sides of the road were covered with thyme and lavender shrubs, which perfumed the air; the sea breeze, and the hot sun, made both agreeable; and the day was so clear and fine, that the snow upon the Alps made them appear as if they were only ten leagues from us; and I could have been persuaded that we were within a few hours drive of the Pyrenees; yet the nearest of them was at least a hundred miles distant.
The great Canal of Languedoc has a communication with this town, where covered boats, neatly fitted up for passengers, are continually passing up and down that wonderful and artificial navigation. It is a convenient port to ship wine at; but the people have the reputation of playing tricks with it, before and after it is put on board; and this opinion is a great baulk to the trade it is so happily situated to carry on, and of great benefit to the free port of Nice.
Before I leave this kingdom, and enter into that of Spain, let me trouble you with a letter on a subject which, though no ways interesting to yourself, may be very much so to a young Gentleman of your acquaintance at Oxford, for whose happiness I, as well as you, am a little anxious. It is to apprize you, and to warn him, when he travels, to avoid the gins and man-traps fixed all over this country; traps, which a thorough knowledge of Latin and Greek, combined even with father and mother's wit, will not be sufficient to preserve him from, unless he is first shewn the manner in which they are set. These traps are not made to catch the legs, but to ruin the fortunes and break the hearts of those who unfortunately step into them. Their baits are artful, designing, wicked men, and profligate, abandoned, and prostitute women. Paris abounds with them, as well as Lyons, and all the great towns between London and Rome; and are principally set to catch the young Englishman of fortune from the age of eighteen to five and twenty; and what is worse, an honest, sensible, generous young man, is always in most danger of setting his foot into them. You suspect already, that these traps are made only of paper, and ivory, and that cards and dice are the destructive engines I mean. Do you know that there are a set of men and women, in Paris and Lyons, who live elegantly by lying in wait and by catching every bird of passage?—but particularly the English gold-finch. I have seen and heard of such wicked artifices of these people, and the fatal consequences to the unfortunate young men they have ensnared, that I really think I could never enjoy a single hour of contentment, if I had a large fortune, while a son of mine was making what is called the tour of Europe. The minute one of these young men arrive, either at Paris or Lyons, some laquais de place, who is paid for it, gives the earliest notice to one of the confederacy, and he is instantly way-laid by a French Marquis, or an English Chevalier d'Industrie, who, with a most insinuating address, makes him believe, he is no sooner arrived at Paris than he has found a sincere friend. The Chevalier shews him what is most worthy of notice in Paris, attends him to Versailles and Marly, cautions him against being acquainted with the honest part of the French nation, and introduces him to the knaves only of his own and this country; carries him to see French Ladies of the first distinction, (and such who certainly live in that style) and makes the young man giddy with joy. But alas! it is but a short-lived one!—he is invited; to sup with the Countess; and is entertained not only voluptuously, but they play after supper, and he wins too. What can be more delightful to a young man, in a strange country, than to be flattered by the French, courted by the English, entertained by the Countess, and cheered with success?—Nay, he flatters himself, from the particular attention the Countess shews him, above all other men admitted to her toilet, that she has even some tendre for his person:—just at this critical moment, a Toyman arrives, to shew Madame la Comtesse a new fashioned trinket; she likes it, but has not money enough in her pocket to pay for it:—here is a fine opportunity to make Madame la Comtesse a present;—and why should not he?—the price is not above four or five guineas more than his last night's winnings;—he offers it; and, with great difficulty and much persuasion, she accepts it; but is quite ashamed to think of the trouble he has given himself:—but, says she, you Englishmen are so charming,—so generous,—and so—so—and looks so sweet upon him, that while her tongue faulters, egad he ventures to cover her confusion by a kiss;—when, instead of giving him the two broad sides of her cheek, she is so off her guard, and so overcome, as to present him unawares, with a pretty handsome dash of red pomatum from her lovely pouting lips,—and insists upon it that he sups with her, tete a tete, that very evening,—when all this happiness is compleated. In a few nights after, he is invited to meet the Countess, and to sup with Monsieur le Marquis, or Monsieur le Chevalier Anglais; he is feasted with high meat, and inflamed with delicious wines;—they play after supper, and he is stript of all his money, and gives—drafts upon his Banker for all his credit. He visits the Countess the next day; she receives him with a civil coolness,—is very sorry, she says,—and wished much last night for a favourable opportunity to give him a hint, not to play after he had lost the first thousand, as she perceived luck ran hard against him:—she is extremely mortified;—but; as a friend, advises him to go to Lyons, or some provincial town, where he may study the language with more success, than in the hurry and noise of so great a city as Paris, and apply for further credit. His new friends visit him no more; and he determines to take the Countess's advice, and go on to Lyons, as he has heard the South of France is much cheaper, and there he may see what he can do, by leaving Paris, and an application to his friends in England. But at Lyons too, some artful knave, of one nation or the other, accosts him, who has had notice of his Paris misfortunes;—he pities him;—and, rather than see a countryman, or a gentleman of fashion and character in distress, he would lend him fifty or a hundred pounds. When this is done, every art is used to debauch his principles; he is initiated into a gang of genteel sharpers, and bullied, by the fear of a gaol, to connive at, or to become a party in their iniquitous society. His good name gives a sanction for a while to their suspected reputations; and, by means of an hundred pounds so lent to this honest young man, some thousands are won from the birds of passage, who are continually passing thro' that city to the more southern parts of France, or to Italy, Geneva, or Turin.
This is not an imaginary picture; it is a picture I have seen, nay, I have seen the traps set, and the game caught; nor were those who set the snares quite sure that they might not put a stop to my peregrination, for they risqued a supper at me, and let me win a few guineas at the little play which began before they sat down to table. Indeed, my dear Sir, were I to give you the particulars of some of those unhappy young men, who have been ruined in fortune and constitution too, at Paris and Lyons, you would be struck with pity on one side, and horror and detestation on the other; nor would ever risque such a finished part of your son's education. Tell my Oxonian friend, from me, when he travels, never to let either Lords or Ladies, even of his own country, nor Marquises, Counts, or Chevaliers, of this, ever draw him into play; but to remember that shrewd hint of Lord Chesterfield's to his son;—"When you play with men (says his Lordship) know with whom you play; when with women, for what you play."—But let me add, that the only SURE WAY, is never to play at all.
At one of these towns I found a man, whose family I respected, and for whom I had a personal regard; he loaded me with civilities, nay, made me presents, before I had the most distant suspicions how he became in a situation to enable him so to do. He made every profession of love and regard to me; and I verily believed him sincere; because I knew he had been obliged by a part of my family; but when I found a coach, a country-house, a good table, a wife, and servants, were all supported by the chance of a gaming-table, I withdrew myself from all connections with him; for, I fear, he who lives to play, may play to live.
Upon the whole, I think it is next to an impossibility for a young man of fortune to pass a year or two in Paris, the southern parts of France, Italy, &c. without running a great risque of being beggared by sharpers, or seduced by artful women; unless he has with him a tutor, who is made wise by years, and a frequent acquaintance with the customs and manners of the country: an honest, learned Clergyman tutor, is of less use to a young man in that situation, than a trusty Valet de Chambre. A travelling tutor must know men; and, what is more difficult to know, he must know women also, before he is qualified to guard against the innumerable snares that are always making to entangle strangers of fortune.
It is certainly true, that the nearer we approach to the sun, the more we become familiar with vices of every kind. In the South of France, and Italy, sins of the blackest dye, and many of the most unnatural kind, are not only committed with impunity, but boasted of with audacity; and, as one proof of the corruption of the people, of a thousand I could tell you, I must tell you, that seeing at Lyons a shop in which a great variety of pictures were hung for sale, I walked in, and after examining them, and asking a few questions; but none that had the least tendency to want of decorum, the master of the shop turned to his wife, (a very pretty woman, and dressed even to a plumed head)—shew Monsieur the little miniature, said he; she then opened a drawer and took out a book, (I think it was her mass-book) and brought me a picture, so indecent, that I defy the most debauched imagination to conceive any thing more so; yet she gave it me with a seeming decent face, and only observed that it was bien fait. After examining it with more attention than I should, had I received it from the hands of her husband, I returned it to her prayer-book, made my bow, and was retiring; but the husband called to me, and said, he had a magazine hard by, where there was a very large collection of pictures of great value, and that his wife would attend me. My curiosity was heightened in more respects than one: I therefore accepted the offer, and was conducted up two pair of stairs in a house not far off, where I found a long suite of rooms, in which were a large number of pictures, and some, I believe, of great value. But I was a little surprised on entering into the furthermost apartment, as that had in it an elegant chintz bed, the curtains of which were festooned, and the foliages held up by the paintings of two naked women, as large as life, and as indecent as nakedness could be painted; they were painted, and well painted too, on boards, and cut out in human shape; that at first I did not know whether I saw the shadow or the substance; however, as this room was covered with pictures, I began to examine them also, with the fair attendant at my elbow; but in the whole collection I do not remember there was one picture which would not have brought a blush in the face of an English Lady, even of the most easy virtue. Yet, all this while, when I asked the price of the several parts and pieces, she answered me with a gravity of countenance, as if she attended me to sell her goods like other shopkeepers, and in the way of business; however, before I left the room, I could not, I thought, do less than ask her—her own price. She told me, she was worth nothing; and immediately invited me to take a peep through a convex glass at a picture which was laid under, on the table, for that purpose:—it was a picture of so wicked a tendency, that the painter ought to have been put upon a pillory, and the exhibitor in the stocks. The Lady observed to me again, that it was well painted; but, on the contrary, the only merit it had, was, being quite otherwise, I therefore told her, that the subject and idea only was good; the execution bad.