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Title: Travels in France during the years 1814-1815
Comprising a residence at Paris, during the stay of the
allied armies, and at Aix, at the period of the landing
of Bonaparte, in two volumes.
Author: Archibald Alison
Patrick Fraser Tytler
Release Date: December 4, 2008 [EBook #27410]
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TRAVELS IN FRANCE,
DURING THE YEARS
RESIDENCE AT PARIS DURING THE STAY OF THE ALLIED ARMIES,
AT THE PERIOD OF THE LANDING OF
IN TWO VOLUMES.
SECOND EDITION, CORRECTED AND ENLARGED.
printed for macredie, skelly, and muckersy, 52. prince's street;
longman, hurst. rees, orme, and brown; black,
parry, and co. t. underwood, london;
and j. cumming, dublin.
Transcriber's note: The original spellings have been maintained; the French spelling and accentuation have not been corrected, but left as they appear in the original.ADVERTISEMENT.
A Second Edition of the following Work having been demanded by the Booksellers, the Author has availed himself of the opportunity to correct many verbal inaccuracies, to add some general reflections, and to alter materially those parts of it which were most hastily prepared for the press, particularly the Journal in the Second Volume, by retrenching a number of particulars of partial interest, and substituting more general observations on the state of the country, supplied by his own recollection and that of his fellow-travellers.
He has only farther to repeat here, what he stated in the Advertisement to the first Edition, that the whole materials of the Publication were collected in France, partly by himself, during a residence which the state of his health had made adviseable in Provence, and partly by some friends who had preceded him in their visit to France, and were at Paris during the time when it was first occupied by the Allied Armies;—and that he has submitted it to the world, merely in the hope of adding somewhat to the general stock of information regarding the situation, character, and prospects of the French people, which it is so desirable that the English Public should possess.CONTENTS. VOL. I. CHAPTER I. Journey to Paris II. Paris—The Allied Armies III. Paris—Its Public Buildings IV. Environs of Paris V. Paris—The Louvre VI. Paris—The French Character and Manners VII. Paris—The Theatres VIII. Paris—The French Army and Imperial Government IX. Journey to Flanders VOL. II. CHAPTER I. Journey to Aix II. Residence at Aix, and Journey to Bourdeaux III. State of France under Napoleon—Anecdotes of him IV. State of France under Napoleon—continued V. State of Society and Manners in France Register of the Weather VOLUME FIRST. CHAPTER I.
JOURNEY TO PARIS.
We passed through Kent in our way to France, on Sunday the first of May 1814. This day's journey was very delightful. The whole scenery around us,—the richness of the fields and woods, then beginning to assume the first colours of spring; the extent and excellence of the cultivation; the thriving condition of the towns, and the smiling aspect of the neat and clean villages through which we passed; the luxuriant bloom of the fruit-trees surrounding them; the number of beautiful villas adapted to the accommodation of the middle ranks of society, the crowds of well-dressed peasantry going to and returning from church; the frank and cheerful countenances of the men, and beauty of the women—all presented a most pleasing spectacle. If we had not proposed to cross the channel, we should have compared all that we now saw with our recollections of Scotland; and the feeling of the difference, although it might have increased our admiration, would perhaps have made us less willing to acknowledge it. But when we were surveying England with a view to a comparison with France, the difference of its individual provinces was overlooked;—we took a pride in the apparent happiness and comfort of a people, of whom we knew nothing more, than that they were our countrymen; and we rejoiced, that the last impression left on our minds by the sight of our own country, was one which we already anticipated that no other could efface.
Our passage to Calais was rendered very interesting, by the number of Frenchmen who accompanied us. Some of these were emigrants, who had spent the best part of their lives in exile; the greater part were prisoners of various ranks, who had been taken at different periods of the war. There was evidently the greatest diversity of character, of prospects, of previous habits, and of political and moral sentiments among these men; the only bond that connected them was, the love of their common country; and at a moment for which they had been so long and anxiously looking, this was sufficient to repress all jealousy and discord, and to unite them cordially and sincerely in the sentiment which was expressed, with true French enthusiasm, by one of the party, as we left the harbour of Dover,—"Voila notre chere France,—A present nous sommes tous amis!"
As we proceeded, the expression of their emotions, in words, looks, and gestures, was sometimes extremely pleasing, at other times irresistibly ludicrous, but always characteristic of a people whose natural feelings are quick and lively, and who have no idea of there being any dignity or manliness in repressing, or concealing them. When the boat approached the French shore, a fine young officer, who had been one of the most amusing of our companions, leapt from the prow, and taking up a handful of sand, kissed it with an expression of ardent feeling and enthusiastic joy, which it was delightful to observe.
It is only on occasions of this kind, that the whole strength of the feeling of patriotism is made known. In the ordinary routine of civil life, this feeling is seldom awakened. In the moments of national enthusiasm and exultation, it is often mingled with others. But in witnessing the emotions of the French exiles and captives, on returning to their wasted and dishonoured country, we discerned the full force of those moral ties, by which, even in the most afflicting circumstances of national humiliation and disaster, the hearts of men are bound to the land of their fathers.
We landed, on the evening of the 2d, about three miles from Calais, and walked into the town. The appearance of the country about Calais does not differ materially from that in the immediate neighbourhood of Dover, which is much less fertile than the greater part of Kent; but the cottages are decidedly inferior to the English. The first peculiarity that struck us was the grotesque appearance of the Douaniers, who came to examine us on the coast; and when we had passed through the numerous guards, and been examined at the guard-houses, previously to our admission into the town, the gates of which had been shut, we had already observed, what subsequent observation confirmed, that the air and manner which we call military are in very little estimation among the French soldiers. The general appearance of the French soldiery cannot be better described than it has been by Mr Scott: "They seemed rather the fragments of broken-up gangs, than the remains of a force that had been steady, controlled, and lawful." They have almost uniformly, officers and men, much expression of intelligence, and often of ferocity, in their countenances, and much activity in their movements; but there are few of them whom an Englishman, judging from his recollection of English soldiers, would recognise to belong to a regular army.
The lower orders of inhabitants in Calais hailed the arrival of the English strangers with much pleasure, loudly proclaiming, however, the interested motives of their joy. A number of blackguard-looking men gathered round us, recommending their own services, and different hotels, with much vehemence, and violent altercations among themselves; and troops of children followed, crying, "Vivent les Anglois—Give me one sous." In our subsequent travels, we were often much amused by the importunities of the children, who seem to beg, in many places, without being in want, and are very ingenious in recommending themselves to travellers; crying first, Vive le Roi; if that does not succeed, Vive l'Empereur; that failing, Vive le Roi d'Angleterre; and professing loyalty to all the sovereigns of Europe, rather than give up the hopes of a sous.
Having reached the principal inn, we found that all the places in the diligence for Paris were taken for the ten following days. By this time, in consequence of the communication with France being opened, several new coaches had been established between London and Dover, but no such measure had been thought of on the road between Calais and Paris. There was no want of horses, as we afterwards found, belonging to the inns on the roads, but this seemed to indicate strongly want of ready money among the innkeepers. However, there were at Calais a number of "voitures" of different kinds, which had been little used for several years; one of which we hired from a "magasin des chaises," which reminded us of the Sentimental Journey, and set out at noon on the 3d, for Paris, accompanied by a French officer who had been a prisoner in Scotland, and to whose kindness and attentions we were much indebted.
We were much struck with the appearance of poverty and antiquity about Calais, which afforded a perfect contrast to the Kentish towns; and all the country towns, through which we afterwards passed in France, presented the same general character. The houses were larger than those of most English country towns, but they were all old; in few places out of repair, but nowhere newly built, or even newly embellished. There were no newly painted houses, windows, carriages, carts, or even sign-posts; the furniture, and all the interior arrangements of the inns, were much inferior to those we had left; their external appearance stately and old-fashioned; the horses in the carriages were caparisoned with white leather, and harnessed with ropes; the men who harnessed them were of mean appearance, and went about their work as if they had many other kinds of work to do. There were few carts, and hardly any four-wheeled carriages to be seen in the streets; and it was obvious that the internal communications of this part of the country were very limited. There appeared to be few houses fitted for the residence of persons of moderate incomes, and hardly any villas about the town to which they might retire after giving up business. All the lower ranks of people, besides being much worse looking than the English, were much more coarsely clothed, and they seemed utterly indifferent about the appearance of their dress. Very few of the men wore beaver hats, and hardly two had exactly the same kind of covering for their heads.
The dress of the women of better condition, particularly their high-crowned bonnets, and the ruffs about their necks, put us in mind of the pictures of old English fashions. The lower people appeared to bear a much stronger resemblance to some of the Highland clans, and to the Welch, than to any other inhabitants of Britain.
On the road between Calais and Boulogne, we began to perceive the peculiarities of the husbandry of this part of France.