Arthur Young's Travels in France During the Years 1787, 1788, 1789
THE long journey I had last year taken in France, suggested a variety of reflections on the agriculture, and on the sources and progress of national prosperity in that kingdom; in spite of myself, these ideas fermented in my mind; and while I was drawing conclusions relative to the political state of that great country, in every circumstance connected with its husbandry. I found, at each moment of my reflection, the importance of marking as regular a survey of the whole as was possible for a traveller to effect. Thus instigated, I determined to attempt finishing what I had fortunately enough begun.
JULY 30. Left Bradfield; and arrived at Calais.—161 miles.
AUGUST 5. The next day I took the road to St. Omers.*1 Pass the bridge Sans Pareil, which serves a double purpose, passing two streams at once; but it has been praised beyond its merit, and cost more than it was worth. St. Omers contains little deserving notice; and if I could direct the legislatures of England and Ireland, should contain still less:—Why are catholics to emigrate in order to be ill educated abroad, instead of being allowed institutions that would educate them well at home? The country is seen to advantage from St.Bertin's steeple.—25miles.
The 8th. The country now a champaign, one changes; from Bethune to Arras*5 an admirable gravel road. At the last town there is nothing but the great and rich abbey of Var,*6 which they would not shew me—it was not the right day—or some frivolous excuse. The cathedral is nothing—17½ miles.
The 9th. Market-day; coming out of the town I met at least an hundred asses, some loaded with a bag, others a sack, but all apparently with a trifling burthen, and swarms of men and women. This is called a market, being plentifully supplied; but a great proportion of all the labour of a country is idle in the midst of harvest, to supply a town which in England would be fed by 1/40 of the people: whenever this swarm of triflers buz in a market, I take a minute and vicious division of the soil for granted. Here my only companion de voyage, the English mare that carries me, discloses by her eye a secret not the most agreeable, that she is going rapidly blind. She is moon-eyed; but our fool of a Bury farrier assured me I was safe for above a twelvemonth. It must be confessed this is one of those agreeable situations which not many will believe a man would put himself into. Ma foy! this is a piece of my good luck;—the journey at best is but a drudgery, that others are paid for performing on a good horse, and I pay myself for doing it on a blind one;—I shall feel this inconvenience perhaps at the expence of my neck.—20 miles.
The 10th. To Amiens.*7 Mr. Fox slept here last night, and it was amusing to hear the conversation at the table d'hôte; they wondered that so great a man should not travel in a greater style:—I asked what was his style? Monsieur and Madame were in an English post-chaise, and the fille and valet de chambre in a cabriolet, with a French courier to have horses ready. What would they have? but a style both of comfort and amusement? A plague on a blind mare!—But I have worked through life; and he TALKS.
The 12th. From thence to Newchatel,*10 by far the finest country since Calais. Pass many villas of Rouen merchants.—40 miles.
The 13th. They are right to have country villas—to get out of this great ugly, stinking, close, and ill built town, which is full of nothing but dirt and industry. What a picture of new buildings does a flourishing manufacturing town in England exhibit! The choir of the cathedral is surrounded by a most magnificent railing of solid brass. They shew the monument of Rollo, the first duke of Normandy, and of his son; of William Longsword; also those of Richard Cœur de Lion; his brother Henry; the Duke of Bedford, regent of France; of their own King Henry V.; of the Cardinal d' Amboise, minister of Louis XII. The altar-piece is an adoration of the shepherds, by Philip of Champagne. Rouen*11 is dearer than Paris, and therefore it is necessary for the pockets of the people that their bellies should be wholesomely pinched. At the table d' hôte, at the hotel pomme du pin we sat down, sixteen, to the following dinner, a soup, about 3lb. of bouilli, one fowl, one duck, a small fricassee of chicken, rote of veal, of about 2lb. and two other small plates with a sallad: the price 45f. and 20f. more for a pint of wine; at an ordinary of 20d. a head in England there would be a piece of meat which would, literally speaking, outweigh this whole dinner! The ducks were swept clean so quickly, that I moved from table without half a dinner. Such table d'hôtes are among the cheap things of France! Of all sombre and triste meetings a French table d'hôte is foremost; for eight minutes a dead silence, and as to the politeness of addressing a conversation to a foreigner, he will look for it in vain. Not a single word has any where been said to me unless to answer some question: Rouen not singular in this. The parliament-house here is shut up, and its members exiled a month past to their country seats, because they would not register the edict for a new land-tax. I enquired much into the common sentiments of the people, and found that the King personally from having been here, is more popular than the parliament, to whom they attribute the general dearness of every thing. Called on Mons. d'Ambournay, the author of a treatise on using madder green instead of dried, and had the pleasure of a long conversation with him on various farming topics, interesting to my enquiries.
The 15th. Country the same to Bolbec;*14 their inclosures remind me of Ireland, the fence is high broad parapet bank, very well planted with hedges and oak and beech trees. All the way from Rouen there is a scattering of country seats, which I am glad to see; farm-houses and cottages every where, and the cotton manufacture in all. Continues the same to Harfleur.*15 To Havre de Grace,*16 the approach strongly marks a very flourishing place: the hills are almost covered with little new built villas, and many more are building; some are so close as to form almost streets, and considerable additions are also making to the town.—30 miles.
The 16th. Enquiries are not necessary to find out the prosperity of this town; it is nothing equivocal: fuller of motion, life, and activity, than any place I have been at in France. A house here, which in 1779 let without any fine on a lease of six years for 240 liv. per annum, was lately let for three years at 600 liv. which twelve years past was to be had at 24 liv. The harbour's*17 mouth is narrow and formed by a mole, but it enlarges into two oblong basons of greater breadth; these are full of ships, to the number of some hundreds, and the quays around are thronged with business, all hurry, bustle, and animation. They say a fifty gun ship can enter, but I suppose without her guns. What is better, they have merchant-men of five and six hundred tons: the state of the harbour has however given them much alarm and perplexity; if nothing had been done to improve it, the mouth would have been filled up with sand, an increasing evil; to remedy which, many engineers have been consulted. The want of a back water to wash it out is so great, that they are now, at the King's expence, forming a most noble and magnificent work, a vast bason, walled off from the ocean, or rather an inclosure of it by solid masonry, 700 yards long, five yards broad, and 10 or 12 feet above the surface of the sea at high water; and for 400 yards more it consists of two exterior walls, each three yards broad, and filled up seven yards wide between them with earth; by means of this new and enormous bason, they will have an artificial back-water capable, they calculate, of sweeping out the harbour's mouth clean from all obstructions. It is a work that does honour to the kingdom. The view of the Seine from this mole is striking; it is five miles broad, with high lands for its opposite shore; and the chalk cliffs and promontories, that recede to make way for rolling its vast tribute to the ocean, bold and noble.
Wait on Mons. l' Abbé Dicquemarre.*18 the celebrated naturalist, where I had also the pleasure of meeting Made-moiselle le Masson Golft, author of some agreeable performances; among others, Entretien sur le Hauvre, 1781, when the number of souls was estimated at 25,000. The next day Mons. le Reiseicourt, captain of the corps royale du Genie, to whom also I had letters, introduced me to Messrs. Hombergs, who rank amongst the most considerable merchants of France. I dined with them at one of their country houses, meeting a numerous company and splendid entertainment. These gentlemen have wives and daughters, cousins and friends, cheerful, pleasing, and well informed. I did not like the idea of quitting them so soon, for they seemed to have a society that would have made a longer residence agreeable enough. It is no bad prejudice surely to like people that like England; most of them have been there.—Nous avons assurément en France de belles, d' agreables et de bonnes choses, mais on trouve une telle enérgie dans votre nation—
The 18th. By the passage-packet, a decked vessel, to Honfleur, seven and a half miles, which we made with a strong north wind in an hour, the river being rougher than I thought a river could be. Honfleur is a small town, full of industry, and a bason full of ships, with some Guineamen*19 as large as at Havre. At Pont au de Mer,*20 wait on Mons. Martin, director of the manufacture royale of leather. I saw eight or ten Englishmen that are employed here (there are 40 in all), and conversed with one from Yorkshire, who told me he had been deceived into coming; for though they are well paid, yet they find things very dear, instead of very cheap, as they had been given to understand—20 miles.
The 19th. To Pont 1'Eveque,*21 towards which town the country is richer, that is, has more pasturage; the whole has singular features, composed of orchard inclosures, with hedges so thick and excellent, though composed of willow, with but a sprinkling of thorns, that one can scarcely see through them; chateaus are scattered, and some good, yet the road is villainous. Pont I'Eveque is situated in the Pay d'Auge,*22 celebrated for the great fertility of its pastures. To Lisieux,*23 through the same rich district, fences admirably planted, and the country thickly inclosed and wooded.—At the hotel d'Angleterre, an excellent inn, new, clean, and well furnished; and was well served and well fed.—26 miles.
The 20th. To Caen;*24 the road passes on the brow of a hill, that commands the rich valley of Corbon, still in the Pays d'Auge, the most fertile of the whole, all is under fine Poictou bullocks, and would figure in Leicester or Northamption.—28 miles.
The 21st. The marquis de Guerchy, who I had had the pleasure of seeing in Suffolk, being colonel of the regiment of Artois, quartered here, I waited on him; he introduced me to his lady, and remarked, that as it was the fair of Guibray,*25 and himself going, I could not do better than accompany him, since it was the second fair in France. I readily agreed: in our way, we called at Bon, and dined with the marquis of Turgot, elder brother of the justly celebrated comptroller-general: this gentleman is author of some memoirs on planting, published in the Trimestres of the Royal Society of Paris: he shewed and explained to us all his plantations, but chiefly prides himself on the exotics; and I was sorry to find in proportion not to their promised utility, but merely to their rarity. I have not found this uncommon in France; and it is far from being so in England. I wished every moment, of a long walk to change the conversation from trees to husbandry, and made many efforts, but all in vain. In the evening to the fair playhouse—Richard Cœur de Lion; and I could not but remark an uncommon number of pretty women. Is there no antiquarian that deduces English beauty from the mixture of Norman blood? or who thinks, with Major Jardine, that nothing improves so much as crossing; to read his agreeable book of travels, one would think none wanting, and yet to look at his daughters, and hear their music, it would be impossible to doubt his system. Supped at the marquis d'Ecougal's, at his chateau a la Frenaye. If these French marquisses cannot shew me good crops of corn and turnips, here is a noble one of something else—of beautiful and elegant daughters, the charming copies of an agreeable mother: the whole family I pronounced at the first blush amiable: they are cheerful, pleasing, interesting: I want to know them better, but it is the fate of a traveller to meet opportunities of pleasure, and merely see to quit them. After supper, while the company were at cards, the marquis conversed on topics interesting to my enquiries.—22½miles.
The 22d. At this fair of Guilbray, merchandize is sold, they say, to the amount of six millions (262,5001) but at that of Beaucaire to ten: I found the quantity of English goods considerable, hard and queen's ware; cloths and cottons. A dozen of common plain plates, 3 liv.and 4 liv. For a French imitation, but much worse; I asked the man (a Frenchman) if the treaty of commerce would not be very injurious with such a difference—C'est précisement le contraire Mons.—quelque mauvaise que soit cette imitation, on n'a encore rien fait d'aussi bien en France; I' année prochaine ou fera mieux—nous perfectionnerons—et en fin nous I' emporterans sur vous.—I believe he is a very good politician, and that without competition, it is not possible to perfect any fabric. A dozen with blue or green edges, English, 5 liv. 5s Return to Caen; dine with the marquis of Guerchy, lieutenant-colonel, major, &c. of the regiment, and their wives present a large and agreeable company. View the Abbey of Benedictines,*26 founded by W. the Conqueror. It is a splendid building, substantial, massy, and magnificent, with very large apartments, and stone stair-cases worthy of a palace. Sup with Mons. du Mesni, captain of the corps de Genie, to whom I had letters; he had introduced me to the engineer employed on the new port, which will bring ships of three or four hundred tons to Caen, a noble work, and among those which do honour to France.
The 23d. Mons. de Guerchy and the Abbée de—,accompanied me to view Harcourt,*27 the seat of the duke d'Harcourt, governor of Normandy, and of the Dauphin; I had heard it called the finest English garden in France, but Ermenonville will not allow that claim, though not near its equal as a residence. Found at last a horse to try in order to prosecute my journey a little less like Don Quixotte, but it would by no means do, an uneasy stumbling beast, at a price that would have bought a good one, so my blind friend and I must jog on still further.—30 miles.
The 24th. To Bayeux;*28 the cathedral has three towers, one of which is very light, elegant, and highly ornamented.
The 25th. In the road to Carentan,*29 pass an arm of the sea at Issigny,*30 which is fordable. At Carentan I found myself so ill, from accumulated colds I Suppose, that I was seriously afraid of being laid up—not a bone without its aches; and a horrid dead leaden weight all over me. I went early to bed, washed down a dose of antimonial powders, which proved sudorific enough to let me prosecute my journey.—23 miles.
The 26th. To Volognes;*31 thence to Cherbourg, a thick woodland, much like Sussex. The marquis de Guerchy had desired me to call on Mons. Doumerc, a great improver at Pierbutte near Cherbourg, which I did; but he was absent at Paris: however his bailiff, Mons. Baillio, with great civility shewed me the lands, and explained every thing.—30 miles.
The 27th. Cherbourg. I had letters to the duke de Beuvron, who commands here; to the count de Chavagnac. and M. de Meusnier, of the Academy of Sciences, and translator of Cook's Voyages; the count is in the country. So much had I heard of the famous works erecting to form a harbour here, that I was eager to view them without the loss of a moment: the duke favoured me with an order for that purpose, I therefore took a boat, and rowed across the artificial harbour formed by the celebrated cones. As it is possible that this itinerary may be read by persons that have not either time or inclination to seek other books for an account of these works, I will in a few words sketch the intention and execution. The French possess no port for ships of war from Dunkirk to Brest, and the former capable of receiving only frigates. This deficiency has been fatal to them more than once in their wars with England, whose more favourable coast affords not only the Thames, but the noble harbour of Portsmouth. To remedy the want, they planned a mole across the open bay of Cherbourg; but to inclose a space sufficient to protect a fleet of the line, would demand so extended a wall, and so exposed to heavy seas, that the expence would be far too great to be thought of; and at the same time the success too dubious to be ventured. The idea of a regular mole was therefore given up, and a partial one, on a new plan adopted; this was to erect in the sea, a line where a mole is wanted, insulated columns of timber and masonry, of so vast a size, as to resist the violence of the ocean, and to break its waves sufficiently to permit a bank being formed between column and column. These have been called cones from their form. They are 140 feet diameter at the base; 60 diameter at the top, and 60 feet vertical height, being, when sunk in the sea, 30 to 34 feet, immersed at the low water of high tides. These enormous broad-bottomed tubs being constructed of oak, with every attention to strength and solidity, when finished for launching, were loaded with stone just sufficient for sinking, and in that state each cone weighed 1000 tons (of 2000 lb.) To float them, sixty empty casks, each of ten pipes, were attached around by cords, and in this state of buoyancy the enormous machine was floated to its destined spot, towed by numberless vessels, and before innumerable spectators. At a signal the cords are cut in a moment, and the pile sinks: it is then filled instantly with stone from vessels ready attending, and capped with masonry. The contents of each filled only to within four feet of the surface, 2500 cubical toises of stone.*32 A vast number of vessels are then employed to form a bank of stone from cone to cone, visible at low water in neap tides. Eighteen cones, by one account, but 33 by another, would complete the work, leaving only two entrances, commanded by two very fine new-built forts, Royale and d'Artois, thoroughly well provided, it is said, for they do not shew them, with an apparatus for heating cannon balls. The number of cones will depend on the distances at which they are placed. I found eight finished, and the skeleton frames of two more in the dock-yard; but all is stopped by the archbishop of Toulouze, in favour of the economical plans at present in speculation. Four of them, the last sunk, being most exposed, are now repairing, having been found too weak to resist the fury of the storms, and the heavy westerly seas. The last cone is much the most damaged, and, in proportion as they advance, they will be still more and more exposed, which gives rise to the opinion of many skilful engineers, that the whole scheme will prove fruitless, unless such an expence is bestowed on the remaining cones as would be sufficient to exhaust the revenues of a kingdom. The eight already erected have for some years given a new appearance to Cherbourg; new houses, and even streets, and such a face of activity and animation, that the stop to the works was received with blank countenances. They say, that, quarry-men included, 3000 were employed. The effect of the eight cones already erected, and the bank of stone formed between them has been to give perfect security to a considerable portion of the intended harbour. Two 40 gun ships have lain at anchor within them these eighteen months past, by way of experiment, and though such storms have happened in that time as have put all to severe trials, and, as I mentioned before, considerably damaged three of the cones, yet these ships have not received the smallest agitation; hence it is a harbour for a small fleet without doing more. Should they ever proceed with the rest of the cones, they must be built much stronger, perhaps larger, and far greater precautions taken in giving them firmness and solidity: it is also a question, whether they must not be sunk much nearer to each other; at all events, the proportional expence will be nearly doubled, but for wars with England, the importance of having a secure harbour, so critically situated, they consider as equal almost to any expence; at least this importance has its full weight in the eyes of the people of Cherbourg. I remarked, in rowing across the harbour, that while the sea without the artificial bar was so rough, that it would have been unpleasant for a boat, within it was quite smooth. I mounted two of the cones, one of which has this inscription:—Louis XVI.—Sur ce premiere cône èchoue le 6 Juin 1784, a vu l'immersion de celui de l'est, le 23 Juin 1786.—On the whole, the undertaking is a prodigious one, and does no trifling credit to the spirit of enterprize of the present age in France.*33 The service of the marine is a favourite; whether justly or not, is another question; and this harbour shews, that when this great people undertake any capital works, that are really favourites, they find inventive genius to plan, and engineers of capital talents to execute whatever is devised, in a manner that does honour to their kingdom. The duke de Beuvron had asked me to dinner, but I found that if I accepted his invitation, it would then take me the next day to view the glass manufacture; I preferred therefore business to pleasure, and taking with me a letter from that nobleman to secure a sight of it, I rode thither in the afternoon; it is about three miles from Cherbourg. Mons. de Puye, the director, explained every thing to me in the most obliging manner. Cherbourg is not a place for a residence longer than necessary; I was here fleeced more infamously than at any other town in France; the two best inns were full; I was obliged to go to the barque, a vile hole, little better than a hog-sty; where, for a miserable dirty wretched chamber, two suppers composed chiefly of a plate of apples and some butter and cheese, with some trifle besides too bad to eat, and one miserable dinner, they brought me in a bill of 31 liv. (1l. 7s. 1d.) they not only charged the room 3 liv. a night, but even the very stable for my horse, after enormous items for oats, hay, and straw. This is a species of profligacy which debases the national character. Calling, as I returned, on Mons. Baillio, I shewed him the bill, at which he exclaimed for imposition, and said the man and woman were going to leave off their trade; and no wonder, if they had made a practice of fleecing others in that manner. Let no one go to Cherbourg without making a bargain for everything he has, even to the straw and stable; pepper, salt, and table-cloth.—10 miles.
The 28th, return to Carentan; and the 29th, pass through a rich and thickly inclosed country, to Coutances, capital of the district called the Cotentin. They build in this country the best mud houses and barns I ever saw, excellent habitations, even of three stories, and all of mud, with considerable barns and other offices. The earth (the best for the purpose is a rich brown loam) is well kneaded with straw; and being spread about four inches thick on the ground, is cut in squares of nine inches, and these are taken with a shovel and tossed to the man on the wall who builds it; and the wall built, as in Ireland, in layers, each three feet high, that it may dry before they advance. The thickness about two feet. They make them project about an inch, which they cut off layer by layer perfectly smooth. If they had the English way of white washing, they would look as well as our lath and Plaister, and are much more durable. In good houses the doors and windows are in stone work.—20 miles.
The 30th. A fine sea view of the Isles of Chausée,*34 at five leagues distant; and afterwards Jersey, clear at about forty miles, with that of town of Grandval*35 on a high peninsula: entering the town, every idea of beauty is lost; a close, nasty, ugly, ill built hole: market day, and myriads of triflers, common at a French market. They bay of Cancalle, all along to the right, and St. Michael's rock rising out of the sea, conically, with a castle on the top, a most singular and picturesque object.—30 miles.
The 31st. At Pont Orsin,*36 enter Bretagne; there seems here a more minute division of farms than before. There is a long street in the episcopal town of Doll,*37 without a glass window; a horrid appearance. My entry into Bretagne gives me an idea of its being a miserable province.—22 miles.
SEPTEMBER 1st. To Combourg,*38 the country has a savage aspect; husbandry not much further advanced, at least in skill, than among the Hurons, which appears in credible amidst inclosures; the people almost as wild as their country, and their town of Combourg one of the most brutal filthy places that can be seen; mud houses, no windows, and a pavement so broken, as to impede all passengers, but ease none—yet here is a chatean, and inhabited; who is this Mons. de Chateaubriant,*39 the owner, that has nerves strung for a residence amidst such filth and poverty? Below this hideous heap of wretchedness is a fine lake, surrounded by well wooded inclosures. Coming out of Hedé,*40 there is a beautiful lake belonging to Mons. de Blassac,*41 intendant of Poictiers, with a fine accompanyment of wood. A very little cleaning would make here a delicious scenery. There is a chateau, with four rows of trees, and nothing else to be seen from the windows in the true French stile. Forbid it, taste, that this should be the house of the owner of that beautiful water; and yet this Mons. de Blassac has made at Poictiers the finest promenade in France! But that taste which draws a strait line, and that which traces a waving one, are founded on feelings and ideas as separate and distinct as painting and music—as poetry or sculpture. The lake abounds with fish, pike to 36lb. carp to 24lb. perch 4lb. and tench 5lb. To Rennes the same strange wild mixture of desert and cultivation, half savage, half human.—31 miles.
The 2d. Rennes*42 is well built, and it has two good squares; that particularly of Louis XV. where is his statue. The parliament being in exile, the house is not to be seen. The Benedictines garden, called the Tabour,*43 is worth viewing. But the object at Rennes most remarkable at present is a camp, with a marshal of France (de Stainville), and four regiments of infantry, and two of dragoons, close to the gates. The discontents of the people have been double, first on account of the high price of bread, and secondly for the banishment of the parliament. The former cause is natural enough, but why the people should love their parliament was what I could not understand, since the members, as well as of the states, are all noble, and the distinction between the noblesse and roturiers no where stronger, more offensive, or more abominable than in Bretagne. They assured me, however, that the populace have been blown up to violence by every art of deception, and even by money distributed for that purpose. The commotions rose to such a height before the camp was established, that the troops here were utterly unable to keep the peace. Mons. Argentaise, to whom I had brought letters, had the goodness, during the four days I was here, to shew and explain everything to be seen. I find Rennes very cheap; and it appears the more so to me just come from Normandy, where every thing is extravagantly dear. The table d'hôte, at the grand maison, is well served ; they give two courses, containing plenty of good things, and a very ample regular dessert: the supper one good course, with a large joint of mutton, and another good dessert; each meal, with the common wine, 40f. and for 20 more you have very good wine, instead of the ordinary sort: 30f. For the horse: thus, with good wine, it is no more than 6 liv. 10f. a day, or 5s. 10d. Yet a camp which they complain has raised prices enormously.
The 5th. To Montauban.*44 The poor people seem poor indeed; the children terribly ragged, if possible worse clad than it with no cloaths at all; as to shoes and stockings they are luxuries. A beautiful girl of six or seven years playing with a stick, and smiling under such a bundle of rags as made my heart ache to see her: they did not beg, and when I gave them any thing seemed more surprized than obliged. One third of what I have seen of this province seems uncultivated, and nearly all of it in misery. What have kings, and ministers, and parliaments, and states, to answer for their prejudices, seeing millions of hands that would be industrious, idle and starving, through the execrable maxims of despotism, or the equally detestable prejudices of a feudal nobility*45 Sleep at the lion d' or, at Montauban, an abominable hole.—20 miles.
The 6th. The same inclosed country to Brooms;*46 but near that town improves to the eye, from being more hilly. At the little town of Lamballe,*47 there are above fifty families of noblesse that live in winter, who reside on their estates in the summer. There is probably as much foppery and nonsense in their circles, and for what I know as much happiness, as in those of Paris. Both would be better employed in cultivating their lands, and rendering the poor industrious.—30 miles.
The 7th. Leaving Lamballe, the country immediately changes. The marquis d' Urvoy, who I met at Rennes, and has a good estate at St. Brieux,*48 gave me a letter for his agent, who answered my questions.—12½ miles.
The 8th. To Guingamp,*49 a sombre inclosed country. Pass Chateaulandrin,*50 and enter Bas Bretagne. One recognizes at once another people, meeting numbers who have not more French than Je ne sai pas ce que vous dites, or Je n'entend rien. Enter Guingamp by gateways, towers, and battlements, apparently of the oldest military architecture; every part denoting antiquity, and in the best preservation. The poor people's habitations are not so good; they are miserable heaps of dirt; no glass, and scarcely any light; but they have earth chimnies. I was in my first sleep at Belleisle,*51 when the aubergiste came to my bedside, undrew a curtain, that I expected to cover me with spiders, to tell me that I had une jument Anglois superbe, and that a singneur wished to buy it of me: I gave him half a dozen flowers of French eloquence for his impertinence, when he thought proper to leave me and his spiders at peace. There was a great chasse assembled. These Bas Bretagne signeurs are capital hunters, it seems, that fix on a blind mare for an object of admiration. A-propos to the breeds of horses in France; this mare cost me twenty-three guineas when horses were dear in England, and had been sold for sixteen when they were rather cheaper; her figure may therefore be guessed; yet she was much admired, and often in this journey; and as to Bretagne, she rarely met a rival. That province, and it is the same in parts of Normandy, is infested in every stable with a pack of garran poney stallions, sufficient to perpetuate the miserable breed that is every where seen. This villainous hole, that calls itself the grand maison, is the best inn at a post town, on the great road to Brest, at which marshals of France, dukes, peers, countesses, and so forth, must now and then, by the accidents to which long journies are subject to have found themselves. What are we to think of a country that has made, in the eighteenth century, no better provision for its travellers!—30 miles.
The 9th, Morlaix *52 is the most singular port I have seen. It has but one feature, a vale just wide enough for a fine canal with two quays, and two rows of houses; behind them the mountain rises steep, and woody on one side; on the other gardens, rocks, and wood; the effect romantic and beautiful. Trade now very dull, but flourished much in the war.—20 miles.
The 10th. Fair day at Landervisier,*53 which gave me an opportunity of seeing numbers of Bas Bretons collected, as well as their cattle. The men dress in great trowsers like breeches, many with naked legs, and most with wooden shoes, strong marked features like the Welch, with countenances a mixture of half energy half laziness; their persons stout, broad, and square. The women furrowed without age by labour, to the utter extinction of all softness of sex. The eye discovers them at first glance to be a people absolutely distinct from the French. Wonderful that they should be found so, with distinct language, manners, dress, &c. after having been settled here 1300 years.—35 miles.
The 11th. I had respectable letters, and to respectable people at Brest, in order to see the dock-yard, but they were vain; Mons. le Chevalier de Tredairne particularly applied for me earnestly to the commandant, but the order, contrary to its being shewn either to Frenchmen or foreigners, was too strict to be relaxed without an express direction from the minister of the marine, given very rarely, and to which, when it does come, they give but an unwilling obedience. Mons. Tredairne, however, informed me, that lord Pembroke saw it not long since by means of such an order: and he remarked himself, knowing that I could not fail doing the same, that it was strange to shew the port to an English general and governor of Portsmouth, yet deny it to a farmer. He however assured me, that the duke of Chartres went away but the other day without being permitted to see it. Gretry's music at the theatre, which, though not large, is neat and even elegant, was not calculated to put me in good humour; it was Panurge.—Brest is a well built town, with many regular and handsome streets, and the quay where many men of war are laid up, and other shipping has much of that life and motion which animates a sea-port.
The 12th. Return to Landernau,*54 where, at the duc de Chartre, which is the best and cleanest inn in the bishopric, as I was going to dinner, the landlord told me, there was a Monsieur un homme comme il faut, and the dinner would be better if we united; de tout mon cœur. He proved a Bas Breton noble, with his sword and a little miserable but nimble nag. This seigneur was ignorant that the duke de Chartres, the other day at Brest, was not the duke that was in Mons. d'Orvillier's fleet. Take the road to Nantes.—25 miles.
The 13th. The country to Chateaulin*55 more mountainous; one-third waste. All this region far inferior to Leon*56 and Traguer;*57 no exertions, nor any marks of intelligence, yet all near to the great navigation and market of Brest water, and the soil good. Quimper,*58 though a bishopric, has nothing worth seeing but its promenades which are among the finest in France.—25 miles.
The 14th. Leaving Quimper, there seem to be more cultivated features; but this only for a moment;—wastes—wastes—wastes. Reach Quimperly. 58—27 miles.
The 15th. The same sombre country to l'Orient,*59 but with a mixture of cultivation and much wood.—I found l'Orident so full of fools, gaping to see a man of war launched, that I could get no bed for myself, nor stable for my house at the epeè royale. At the cheval blanc, a poor hole, I got my horse crammed among twenty others, like herrings in a barrel, but could have no bed. The duke de Brissac, with a suite of officers, had no better success. If the governor of Paris could not, without trouble, get a bed at l'Orient, no wonder Arthur Young found obstacles. I went directly to deliver my letters, found Mons, Besné, a merchant, at home; he received me with a frank civility better than a million of compliments; and the moment he understood my situation, offered me a bad in his house, which I accepted. The Tourville, of 84 guns, was to be launched at three o'clock, but put off till the next day, much to the joy of the aubergistes, &c. who were well pleased to see such a swarm of strangers kept another day. I wished the ship in their throats, for I thought only of my poor mare being squeezed a night amongst the Bretagne garrans; sixpence, however to the garcon, had effects marvelously to her ease. The town is modern, and regularly built, the streets diverge in rays from the gate, and are crossed by others at right angles, broad, handsomely built, and well paved; with many houses that make a good figure. But what makes l'Orient more known is being the appropriated port for the commerce of India, containing all the shipping and magazines of the company. The latter are truly great, and speak the royal munificence from which they arose. They are of several stores, and all vaulted in stone, in a splendid style, and of vast extent. But they want, at least at present, like so many other magnificent establishments in France, the vigour and vivacity of an active commerce. The business transacting here seems trifling. Three 84 gun ships, the Tourville, l'Eole, and Jean Bart, with a 32 gun frigate, are upon the stocks. They assured me, that the Tourville has been only nine months building: the scene is alive, and fifteen large men of war being laid up here in ordinary, with some Indiamen, and a few traders, render the port a pleasing spectacle. There is a beautiful round tower, 100 feet high, of white stone, with a railed gallery at top; the proportions light and agreeable; it is for looking out and making signals. My hospitable merchant, I find a plain unaffected character, with some whimsical originalities, that make him more interesting; he has an agreeable daughter, who entertains me with singing to her harp. The next morning the Tourville quitted her stocks, to the music of the regiments, and the shouts of thousands collected to see it. Leave l'Orient. Arrive at Hennebon.*60—7½ miles.
The 17th. To Auray,*61 the eighteen poorest miles I have yet seen in Bretagne. Good houses of stone and slate, without glass. Auray has a little port, and some sloops, which always give an air of life to a town. To Vannes,*62 the country various, but landes the more permanent feature. Vannes is not an inconsiderable town, but its greatest beauty is its port and promenade.
The 18th. To Musiliac.*63 Belleisle*64 with the smaller ones, d'Hedic*65 and d'Honat, are in sight. Musiliac, if it can boast of nothing else, may at least vaunt its cheapness. I had for dinner two good flat fish, a dish of oysters, soup, a fine duck roasted; with an ample dessert of grapes, pears, walnuts, biscuits, liqueur, and a pint of good Bourdeaux wine: my mare, besides hay, had three-fourths of a peck of corn, and the whole 56f. 2f. to the fille and two to the garcon, in all 2s. 6d. Pass landes—landes—landes—to la Roche Bernard. The view of the river Villaine, is beautiful from the boldness of the shores, there are no insipid flats; the river is two-thirds of the width of the Thames at Westminster, and would be equal to any thing in the world if the shores were woody, but they are the savage wastes of this country,—33 miles.
The 19th. Turned aside to Auvergnae,*66 the seat of the count de la Bourdonaye,*67 to whom I had a letter from the dutchess d'Anville, as a person able to give me every species of intelligence relative to Bretagne, having for five-and-twenty years been first syndic of the noblesse. A fortuitous jumble of rocks and steeps could scarcely form a worse road than these five miles: could I put as much faith in two bits of wood laid over each other, as the good folks of the country do, I should have crossed myself, but my blind friend, with the most incredible sure-footedness, carried me safe over such places, that if I had not been in the every day habit of the saddle, I should have shuddered at, though guided by eyes keen as Eclipse's; for I suppose a fine racer, on whose velocity so many fools have been ready to lose their money, must have good eyes, as well as good legs. Such a road, leading to several villages, and one of the first noblemen of the province, shews what the state of society must be;—no communication—no neighbourhood—no temptation to the expences which flow from society; a mere seclusion to save money in order to spend it in towns. The count received me with great politeness; I explained to him my plan and motives for travelling in France, which he was pleased very warmly to approve, expressing his surprise that I should attempt so large an undertaking, as such a survey of France, unsupported by my government; I told him he knew very little of our government, if he supposed they would give a shilling to any agricultural project or projector; that whether the minister was whig or tory made no difference, the party of THE PLOUGH never yet had one on its side; and that England has had many Colberts but not one Sully. This led to much interesting conversation on the balance of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, and on the means of encouraging them; and, in reply to his enquiries, I made him understand their relations in England, and how our husbandry flourished, in spite of the teeth of our ministers, merely by the protection which civil liberty gives to property: and consequently that it was in a poor situation, comparatively with what it would have been in had it received the same attention as manufactures and commerce. I told M. de la Bourdonaye that his province of Bretagne seemed to me to have nothing in it but privileges and poverty, he smiled, and gave me some explanations that are important; but no nobleman can ever probe this evil as it ought to be done, resulting as it does from the privileges going to themselves, and the poverty to the people. He shewed me his plantations, which are very fine and well thriven, and shelter him thoroughly on every side, even from the S. W. so near to the sea; from his walks we see Belleisle and its neighbours, and a little isle or rock belonging to him, which he says the King of England took from him after Sir Edward Hawke's victory, but that his majesty was kind enough to leave him his island after one night's possession.—20 miles.
The 20th. Take my leave of Monsieur and Madame de la Bourdonaye, to whose politeness as well as friendly attentions I am much obliged. Towards Nazaire*68 there is a fine view of the mouth of the Loire, from the rising grounds, but the headlands that form the embouchure are low, which takes off from that greatness of the effect which highlands give to the mouth of the Shannon. The swelling bosom of the Atlantic boundless to the right. Savanal*69 poverty itself.—33 miles
The 21st. Come to an improvement in the midst of these deserts, four good houses of stone and slate, and a few acres run to wretched grass, which have been tilled, but all savage, and become almost as rough as the rest. I was afterwards informed that this improvement, as it is called, was wrought by Englishmen, at the expence of a gentleman they ruined as well as themselves.—I demanded how it had been done? Pare and burn, and sow wheat, then rye, and then oats. Thus it is for ever and ever! the same follies, the same blundering, the same ignorance; and then all the fools in the country said, as they do now, that these wastes are good for nothing. To my amazement find the incredible circumstance, that they reach within three miles of the great commercial city of Nantes! This is a problem and a lesson to work at, but not at present. Arrive—go to the theatre, new built of fine white stone, and has a magnificent portico front of eight elegant Corinthian pillars, and four others within, to part the portico from a grand vestibule. Within all is gold and painting, and a coup d'œil at entering, that struck me forcibly. It is, I believe, twice as large as Drury-Lane, and five times as magnificent. It was Sunday, and therefore full. Mon Dieu! cried I to myself, do all the wastes, the deserts, the heath, ling, furz, broom, and bog, that I have passed for 300 miles lead to this spectacle? What a miracle, that all this splendour and wealth of the cities in France should be so unconnected with the country! There are no gentle transitions from ease to comfort, from comfort to wealth: you pass at once from beggary to profusion,—from misery in mud cabins to Mademoiselle St. Huberti, in splendid spectacles at 500 liv. a night, (21l. 17s. 6d.) The country deserted, or if a gentleman in it, you find him in some wretched hole, to save that money which is lavished with profusion in the luxuries of a capital.—20 miles.
The 22d. Deliver my letters. As much as agriculture is the chief object of my journey, it is necessary to acquire such intelligence of the state of commerce, as can be best done from merchants, for abundance of useful information is to be gained, without putting any questions that a man would be cautious of answering, and even without putting any questions at all. Mons. Riédy was very polite, and satisfied many of my enquiries; I dined once with him, and was pleased to find the conversation take an important turn on the relative situations of France and England in trade, particularly in the West Indies. I had a letter also to Mons. Epivent, consilier in the parliament of Rennes, whose brother, Mons. Epivent de la Villesboisnet, is a very considerable merchant here. It was not possible for any person to be more obliging than these two gentlemen; their attentions to me were marked and friendly, and rendered a few days residence here equally instructive and agreeable. The town has that sign of prosperity of new buildings, which never deceives. The quarter of the comedie is magnificent, all the streets at right angles and of white stone. I am in doubt whether the hotel de Henri IV. is not the finest inn in Europe: Dessein's at Calais is larger, but neither built, fitted up, nor furnished like this, which is new. It cost 400,000liv. (17,500l.) furnished, and is let at 14,000 liv. per ann. (6121. 10s.) with no rent for the first year. It contains 60 beds for masters, and 25 stalls for horses. Some of the apartments of two rooms, very neat, are 6 liv. a day; one good 3 liv. but for merchants 5 liv. per diem for dinner, supper, wine, and chamber, and 35f. for his horse. It is, without comparison, the first inn I have seen in France, and very cheap. It is in a small square close to the theatre, as convenient for pleasure or trade as the votaries of either can wish. The theatre cost 450,000 liv. and lets to the comedians at 17,00 liv. a year; it holds, when full, 120 louis d'or. The land the inn stands on was bought at 9 liv. a foot: in some parts of the city it sells as high as 15 liv. This value of the ground induces them to build so high as to be destructive of beauty. The quay has nothing remarkable; the river is choaked with islands, but at the furthest part next to the sea is a large range of houses regularly fronted. An institution common in the great commercial towns of France, but particularly flourishing in Nantes, is a chambre de lecture, or what we should call a book-club, that does not divide its books, but forms a library. There are three rooms, one for reading, another, another for conversation, and the third is the library; good fires in winter are provided, and wax candles. Messrs, Epivent had the goodness to attend me in a water expedition, to view the establishment of Mr. Wilkinson, for boring cannon, in an island in the Loire below Nantes.*70 Until that well known English manufacturer arrived, the French knew nothing of the art of casting cannon solid, and then boring them. Mr. Wilkinson's machinery, for boring four cannons, is now at work, moved by tide wheels; but they have erected a steam engine, with a new apparatus for boring seven more; M. de la Motte, who has the direction of the whole, shewed us also a model of this engine, about six feet long, five high, and four or five broad; which he worked for us, by making a small fire under the boiler that is not bigger than a large tea-kettle; one of the best machines for a traveling philosopher that I have seen. Nantes is as enflammé; in the cause of liberty, as any town in France can be; the conversations I witnessed here, prove how great a change is effected in the minds of the French, nor do I believe it will be possible for the present government to last half a century longer, unless the clearest and most decided talents are at the helm. The American revolution has laid the foundation of another in France, if government does not take care of itself.*71 The 23d one of the twelve prisoners*72 from the Bastile arrived here—he was the most violent of them all—and his imprisonment has been far enough from silencing him.
The 25th. It was not without regret that I quitted a society both intelligent and agreeable, nor should I feel comfortably if I did not hope to see Messrs. Epivents again; I have little chance of being at Nantes, but if they come a second time to England, I have a promise of seeing them at Bradfield. The younger of these gentlemen spent a fortnight with Lord Shelburne at Bowood, which he remembers with much pleasure; Colonel Barré and Dr.Priestley were there at the same time. To Aucenis*73 is all inclosed: for seven miles many seats.—22½ miles.
The 26th. To the scene of the vintage. I had not before been witness to so much advantage as here; last autumn the heavy rains made it a melancholy business. At present, all is life and activity. The country all thickly and well inclosed. Glorious view of the Loire from a village, the last of Bretagne, where is a great barrier across the road and custom-houses, to search everything coming from thence. The Loire takes the appearance of a lake large enough to be interesting. There is on both sides an accompanyment of wood, which is not universal on this river. The addition of towns, steeples, windmills, and a great range of lovely country, covered with vines; the character gay as well as noble. Enter Anjou, with a great range of meadows. Pass St. George,*74 and take the road to Angers. For ten miles quit the Loire and meet it again at Angers. Letters from Mons. de Broussonet; but he is unable to inform me in what part of Anjou was the residence of the marquis de Tourbilly; to find out that nobleman's farm, where he made those admirable improvements, which he describes in the Memoire sur les defrichements, was such an object to me, that I was determined to go to the place, let the distance out of my way be what it might.—30 miles.
The 27th. Among my letters, one to Mons. de la Livoniere, perpetual secretaryof the Society of Agriculture here. I found he was at his country-seat, two leagues off at Mignianne.*75 On my arrival at his seat, he was sitting down to dinner with his family; not being past twelve, I thought to have escaped this awkwardness; but both himself and Madame prevented all embarrassment by very unaffectedly desiring me to partake with them, and making not the least derangement either in table or looks, placed me at once at my ease, to an indifferent dinner, garnished with so much ease and chearfulness that I found it a repast more to my taste than the most splendid tables could afford. An English family in the country, similar in situation, taken unawares in the same way, would receive you with an unquiet hospitality, and an anxious politeness; and after waiting for a hurry-scurry derangement of cloth, table, plates, sideboard, pot and spit, would give you perhaps so good a dinner, that none of the family, between anxiety and fatigue, could supply one word of conversation, and you would depart under cordial wishes that you might never return.—This folly, so common in England, is never met with in France: the French are quiet in their houses, and do things without effort.—Mons. Livoniere conversed with me much on the plan of my travels, which he commended greatly, but thought it very extraordinary that neither government, nor the Academy of Sciences, nor the Academy of Agriculture, should at least be at the expence of my journey. This idea is purely French; they have no notion of private people going out of their way for the public good, without being paid by the public; nor could he well comprehend me, when I told him that every thing is well done in England, except what is done with public money. I was greatly concerned to find that he could give me no intelligence concerning the residence of the late marquis of Tourbilly, as it would be a provoking circumstance to pass all through the province without finding his house, and afterwards hear perhaps that I had been ignorantly within a few miles of it. In the evening returned to Angers.—20 miles.
The 28th. To La Flêche. The chateau of Duretal,*76 belonging to the dutchess d'Estissac, is boldly situated above the little town of that name, and on the banks of a beautiful river, the slopes to which that hang to the south are covered with vines. The country chearful, dry, and pleasant for residence. I enquired here of several gentlemen for the residence of the marquis of Tourbilly, but all in vain. The 30 miles to La Flêche the road is a noble one; of gravel, smooth, and kept in admirable order. La Flêche is a neat, clean, little town, not ill built, on the river that flows to Duretal, which is navigable; but the trade is inconsiderable. My first business here, as every where else in Anjou, was to enquire for the residence of the marquis de Tourbilly. I repeated my enquires till I found that there was a place not far from La Flêche, called Tourbilly, but not what I wanted, as there was no Mons. De Tourbilly there, but a marquis de Galway, who inherited Tourbilly from his father. This perplexed me more and more; and I renewed my enquiries with so much eagerness, that several people, I believe, thought me half mad. At last I met with an ancient lady who solved my difficulty; she informed me, that Tourbilly, about twelve miles from La Flêche, was the place I was in search of: that it belonged to the marquis of that name, who had written some books she believed; that he died twenty years ago insolvent; that the father of the present marquis de Galway bought the estate. This was sufficient for my purpose; I determined to take a guide the next morning, and, as I could not visit the marquis, at least see the remains of his improvements. The news, however, that he died insolvent, hurt me very much; it was a bad commentary on his book and foresaw, that whoever I should find at Tourbilly, would be full of ridicule, on a husbandry that proved the loss of the estate on which it was practiced.—30 miles.
The 29th. This morning I executed my project; my guide was a countryman with a good pair of legs, who conducted me across a range of such ling wastes as the marquis speaks of in his memoir. They appear boundless here; and I was told that I could travel many—many days, and see nothing else: what fields of improvement to make, not to lose estates! At last we arrived at Tourbilly,*77 a poor village, of a few scattered houses, in a vale between two rising grounds, which are yet heath and waste; the chateau in the midst, with plantations of fine poplars leading to it. I cannot easily express the anxious inquisitive curiosity I felt to examine every scrap of the estate; no hedge or tree, no bush but what was interesting to me; I had read the translation of the marquis's history of his improvements in Mr.Mills' husbandry,*78 and thought it the most interesting morsel I had met with, long before I procured the original Memoire sur les defrichemens; and determined that if ever I should go to France to view improvements the recital of which had given me such pleasure. I had neither letter nor introduction to the present owner, the marquis de Galway. I therefore stated to him the plain fact, that I had read Mons. de Tourbilly's book with so much pleasure, that I wished much to view the improvements described in it; he answered me directly in good English, received me with such cordiality of politeness, and such expressions of regard for the purport of my travels, that he put me perfectly in humour with myself, and consequently with all around me. He ordered breakfast a l' Angloise; gave orders for a man to attend us in our walk, who I desired might be the oldest labourer to be found of the late marquis de Tourbilly's. I was pleased to hear that one was alive who had worked with him from the beginning of his improvement. At breakfast Mons. de Galway introduced me to his brother, who also spoke English, and regretted that he could not do the same to Madame de Galway, who was in the straw: he then gave me an account of his father's acquiring the estate and chateau of Tourbilly. His great-grand-father came to Bretagne with King James II. when he fled from the English throne; some of the same family are still living in the county of Cork, particularly at Lotta. His father was famous in that province for his skill in agriculture; and, as a reward for an improvement he had wrought on the landes, the states of the province gave him a waste tract in the island of Belleisle, which at present belongs to his son. Hearing that the marquis de Tourbilly was totally ruined, and his estates in Anjou to be sold by the creditors, he viewed them, and finding the land very improveable, made the purchase, giving about 15,000 louis d'ors for Tourbilly, a price which made the acquisition highly advantageous, not withstanding his having bought some law-suits with the estate. It is about 3000 arpents, nearly contiguous, the seigneury of two parishes, with the haute justice, &c. a handsome large and convenient chateau, offices very compleat, and many plantations, the work of the celebrated man concerning whom my enquiries were directed. I was almost breathless on the question of so great an improver being ruined! "You are unhappy that a man should be ruined by an art you love so much." Precisely so. But he eased me in a moment, by adding, that if the marquis had done nothing but farm and improve, he had never been ruined. One day, as he was boring to find marl, his ill stars discovered a vein of earth, perfectly white, which on trial did not effervesce with acids.*79 It struck him as an acquisition for porcelain—he shewed it to a manufacturer—it was pronounced excellent: the marquis's imagination took fire, and he thought of converting the poor village of Tourbilly into a town, by a fabric of china—he went to work on his own account—raised buildings—and got together all that was necessary, except skill and capital.—In fine, he made good porcelain, was cheated by his agents, and people, and at last ruined. A soap manufactory, which he established also, as well as some law-suits relative to other estates, had their share in causing his misfortunes: his creditors seized the estate, but permitted him to administer it till his death, when it was sold. The only part of the tale that lessened my regret was, that, though married, he left no family; so that his ashes will sleep in peace, without his memory being reviled by an indigent posterity. His ancestors acquired the estate by marriage in the fourteenth century. His agricultural improvements, Mons. Galway observed, certainly did not hurt him; they were not well done, nor well supported by himself, but they rendered the estate more valuable; and he never heard that they had brought him into any difficulties. I cannot but observe here, that there seems a fatality to attend country gentlemen whenever they attempt trade or manufacture. In England I never knew a man of landed property, with the education and habits of landed property, attempt either, but they were infallibly ruined; or if not ruined, considerably hurt by them. Whether it is that the ideas and principles of trade have something in them repugnant to the sentiments which ought to flow from education—or whether the habitual inattention of country gentlemen to small gains and savings, which are the soul of trade, renders their success impossible; to whatever it may be owing, the fact is such, not one in a million succeeds. Agriculture, in the improvement of their estates, is the only proper and legitimate sphere of their industry; and though ignorance renders this sometimes dangerous, yet they can with safety attempt no other. The old labourer, whose name is Piron (as propitious I hope to farming as to wit), being arrived, we sallied forth to tread what to me was a sort of classic ground. I shall dwell but little on the particulars: they make a much better figure in the Memoire sur les defrichemens than at Tourbilly; the meadows, even near the chateau, are yet very rough; the general features are rough: but the alleys of poplars, of which he speaks in the memoirs, are nobly grown indeed, and do credit to his memory; they are 60 or 70 feet high, and girt a foot: the willows are equal. Why were they not oak? to have transmitted to the farming travellers of another century the pleasure I feel in viewing the more perishable poplars of the present time; the causeways near the castle must have been arduous works. The mulberries are in a state of neglect; Mons. Galway's father not being fond of that culture, destroyed many, but some hundreds remain, and I was told that the poor people had made as far as 25 lbs. of silk, but none attempted at present. The meadows had been drained and improved near the chateau to the amount of 50 or 60 arpents, they are now rushy, but valuable in such a country. Near them is a wood of Bourdeaux pines, sown 35 years ago, and are now worth five or six liv. each. I walked into the boggy bit that produced the great cabbages he mentioned, it joins a large and most improveable bottom. Piron informed me that the marquis pared and burnt about 100 arpents in all, and he folded 250 sheep. On our return to the chateau, Mons. de Galway, finding what an enthusiast I was in agriculture, searched among his papers to find a manuscript of the marquis de Tourbilly's, written with his own hand, which he had the goodness to make me a present of, and which I shall keep amongst my curiosities in agriculture. The polite reception I had met from Mons. Galway, and the friendly attention he had given to my views, entering into the spirit of my pursuits, and wishing to promote it, would have induced me very cheerfully to have accepted his invitation of remaining some days with him; had I not been apprehensive that the moment of madame Galway's being in bed, would render such an unlooked for visit inconvenient. I took my leave therefore in the evening, and returned to La Flêche by a different road.—25 miles.
The 30th. A quantity of moors to Le Mans,*80 they assured me at Guerces,*81 that they are here 60 leagues in circumference, with no great interruptions. At Le Mans I was unlucky in Mons. Tournai, secretary to the Society of Agriculture, being absent.—28 miles.
OCTOBER 1. Towards Alencon,*82 the country a contrast to what I passed yesterday; good land, well inclosed, well built, and tolerably cultivated, with marling. A noble road of dark coloured stone, apparently ferruginous, that binds well. Near Beaumont*83 vineyards in sight on the hills, and these are the lasting thus travelling northwards; the whole country finely watered by rivers and streams, yet no irrigation.—30 miles.
The 2d. Four miles to Nouant,*84 of rich herbage, under bullocks.—28 miles.
The 3d. From Gacé*85 towards Bernay.*86 Pass the marishal duc de Broglio's chateau at Broglio,*87 which is surrounded by such a multiplicity of clipt hedges, double, treble, and quadruple, that he must half maintain the poor of the little town in clipping.—25 miles.
The 4th. Leave Bernay; where, and at other places in this country, are many mud walls, made of rich red loam, thatched at top, and well planted with fruit-trees: a hint very well worth taking for copying in England, where brick and stone are dear. Come to one of the richest countries in France, or indeed in Europe. There are few finer views than the first of Elbeuf,*88 from the eminence above it, which is high; the town at your feet in the bottom; on one side the Seine presents a noble reach, broken by wooded islands, and an immense amphitheatre of hill, covered with a prodigious wood, surrounding the whole.
The 5th. To Rouen, where I found the hotel royal, a contrast to that dirty, impertinent, cheating hole the pomme de pin. In the evening to the theatre, which is not so large, I think, as that of Nantes, but not comparable in elegance or decoration; it is sombre and dirty. Gretty's Caravanne de Caire, the music of which, though too much chorus and noise, has some tender and pleasing passages. I like it better than any other piece I have heard of that celebrated composer. The next morning waited on Mons. Scanegatty, professeur de physique dans la Société Royale d' Agriculture; he received me with politeness. He has a considerable room furnished with mathematical and philosophical instruments and models. He explained some of the latter to me that are of his own invention, particularly one of a furnace for calcining gypsum, which is brought here in large quantities from Montmartre.*89 Waited on Messrs. Midy, Rossec and Co., the most considerable wool merchants in France, who were so kind as to shew me a great variety of wools, from most of the European countries, and permitted me to take specimens. The next morning I went to Darnetal,*90 where Mons. Curmer shewed me his manufacture. Return to Rouen, and dined with Mons. Portier, directeur general des fermes, to whom I had brought a letter from the duc de la Rochefoucauld. The conversation turned, among other subjects, on the want of new streets at Rouen, on comparison with Havre, Nantes, and Bourdeaux; at the latter places it was remarked, that a merchant makes a fortune in ten or fifteen years, and builds away; but at Rouen, it is a commerce of œconomy, in which a man is long doing it, and therefore unable with prudence to make the same exertions. Every person at table agreed in another point which was discussed, that the wine provinces are the poorest in all France: I urged the produce being greater per arpent by far than of other lands; they adhered to the fact as one generally known and admitted. In the evening at the theatre, Madame du Fresne entertained me greatly; she is an excellent actress, never overdoes her parts, and make one feel by feeling herself. The more I see of the French theatre, the more I am forced to acknowledge the superiority to our own, in the number of good performers, and in the paucity of bad ones; and in the quantity of dancers, singers, and persons on whom the business of the theatre depends, all established on a great scale. I remark, in the sentiments that are applauded, the same generous feelings in the audience in France, that have many times in England put me in good humour with my countrymen. We are too apt to hate the French, for myself I see many reasons to be pleased with them; attributing faults very much to their government; perhaps in our own, our roughness and want of good temper are to be traced to the same origin.
The 8th. My plan had for some time been to go directly to England, on leaving Rouen, for the post-offices had been cruelly uncertain. I had received no letters for some time from my family, though I had written repeatedly to urge it; they passed to a person at Paris who was to forward them; but some carelessness, or other cause, impeded all, at a time that others directed to the towns I passed, came regularly; I had fears that some of my family were ill, and that they would not write bad news to me in a situation where knowing the worst could have influence in changing it for better. But the desire I had to accept the invitation to La Roche Guyon, of the dutchess d'Anville's and the duc de la Rochefoucauld, prolonged my journey, and I set forward on this further excursion. A truly noble view from the road above Rouen; the city at one end of the vale, with the river flowing to it perfectly checkered with isles of wood. The other divides into two great channels, between which the vale is all spread with islands, some arable, some meadow, and much wood on all. Pass Pont l'Arch*91 to Louviers.*92 I had letters for the celebrated manufacturer Mons. Decretot, who received me with a kindness that ought to have some better epithet than polite; he shewed me his fabric, unquestionably the first woolen one in the world, if success, beauty of fabric, and an inexhaustible invention to supply with taste all the cravings of fancy, can give the merit of such superiority. Perfection goes no further than the Vigonia cloths of Mons. Decretot, at 110 liv. (4l. 16s. 3d.) the aulne. He shewed me also his cotton-mills, under the direction of two Englishmen. Near Louviers is a manufacture of copper plates for the bottoms of the King's ships; a colony of Englishmen. I supped with Mons. Decretot, passing a very pleasant evening in the company of some agreeable ladies.—17 miles.
The 9th. By Guillon*93 to Vernon;*94 the vale flat rich arable. Among the notes, I had long ago taken of objects to see in France, was the plantation of mulberries, and the silk establishment of the marechal de Belleisle, at Bissy,*95 near Vernon; the attempts repeatedly made by the society for the encouragement of arts, at London, to introduce silk into England, had made the similar undertakings in the north of France more interesting. I accordingly made all the enquiries that were necessary for discovering the success of this meritorious attempt. Bissy is a fine place, purchased on the death of the duc de Belleisle by the duc de Penthievre, who has but one amusement, which is that of varying his residence at the numerous seats he possesses in many parts of the kingdom. There is something rational in this taste; I should like myself to have a score of farms from the vale of Valencia to the Highlands of Scotland, and to visit and direct their cultivation by turns. From Vernon, cross the Seine, and mount the chalk hills again; after which mount again, and to La Roche Guyon,*96 the most singular place I have seen. Mademe d'Anville and the duc de la Rochefoucauld received me in a manner that would have made me pleased with the place had it been in the midst of a bog. It gave me pleasure to find also the dutchess de la Rouchefoucauld here, with whom I had passed so much agreeable time at Bagnere de Luchon, a thoroughly good woman, with that simplicity of character which is banished by pride of family or foppery of rank. The Abbé Rochon,*97 the celebrated astronomer, of the academy of sciences, with some other company which, with the domestics and trappings of a grand seigneur, gave La Roche Guyon exactly the resemblance of the residence of a great lord in England. Europe is now so much assimilated, that if one goes to a house where the fortune is 15 or 20,000l. a-year, we shall find in the mode of living much more resemblance than a young traveller will ever be prepared to look for.—23 miles.
The 10th. This is one of the most singular places I have been at. The chalk rock has been cut perpendicularly, to make room for the chateau. The kitchen, which is a large one, vast vaults, and extensive cellars (magnificently filled by the way) with various other offices, are all cut out of the rock, with merely fronts of brick; the house is large, containing thirty-eight apartments. The present dutchess has added a handsome saloon of forty-eight feet long, and well proportioned, with four fine tablets of the Gobelin tapestry, also a library well filled. Here I was shewn the ink-stand that belonged to the famous Louvois, the minister of Louis XIV. known to be the identical one from which he signed the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and I suppose also the order to Turenne to burn the Palatinate. This marquis de Louvois was grandfather to the two dutchesses d'Anville and d'Estissac, who inherited all his fortune, as well as their own family one of the house of La Rochefoucauld, from which family I conceive, and not from Louvois, they inherited their dispositions. From the principal apartment, there is a balcony that leads to the walks which serpentine up the mountain. Like all French seats, there is a town, and a great potager to remove before it would be consonant with English ideas. Bissy, the duc de Penthievre's, is just the same; before the chateau there is a gently falling vale with a little stream through it, that might be made any thing of for lawning and watering; exactly there, in full front of the house, they have placed a great kitchen-garden, with walls enough for a fortress. The houses of the poor people here, as on the Loire in Touraine, are burrowed into the chalk rock, and have a singular appearance: here are tow streets of them, one above another; they are asserted to be wholesome, warm in winter, and cool in summer, but others thought differently; and that they were bad for the health of the inhabitants. The duc de la Rochefoucauld had the kindness to order the steward to give me all the information I wanted relative to the agriculture of the country, and to speak to such persons as was necessary on points that he was in doubt about. At an English nobleman's, there would have been three or four farmers asked to meet me, who would have dined with the family amongst the ladies of the first rank. I do not exaggerate, when I say, that I have had this at least an hundred times in the first houses of our islands. It is however, a thing that in the present state of manners in France, would not be met with from Calais to Bayonne, except by chance in the house of some great lord that had been much in England,*98 and then not unless it was asked for. The nobility in France have no more idea of practising agriculture, and making it an object of conversation, except on the mere theory, as they would speak of a loom or a bowsprit, than of any other object the most remote from their habits and pursuits. I do not so much blame them for this neglect, as I do that herd of visionary and absurd writers on agriculture, who, from their chambers in cities, have, with an impertinence almost incredible, deluged France with nonsense and theory, enough to disgust and ruin the whole nobility of the kingdom.
The 12th. Part with regret from a society I had every reason to be pleased with.—35 miles.
The 13th. The 20 miles to Rouen, the same features. First view of Rouen sudden and striking; but the road doubling, in order to turn more gently down the hill, presents from an elbow the finest view of a town I have ever seen; the whole city, with all its churches and convents, and its cathedral proudly rising in the midst, fills the vale. The river presents one reach, crossed by the bridge, and then dividing into two fine channels, forms a large island covered with wood; the rest of the vale of verdure and cultivation, of gardens and habitations, finish the scene, in perfect unison with the great city that forms the capital feature. Wait on Mons. d'Ambournay, secretary of the society of agriculture, who was absent when I was here before; we had an interesting conversation on agriculture, and on the means of encouraging it. I found, from this very ingenious gentleman, that his plan of using madder green, which many years ago made so much noise in the agricultural world, is not practised at present any where; but he continues to think it perfectly practicable. In the evening to the play, where Madame Cretal, from Paris, acted Nina; and it proved the richest treat I have received from the French theatre. She performed it with an inimitable expression, with a tenderness, a naivetè, and an elegance withal, that mastered every feeling of the heart, against which the piece was written: her expression is as delicious, as her countenance is beautiful; in her acting, nothing overcharged, but all kept within the simplicity of nature. The house was crouded, garlands of flowers and laurel were thrown on the stage, and she was crowned by the other actors, but modestly removed them from her head, as often as they were placed there.—20 miles.
The 14th. Take the road to Dieppe. Meadows in the vale well watered, and hay now making. Sleep at Tote.*99—17½ miles.
The 15th. To Dieppe. I was lucky enough to find the passage-boat ready to sail; go on board with my faithful sure-footed blind friend. I shall probably never ride her again, but all my feelings prevent my selling her in France.—Without eyes she has carried me in safety above 1,500 miles; and for the rest of her life she shall have no other master than myself; could I afford it, this should be her last labour: some ploughing, however, on my farm, she will perform for me, I dare say cheerfully.
Landing at the neat, new-built town of Brighthelmston, offers a much greater contrast to Dieppe, which is old and dirty, than Dover does to Calais; and in the castle inn I seemed for a while to be in fairy land; but I paid for the enchantment. The next day to lord Sheffield's, a house I never go to, but to receive equal pleasure and instruction. I longed to make one for a few days in the evening library circle, but I took it strangely into my head, from one or two expressions, merely accidental, in the conversation, coming after my want of letters to France, that I had certainly lost a child in my absence; and I hurried to London next morning, where I had the pleasure of finding my alarm a false one, letters enough had been written, but all failed. To Bradfield.—202 miles.
Notes for this chapter
(Pas de Calais.)
Aire-sur-la-Lys (Pas de Calais).
Lillers (Pas de Calais).
Béthune (Pas de Calais).
Arras (Pas de Calais).
Ancient Benedictine abbey of St. Vaast, now appropriated to the bishop's palace, seminary, museum, and public library.
Passed on the railway from Rouen to Amiens (Seine Inférieure).
Aumale, the ancient Albemarle (Seine Inférieure).
Neufchâtel, anciently a fortress (Seine Inférieure).
(Seine Inférieure.) A very different impression is now made on the traveller by the French Manchester, one of the handsomest provincial towns in France. It is odd that so many-sided an observer should have halted at Rouen without a souvenir of Jeanne d' Arc.
On the railway from Rouen to Havre (Seine Inférieure)
Yvetot (Seine Inférieure).
Bolbec-Nointat, station, omnibus to Bolbec. There is a river of the same name.
Le Hâvre (Seine Inférieure).
The harbour consists now of the Avant-port, or tidal harbour and eight floating docks.
Dicquemare (Jacques Francois), 1733-1789, a distinguished naturalist and astronomer.
Probably Slavers. See for particulars of this horrible traffic, E. Souvestre's "En Bretagne," p. 166. The Convention in 1794 abolished slavery throughout the French dominions, prohibited slave-dealing, and granted full civil rights to negroes. Napoleon I. (1802) re-established slavery and slave-dealing, and it remained for the second republic to undo his work in 1848.—See Lalanne's "Dict. Hist. De la France."
Pont l'Evêque (Calvados).
La vallée d'Auge, celebrated for its pastures (Calvados).
A suburb of Falaise (Calvados).
The church of St. Etienne, or the Abbaye aux Hommes.
The château de Fontaine-Henri, a few miles from Caen, built in the early part of sixteenth century, interior not shown to strangers.
Here is entered the peninsula of the Cotentin (Manche).
The toise, measure of six feet.
The famous breakwater or digue of Cherbourg was not completed till our own time at a cost of two and a half millions sterling, fifty years' labour and four million cubic feet of stone. The area enclosed by the digue amounts to 1,000 hectares
Archipelago of Chausey.
Pontorson, on the branch railway from Vitré (Manche).
Dol (Ille and Vilaine).
(Ille and Vilaine.)
Chateaubriand, the writer, spent part of his childhood here. In his "Mémoires d' outre Tombe," he often recurs to the scenes amid which his youth was passed.
Hédé (Ille and Vilaine).
The count de Blossac, after whom the promenade of Poitiers is called.
(Ille and Vilaine.)
Mountauban-de-Bretagne (Ille and Vilaine).
See, for an account of the extraordinary progress in Brittany, the contributions of M. H. Bandrillart, of the Institut, to the "Revue des deux Mondes," Oct. 15, Nov. 15, 1884.
Broons (Côtes du Nord).
(Côtes du Nord.)
(Côtes du Nord.)
(Côtes du Nord.)
Chateaulandrin (Côtes du Nord).
Belle-Isle-Bégard (Côtes du Nord).
The Léonnais of which St. Pol de Léon was formerly capital (Finistère).
Tréguier (Côtes du Nord).
Quimper and Quimperle (Finistère) are beautifully situated and possess beautiful churches.
Belle-lle-en-Mer (Morbihan), the most important island of the department, and well cultivated.
The isles of Hœdic and Honat (Le Canard and Le Camelot).
Lauvergnae (Loire Inférieure), now the seat of M. de Mondoret; it is passed on the way from Guérande to St. Nazaire.
Afterwards General of Division of the Republican armies in Belgium and La Vendée, died 1793.
St. Nazaire (Loire Inférieure).
Savenay (Loire Inférieure), here took place the final dispersion of the Vendean army.
The island of Indret is evidently meant, the great State factory of arms at the present day.
It wanted no great spirit of prophecy to foretell this; but latter events have shewn that I was very wide of the mark when I talked of fifty years.—Author's Note.
Twelve Breton gentlemen deputed to Versailles with a denunciation of the ministers for their suspension of provincial parliaments. They were at once sent to the Bastille. It was this war of the king and the parliaments that brought about the assembly of the States-General, the step being decided on by the assembly of Grenoble, July 21, 1788. See II. Martin, vol. xvi., p 608, et seq.
Ancenis (Loire Inférieure).
St. Georges-sur-Loire (Maine and Loire).
Durtal (Maine and Loire). This Château still exists, partly restored. It belonged to the two Marshals Schomberg.
Turbilly (Maine and Loire). This Château, XVIIth. Cent., still exists, and is in possession of the De Broc family.
This writer would appear to be the translator of Count Gyllenborg's "Elements of Husbandry," 1770, and spoken of in no polite terms as "Agriculture Mills" in a letter from John Gray to Smollett, 1771. Mills also translated Virgils "Georgies," 1780.
Kaolin was discovered in France in 1760. The magnificent beds near Limoges were discovered by the wife of a country doctor in 1768.
La Guierche (Sarthe).
Broglie (Eure). This château still exists.
Suburb of Paris; the calcined gypsum referred to is now known as "Plaster of Paris."
The miles from Rouen on the Amiens railway (ibid).
Pont de l'Arche, Junction Station.
One of the principal cloth manufacturing towns of France (Eure).
The old château de Bizy was replaced in 1866 by a new building in the style of Louis XIV.
This château has been reconstructed, parts of the ancient building remaining. It still belongs to the family of La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt.
Author of "Voyage à Madagascar et aux Indes Orientales," died 1817.
I once knew it at the duc de Liancourt's.—Author's Note.
Tôtes (Seine Inférieure).
End of Notes
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