« PreviousContinue »
Or something of the kind; grow fat and ruddy,
And kiss the dairy-maid. Who would be miners ? Reader. Far be their rail-roads from this quiet spot,
Cutting its heart through ;-far that anti-farness,
Thus uttereth my companion his benign
But we must love thee after dinner.
(To be continued.)
A PROGRESS THROUGH THE CITIES OF THE LOIRE
AND THE SEINE.
BY AN OCCASIONAL CONTRIBUTOR.
Our medical advisers had come to the conclusion that, with a view to the restoration of health, a residence in a more congenial climate than that of England was absolutely necessary for us; and they recommended that of Touraine as probably the most suitable. "To their decision, so far, we yielded, but felt qualified to fix for ourselves the way we should take to arrive at our destination, as well as to consult our comfort and inclinations in regard to the speed at which we should travel.
The well-beaten tracks by way of Calais, or by Boulogne and Rheims, we had repeatedly travelled; and even when possessed of novelty, they are sufficiently devoid of interest. It occurred to us that to go through part of Brittany would not carry us far out of our way, and that the object of our journey might be slowly accomplished, without fatigue, by joining the Loire at Angers, and loitering along her banks as our fancy might lead us. With health improved we returned to England, by Paris and the Seine. This route affords more variety than those usually chosen by English travellers, while the beauty of the scenery, and the exciting historical interest of the cities through which it leads, --with the complete facilities for performing the journey, -renders it very preferable to that through any other part of France. And if this short preface does not deter the reader from a perusal of our rapid and imperfect sketch of it, we are not without the hope that, if he has any intention of visiting France, he may be induced to adopt a course from which we ourselves experienced much both of personal benefit and mental gratification.
We had a fine evening to sail from Southampton, and the steamer being a fast one, we reached Jersey about eleven o'clock next morning ; and in half an hour proceeded in the same packet to St. Malo, where we arrived in time for the table d'hôte of the Hotel de France.
St. Malo is a curious old town, surrounded by a complete rampart, which at one time rendered it a place of strength and security, and now forms an enchanting promenade for the inhabitants. But there is no other object of interest, except the old church, for the Hotel de Ville and Palais de Justice are sufficiently common-place. At St. Servan, to which it is practicable to walk across the sands at low
water, there is a colony of English. The living is cheap; but the English society there is not considered desirable; and, perhaps from this very cause, we understand that access to the best portion of the French families at St. Servan is not easily obtained. St. Malo is a place both of historical and traditional interest. The appearance of the Bretons differs
that of the people of every other part of France. The men are, for the most part, rather well formed and possessed of considerable intelligence of expression; but the women are “hard-favoured " in the extreme. Their dress is peculiar to themselves; and in this part of Brittany it varies from the common blouse to the calf or sheep-sb:
frock, worn with the hair outside. They have large wooden shoes ; while a broad-brimmed black hat, with red and blue ribands, is in pretty general use in full costume. The women appear to strive after a variety of colours, and their dresses fit close and ungracefully to the person. But their head-gear, especially the bonnette du cocque, is coquettish and picturesque. Like the Swiss dresses, however, those of Brittany would be seen to the greatest advantage at a bal costumé. There is a considerable American and East Indian trade at St. Malo; but the town is devoid of attraction as a place of residence for foreigners. The streets are ill cleaned ; and what either Mrs. Trollope or Dr. James Johnstone so well designates the “smell of the Continent,” is nowhere to be met with of a more decided character. The perpetual screeching of parrots too-these noisy birds forming, it would appear, an indispensable part of every household—were it not for its absurdity, would, for a time, prove quite irksome to strangers.
During the sail up the Rance, from St. Malo to Dinan, there is a constant variety in the scenery as you advance; for although the river is narrow, it takes several turns, widening occasionally into prettily wooded bays, and at one part it spreads itself quite into the form and extent of a lake, while picturesque villas occasionally appear amongst the trees on its banks. It was evening when we were on the Rance; and the fishermen dragging their nets in their own primitive fashion, while the boats moved dreamily along, with their white sails spread to the gentle breeze, imparted enough of life to the scene. On nearing what is called “ the Port,” the view of the town, with its spires and surrounding villas, placed on striking situations upon the rising ground above, had a very pleasant effect. After leaving the steam-boat we had a circuitous walk up-hill, before reaching the town. There are no conveyances of any kind in Dinan; but, with the assistance of a portion of the sex from whom it becomes not the lords of the creation to exact labour of that description, we succeeded in getting our luggage conveyed to the Hotel de Commerce. Indeed, the women of this part of Brittany do their share of work from which in other parts of France they are exempted. And albeit there was nothing in the ungainly presence of the dames so employed on this occasion to excite our sympathy, we nevertheless felt quite provoked to see them making fast the steamer to her moorings and landing the luggage, while the men did little more than look on and give them directions. We have seldom seen a prettier little town than Dinan; some of the houses, with their pointed roofs, have the appearance of great antiquity; and the towers of St. Julian, and others on the ramparts, aid in giving a picturesque effect to the place. From the commanding position of Dinan, it was formerly a constant scene of strife between France and Brittany. It was successfully besieged by William the Conqueror; and was more than once reduced to ashes during the frequent and long continued struggles of the Bretons for their liberty and independence. But modern improvements have occurred at Dinan. The Mall is a delightful promenade for the inhabitants; and the principal place, or square, presents a gay scene on those evenings when music is in attendance. The Mineral Wells, however, are the great attraction to Dinan. They are situated at an easy walking distance from the town, and the way leading to them is of extreme beauty. At these baths there is a salon, with an orchestra, where the inhabitants, French and English, meet for their fêtes and amusements, which are of constant occurrence during the summer months. The fine surrounding country is studded with villas and chateaus; and as house-rent is moderate, and living still
decidedly cheap, we rather marvel that there is not even a larger English colony at Dinan than at present exists. But in case our reader happens to be a bachelor, it is perhaps right to hint that it is an unsafe place for one of his fraternity, should he be of large susceptibility and small fortune. For in those same walks and dancing parties—not to mention the pic-nics in the adjoining woods,
- he must so repeatedly have to encounter the many really pretty and amiable English girls who then and there congregate, that probably he will not long have either the wish or the power to avoid the fascinations of one or other of them. In general, too, it is remarked that the incomes of the English families at Dinan bear a most inconvenient disproportion to their size ; and so unmercenary are the young ladies, that if a man proposes, who is not personally obnoxious, and with a bare sufficiency for an existence, there is a miserably small chance of a refusal keeping him in that single state which Miss Martineau would probably, under the circumstances, consider most consistent with prudence. Notwithstanding this, perhaps, excusable joke, illustrative of the little we saw of the state of society at Dinan, we left it with regret, and a wish to return again, even at the hazard of losing our freedom.
A five hours' drive in the diligence brought us to Rennes, through a district of great fertility. It is quite a corn country, finely wooded, and so well inclosed and subdivided, and the prospects so wide and verdant, as to remind us of the finest parts of England, while it has besides an unquestionable advantage in point of climate.
Rennes is a large town, and was formerly the capital of Brittany : but though of great antiquity, its appearance bears few characteristics of an early age, for the old streets have made way for new ones, and the few public buildings are mostly of modern erection. The Hotel de Ville and the Salle de Spectacle are commodious; the Palais de Justice is a fine building; and there is a church, (the saint to whom it is dedicated we omitted to note,) the principal elevation of which was long since erected, although the structure is now only in the course of completion, which we think one of the finest of the Italian order in France. The Public Library contains many illuminated manuscripts, said to be of great value. But the pictures at the Hotel de Ville are, with the exception of an inferior Reubens, utterly unworthy of inspection. The public walks of Mont-Thaber present pleasing views of the surrounding country, and are in themselves fine. There is also a good Jardin des Plantes. The magistrates have, however, committed a ludicrous blunder in erecting a superb fountain in a situation to which they were too late in discovering that water could not be forced. Great alterations have taken place at Rennes; but the dilapidated state of the suburbs, on the side of the town by which we entered it, makes an impression on a stranger so unfavourable that it requires some days to efface it.
We have closely observed the people of Brittany in the country as well as in the towns, and with this object have mixed with the peasantry at some of their large markets; but with every wish, it may be supposed, to do them justice, we have been forced to the conclusion that the Bretons are in a low state of civilization.
As a consequence of ignorance, they are highly superstitious, and they are said to be, at the same time, extremely vindictive. sonal appearance the men of Brittany are tall and generally well formed; but the women, from constant hard labour and exposure to the extreme changes of the atmosphere, present, generally, a most unprepossessing exterior. In some districts the Gaelic only is spoken ; and a farmer and his male servants eat out of one and the same trencher, while the women are only allowed to partake when the male portion of the household have finished their meal. A coarse porridge, with milk and chestnuts, form the staple articles of food; and amongst the lowest class of these country labourers, knives and forks are altogether dispensed with; and in contemplating a group of them seated in their filthy dwelling, with their persons and clothes unwashed-looking, and their hair clotted together for lack of combing and the limpid stream, it cannot but create a feeling of surprise that the people of Brittany should have been likened to the Irish, who, with all their faults, are a generous, warm-hearted, and a quickwitted people,—or to the Scotch, who, whatever they may have been a century ago, are now the best educated peasantry in Europe. Public schools have been established in various parts of Brittany, which, in the course of time, will be productive of good; and efforts are being made to bring the adults to abandon their habits of intoxication. But more has been done towards this desirable object by some satirical ballads, published on the subject by their native minstrels, than by all the lessons of their priests. The government is now alive, however, to the duty of doing something for their moral and physical improvement; and from what we learn, some reform has already taken place in their general demeanour. But take the Bretons as they are at the present day-stripped of that interest and romance with which history and their legends and primitive peculiarities envelope them—in manly virtue and intelligence they will be found to be a full century behind the people of other parts of France.
The country passed through on the road from Rennes to Chateaubriandt is rich and varied in landscape. We remained a day at the latter place, so that we had leisure to examine the remains of the fine old baronial castle, to visit the church, and to take a ramble through the adjoining fields. The surrounding country, as seen from the chateau, is wide in extent, highly cultivated, and studded with hou ses, which, according to the almost invariable custom in France, being either of white sandstone, or so painted, form a fine contrast in a wooded district. The first part of the journey to Angers we had to perform during the night; but when the morning dawned, the prospect it presented to us was similar in character to the first part of the journey from Rennes. As we approached Angers, the ponderous towers of the Castle became visible in their dark and solemn grandeur, and we soon thereafter found ourselves at the Hotel de