A Little Tour In France
Henry James

Part 1 out of 5

This etext was prepared by Nigel Lacey, Leicestershire, UK.
Email comments to: laceynr@hotmail.com

A Little Tour In France

by Henry James,

We good Americans - I say it without presumption
- are too apt to think that France is Paris, just as we
are accused of being too apt to think that Paris is the
celestial city. This is by no means the case, fortun-
ately for those persons who take an interest in modern
Gaul, and yet are still left vaguely unsatisfied by that
epitome of civilization which stretches from the Arc
de Triomphe to the Gymnase theatre. It had already
been intimated to the author of these light pages that
there are many good things in the _doux pays de France_
of which you get no hint in a walk between those
ornaments of the capital; but the truth had been re-
vealed only in quick-flashing glimpses, and he was
conscious of a desire to look it well in the face. To
this end he started, one rainy morning in mid-Septem-
ber, for the charming little city of Tours, from which
point it seemed possible to make a variety of fruitful
excursions. His excursions resolved themselves ulti-
mately into a journey through several provinces, - a
journey which had its dull moments (as one may defy
any journey not to have), but which enabled him to feel
that his proposition was demonstrated. France may
be Paris, but Paris is not France; that was perfectly
evident on the return to the capital.

I must not speak, however, as if I had discovered
the provinces. They were discovered, or at least re-
vealed by BaIzac, if by any one, and are now easily
accessible to visitors. It is true, I met no visitors, or
only one or two, whom it was pleasant to meet.
Throughout my little tour I was almost the only tourist.
That is perhaps one reason why it was so successful.


I am ashamed to begin with saying that Touraine
is the garden of France; that remark has long ago lost
its bloom. The town of Tours, however, has some
thing sweet and bright, which suggests that it is sur-
rounded by a land of fruits. It is a very agreeable
little city; few towns of its size are more ripe, more
complete, or, I should suppose, in better humor with
themselves and less disposed to envy the responsibili-
ties of bigger places. It is truly the capital of its smil-
ing province; a region of easy abundance, of good
living, of genial, comfortable, optimistic, rather indolent
opinions. Balzac says in one of his tales that the real
Tourangeau will not make an effort, or displace him-
self even, to go in search of a pleasure; and it is not
difficult to understand the sources of this amiable
cynicism. He must have a vague conviction that he
can only lose by almost any change. Fortune has
been kind to him: he lives in a temperate, reasonable,
sociable climate, on the banks, of a river which, it is
true, sometimes floods the country around it, but of
which the ravages appear to be so easily repaired that
its aggressions may perhaps be regarded (in a region
where so many good things are certain) merely as an
occasion for healthy suspense. He is surrounded by
fine old traditions, religious, social, architectural, culi-
nary; and he may have the satisfaction of feeling that
he is French to the core. No part of his admirable
country is more characteristically national. Normandy
is Normandy, Burgundy is Burgundy, Provence is Pro-
vence; but Touraine is essentially France. It is the
land of Rabelais, of Descartes, of Balzac, of good
books and good company, as well as good dinners and
good houses. George Sand has somewhere a charm-
ing passage about the mildness, the convenient quality,
of the physical conditions of central France, - "son
climat souple et chaud, ses pluies abondantes et courtes."
In the autumn of 1882 the rains perhaps were less
short than abundant; but when the days were fine it
was impossible that anything in the way of weather
could be more charming. The vineyards and orchards
looked rich in the fresh, gay light; cultivation was
everywhere, but everywhere it seemed to be easy.
There was no visible poverty; thrift and success pre-
sented themselves as matters of good taste. The white
caps of the women glittered in the sunshire, and their
well-made sabots clicked cheerfully on the hard, clean
roads. Touraine is a land of old chateaux, - a gallery
of architectural specimens and of large hereditary pro-
perties. The peasantry have less of the luxury of
ownership than in most other parts of France; though
they have enough of it to give them quite their share
of that shrewdly conservative look which, in the little,
chaffering, _place_ of the market-town, the stranger ob-
serves so often in the wrinkled brown masks that sur-
mount the agricultural blouse. This is, moreover, the
heart of the old French monarchy; and as that monarchy
was splendid and picturesque, a reflection of the splen-
dor still glitters in the current of the Loire. Some of
the most striking events of French history have occurred
on the banks of that river, and the soil it waters
bloomed for a while with the flowering of the Renais-
sance. The Loire gives a great "style" to a landscape
of which the features are not, as the phrase is, promi-
nent, and carries the eye to distances even more poetic
than the green horizons of Touraine. It is a very fit-
ful stream, and is sometimes observed to run thin and
expose all the crudities of its channel, - a great defect
certainly in a river which is so much depended upon
to give an air to the places it waters. But I speak of
it as I saw it last; full, tranquil, powerful, bending in
large slow curves, and sending back half the light of
the sky. Nothing can be finer than the view of its
course which you get from the battlements and ter-
races of Amboise. As I looked down on it from that
elevation one lovely Sunday morning, through a mild
glitter of autumn sunshine, it seemed the very model
of a generous, beneficent stream. The most charming
part of Tours is naturally the shaded quay that over-
looks it, and looks across too at the friendly faubourg
of Saint Symphorien and at the terraced heights which
rise above this. Indeed, throughout Touraine, it is
half the charm of the Loire that you can travel beside
it. The great dike which protects it, or, protects the
country from it, from Blois to Angers, is an admirable
road; and on the other side, as well, the highway con-
stantly keeps it company. A wide river, as you follow
a wide road, is excellent company; it heightens and
shortens the way.

The inns at Tours are in another quarter, and one
of them, which is midway between the town and the
station, is very good. It is worth mentioning for the
fact that every one belonging to it is extraordinarily
polite, - so unnaturally polite as at first to excite your
suspicion that the hotel has some hidden vice, so that
the waiters and chambermaids are trying to pacify
you in advance. There was one waiter in especial who
was the most accomplished social being I have ever
encountered; from morning till night he kept up an
inarticulate murmur of urbanity, like the hum of a
spinning-top. I may add that I discovered no dark
secrets at the Hotel de l'Univers; for it is not a secret
to any traveller to-day that the obligation to partake
of a lukewarm dinner in an overheated room is as
imperative as it is detestable. For the rest, at Tours,
there is a certain Rue Royale which has pretensions
to the monumental; it was constructed a hundred
years ago, and the houses, all alike, have on a
moderate scale a pompous eighteenth-century look. It
connects the Palais de Justice, the most important
secular building in the town, with the long bridge
which spans the Loire, - the spacious, solid bridge
pronounced by Balzac, in "Le Cure de Tours," "one of
the finest monuments of French architecture." The
Palais de Justice was the seat of the Government of
Leon Gambetta in the autumn of 1870, after the
dictator had been obliged to retire in his balloon from
Paris, and before the Assembly was constituted at
Bordeaux. The Germans occupied Tours during that
terrible winter; it is astonishing, the number of
places the Germans occupied. It is hardly too much
to say that wherever one goes in, certain parts of
France, one encounters two great historic facts: one
is the Revolution; the other is the German invasion.
The traces of the Revolution remain in a hundred
scars and bruises and mutilations, but the visible
marks of the war of 1870 have passed away. The
country is so rich, so living, that she has been able to
dress her wounds, to hold up her head, to smile again;
so that the shadow of that darkness has ceased to rest
upon her. But what you do not see you still may
hear; and one remembers with a certain shudder that
only a few short years ago this province, so intimately
French, was under the heel of a foreign foe. To be
intimately French was apparently not a safeguard; for
so successful an invader it could only be a challenge.
Peace and plenty, however, have succeeded that
episode; and among the gardens and vineyards of
Touraine it seems, only a legend the more in a country
of legends.

It was not, all the same, for the sake of this check-
ered story that I mentioned the Palais de Justice and
the Rue Royale. The most interesting fact, to my
mind, about the high-street of Tours was that as you
walked toward the bridge on the right-hand _trottoir_
you can look up at the house, on the other side of
the way, in which Honore de Balzac first saw the
light. That violent and complicated genius was a
child of the good-humored and succulent Touraine.
There is something anomalous in the fact, though, if
one thinks about it a little, one may discover certain
correspondences between his character and that of his
native province. Strenuous, laborious, constantly in
felicitous in spite of his great successes, he suggests
at times a very different set of influences. But he had
his jovial, full-feeding side, - the side that comes out
in the "Contes Drolatiques," which are the romantic
and epicurean chronicle of the old manors and abbeys
of this region. And he was, moreover, the product
of a soil into which a great deal of history had been
trodden. Balzac was genuinely as well as affectedly
monarchical, and he was saturated with, a sense of the
past. Number 39 Rue Royale - of which the base
ment, like all the basements in the Rue Royale, is
occupied by a shop - is not shown to the public; and
I know not whether tradition designates the chamber
in which the author of "Le Lys dans la Vallee"
opened his eyes into a world in which he was to see
and to imagine such extraordinary things. If this
were the case, I would willingly have crossed its
threshold; not for the sake of any relic of the great
novelist which it may possibly contain, nor even for
that of any mystic virtue which may be supposed to
reside within its walls, but simply because to look at
those four modest walls can hardly fail to give one a
strong impression of the force of human endeavour.
Balzac, in the maturity of his vision, took in more of
human life than any one, since Shakspeare, who has
attempted to tell us stories about it; and the very
small scene on which his consciousness dawned is one
end of the immense scale that he traversed. I confess
it shocked me a little to find that he was born in a
house "in a row," - a house, moreover, which at the
date of his birth must have been only about twenty
years old. All that is contradictory. If the tenement
selected for this honour could not be ancient and em-
browned, it should at least have been detached.

There is a charming description, in his little tale
of "La Grenadiere," of the view of the opposite side
of the Loire as you have it from the square at the end
of the Rue Royale, - a square that has some preten-
sions to grandeur, overlooked as it is by the Hotel de
Ville and the Musee, a pair of edifices which directly
contemplate the river, and ornamented with marble
images of Francois Rabelais and Rene Descartes.
The former, erected a few years since, is a very honor-
able production; the pedastal of the latter could, as
a matter of course, only be inscribed with the _Cogito
ergo Sum._ The two statues mark the two opposite
poles to which the brilliant French mind has travelled;
and if there were an effigy of Balzac at Tours, it ought
to stand midway between them. Not that he, by any
means always struck the happy mean between the
sensible and the metaphysical; but one may say of
him that half of his genius looks in one direction
and half in the other. The side that turns toward
Francois Rabelais would be, on the whole, the side
that takes the sun. But there is no statue of Balzac
at Tours; there is only, in one of the chambers of
the melancholy museum, a rather clever, coarse bust.
The description in "La Grenadiere," of which I just
spoke, is too long to quote; neither have I space for
any one of the brilliant attempts at landscape paint-
ing which are woven into the shimmering texture of
"Le Lys dans la Vallee." The little manor of Cloche-
gourde, the residence of Madame de Mortsauf, the
heroine of that extraordinary work, was within a
moderate walk of Tours, and the picture in the novel is
presumably a copy from an original which it would be
possible to-day to discover. I did not, however, even
make the attempt. There are so many chateaux in
Touraine commemorated in history, that it would take
one too far to look up those which have been com-
memorated in fiction. The most I did was to endeavor
to identify the former residence of Mademoiselle
Gamard, the sinister old maid of "Le Cure de Tours."
This terrible woman occupied a small house in the
rear of the cathedral, where I spent a whole morning
in wondering rather stupidly which house it could be.
To reach the cathedral from the little _place_ where we
stopped just now to look across at the Grenadiere,
without, it must be confessed, very vividly seeing it,
you follow the quay to the right, and pass out of sight
of the charming _coteau_ which, from beyond the river,
faces the town, - a soft agglomeration of gardens, vine-
yards, scattered villas, gables and turrets of slate-
roofed chateaux, terraces with gray balustrades, moss-
grown walls draped in scarlet Virginia-creeper. You
turn into the town again beside a great military
barrack which is ornamented with a rugged mediaeval
tower, a relic of the ancient fortifications, known to
the Tourangeaux of to-day as the Tour de Guise.
The young Prince of Joinville, son of that Duke of
Guise who was murdered by the order of Henry II. at
Blois, was, after the death of his father, confined here
for more than two years, but made his escape one
summer evening in 1591, under the nose of his keepers,
with a gallant audacity which has attached the memory
of the exploit to his sullen-looking prison. Tours has
a garrison of five regiments, and the little red-legged
soldiers light up the town. You see them stroll upon
the clean, uncommercial quay, where there are no
signs of navigation, not even by oar, no barrels nor
bales, no loading nor unloading, no masts against the
sky nor booming of steam in the air. The most active
business that goes on there is that patient and fruitless
angling in, which the French, as the votaries of art for
art, excel all other people. The little soldiers, weighed
down by the contents of their enormous pockets, pass
with respect from one of these masters of the rod to
the other,as he sits soaking an indefinite bait in the
large, indifferent stream. After you turn your back to
the quay you have only to go a little way before you
reach the cathedral.


It is a very beautiful church of the second order
of importance, with a charming mouse-colored com-
plexion and a pair of fantastic towers. There is a
commodious little square in front of it, from which
you may look up at its very ornamental face; but for
purposes of frank admiration the sides and the rear
are perhaps not sufficiently detached. The cathedral
of Tours, which is dedicated to Saint Gatianus, took
a long time to build. Begun in 1170, it was finished
only in the first half of the sixteenth century; but the
ages and the weather have interfused so well the tone
of the different parts, that it presents, at first at least,
no striking incongruities, and looks even exception-
ally harmonious and complete. There are many
grander cathedrals, but there are probably few more
pleasing; and this effect of delicacy and grace is at
its best toward the close of a quiet afternoon, when the
densely decorated towers, rising above the little Place
de l'Archeveche, lift their curious lanterns into the
slanting light, and offer a multitudinous perch to
troops of circling pigeons. The whole front, at such
a time, has an appearance of great richness, although
the niches which surround the three high doors (with
recesses deep enough for several circles of sculpture)
and indent the four great buttresses that ascend beside
the huge rose-window, carry no figures beneath their
little chiselled canopies. The blast of the great Revo-
lution blew down most of the statues in France, and
the wind has never set very strongly toward putting
them up again. The embossed and crocketed cupolas
which crown the towers of Saint Gatien are not very
pure in taste; but, like a good many impurities, they
have a certain character. The interior has a stately
slimness with which no fault is to be found, and
which in the choir, rich in early glass and surrounded
by a broad passage, becomes very bold and noble.
Its principal treasure, perhaps, is the charming little tomb
of the two children (who died young) of Charles VIII. and
Anne of Brittany, in white marble, embossed with sym-
bolic dolphins and exquisite arabesques. The little
boy and girl lie side by side on a slab of black marble,
and a pair of small kneeling angels, both at their head
and at their feet, watch over them. Nothing could be
more perfect than this monument, which is the work
of Michel Colomb, one of the earlier glories of the
French Renaissance; it is really a lesson in good taste.
Originally placed in the great abbey-church of Saint
Martin, which was for so many ages the holy place of
Tours, it happily survived the devastation to which
that edifice, already sadly shattered by the wars of
religion and successive profanations, finally succumbed
in 1797. In 1815 the tomb found an asylum in a
quiet corner of the cathedral.

I ought, perhaps, to be ashamed to acknowledge,
that I found the profane name of Balzac capable of
adding an interest even to this venerable sanctuary.
Those who have read the terrible little story of "Le
Cure de Tours" will perhaps remember that, as I
have already mentioned, the simple and childlike old
Abbe Birotteau, victim of the infernal machinations
of the Abbe Troubert and Mademoiselle Gamard, had
his quarters in the house of that lady (she had a
speciality of letting lodgings to priests), which stood
on the north side of the cathedral, so close under its
walls that the supporting pillar of one of the great
flying buttresses was planted in the spinster's garden.
If you wander round behind the church, in search of
this more than historic habitation, you will have oc-
casion to see that the side and rear of Saint Gatien
make a delectable and curious figure. A narrow lane
passes beside the high wall which conceals from sight
the palace of the archbishop, and beneath the flying
buttresses, the far-projecting gargoyles, and the fine
south porch of the church. It terminates in a little,
dead, grass-grown square entitled the Place Gregoire
de Tours. All this part of the exterior of the cathe-
dral is very brown, ancient, Gothic, grotesque; Balzac
calls the whole place "a desert of stone." A battered
and gabled wing, or out-house (as it appears to be)
of the hidden palace, with a queer old stone pulpit
jutting out from it, looks down on this melancholy
spot, on the other side of which is a seminary for
young priests, one of whom issues from a door in a
quiet corner, and, holding it open a moment behind
him, shows a glimpse of a sunny garden, where you
may fancy other black young figures strolling up and
down. Mademoiselle Gamard's house, where she took
her two abbes to board, and basely conspired with
one against the other, is still further round the cathe-
dral. You cannot quite put your hand upon it to-
day, for the dwelling which you say to yourself that
it _must_ have been Mademoiselle Gamard's does not
fulfil all the conditions mentioned in BaIzac's de-
scription. The edifice in question, however, fulfils con-
ditions enough; in particular, its little court offers
hospitality to the big buttress of the church. Another
buttress, corresponding with this (the two, between
them, sustain the gable of the north transept), is
planted in the small cloister, of which the door on the
further side of the little soundless Rue de la Psalette,
where nothing seems ever to pass, opens opposite to
that of Mademoiselle Gamard. There is a very genial
old sacristan, who introduced me to this cloister from
the church. It is very small and solitary, and much
mutilated; but it nestles with a kind of wasted friend-
liness beneath the big walls of the cathedral. Its
lower arcades have been closed, and it has a small
plot of garden in the middle, with fruit-trees which I
should imagine to be too much overshadowed. In
one corner is a remarkably picturesque turret, the
cage of a winding staircase which ascends (no great
distance) to an upper gallery, where an old priest, the
_chanoine-gardien_ of the church, was walking to and fro
with his breviary. The turret, the gallery, and even
the chanoine-gardien, belonged, that sweet September
morning, to the class of objects that are dear to paint-
ers in water-colors.


I have mentioned the church of Saint Martin,
which was for many years the sacred spot, the shrine
of pilgrimage, of Tours. Originally the simple burial-
place of the great apostle who in the fourth century
Christianized Gaul, and who, in his day a brilliant
missionary and worker of miracles, is chiefly known
to modem fame as the worthy that cut his cloak in
two at the gate of Amiens to share it with a beggar
(tradition fails to say, I believe, what he did with the
other half), the abbey of Saint Martin, through the
Middle Ages, waxed rich and powerful, till it was
known at last as one of the most luxurious religious
houses in Christendom, with kings for its titular ab-
bots (who, like Francis I., sometimes turned and
despoiled it) and a great treasure of precious things.
It passed, however, through many vicissitudes. Pillaged
by the Normans in the ninth century and by the
Huguenots in the sixteenth, it received its death-blow
from the Revolution, which must have brought to
bear upon it an energy of destruction proportionate
to its mighty bulk. At the end of the last century
a huge group of ruins alone remained, and what we
see to-day may be called the ruin of a ruin. It is
difficult to understand how so vast an ediface can
have been so completely obliterated. Its site is given
up to several ugly streets, and a pair of tall towers,
separated by a space which speaks volumes as to the
size of the church, and looking across the close-pressed
roofs to the happier spires of the cathedral, preserved
for the modern world the memory of a great fortune,
a great abuse, perhaps, and at all events a great pen-
alty. One may believe that to this day a consider-
able part of the foundations of the great abbey is
buried in the soil of Tours. The two surviving towers,
which are dissimilar in shape, are enormous; with
those of the cathedral they form the great landmarks
of the town. One of them bears the name of the Tour
de l'Horloge; the other, the so-called Tour Charle-
magne, was erected (two centuries after her death)
over the tomb of Luitgarde, wife of the great Em-
peror, who died at Tours in 800. I do not pretend to
understand in what relation these very mighty and
effectually detached masses of masonry stood to each
other, but in their gray elevation and loneliness they
are striking and suggestive to-day; holding their hoary
heads far above the modern life of the town, and
looking sad and conscious, as they had outlived all
uses. I know not what is supposed to have become
of the bones of the blessed saint during the various
scenes of confusion in which they may have got mis-
laid; but a mystic connection with his wonder-working
relics may be perceived in a strange little sanctuary
on the left of the street, which opens in front of the
Tour Charlemagne, - the rugged base of which, by
the way, inhabited like a cave, with a diminutive
doorway, in which, as I passed, an old woman stood
cleaning a pot, and a little dark window decorated
with homely flowers, would be appreciated by a
painter in search of "bits." The present shrine of
Saint Martin is enclosed (provisionally, I suppose) in
a very modem structure of timber, where in a dusky
cellar, to which you descend by a wooden staircase
adorned with votive tablets and paper roses, is placed
a tabernacle surrounded by twinkling tapers and pros-
trate worshippers. Even this crepuscular vault, how-
ever, fails, I think, to attain solemnity; for the whole
place is strangely vulgar and garish. The Catholic
church, as churches go to-day, is certainly the most
spectacular; but it must feel that it has a great fund
of impressiveness to draw upon when it opens such
sordid little shops of sanctity as this. It is impos-
sible not to be struck with the grotesqueness of such
an establishment, as the last link in the chain of a
great ecclesiastical tradition.

In the same street, on the other side, a little below,
is something better worth your visit than the shrine
of Saint Martin. Knock at a high door in a white
wall (there is a cross above it), and a fresh-faced
sister of the convent of the Petit Saint Martin will
let you into the charming little cloister, or rather
fragment of a cloister. Only one side of this exqui-
site structure remains, but the whole place is effective.
In front of the beautiful arcade, which is terribly
bruised and obliterated, is one of those walks of inter-
laced _tilleuls_ which are so frequent in Touraine, and
into which the green light filters so softly through a
lattice of clipped twigs. Beyond this is a garden,
and beyond the garden are the other buildings of the
Convent, - where the placid sisters keep a school, - a
test, doubtless, of placidity. The imperfect arcade,
which dates from the beginning of the sixteenth cen-
tury (I know nothing of it but what is related in Mrs.
Pattison's "Rennaissance in France") is a truly en-
chanting piece of work; the cornice and the angles of
the arches, being covered with the daintiest sculpture
of arabesques, flowers, fruit, medallions, cherubs, griffins,
all in the finest and most attenuated relief. It is like
the chasing of a bracelet in stone. The taste, the
fancy, the elegance, the refinement, are of those things
which revive our standard of the exquisite. Such
a piece of work is the purest flower of the French
Renaissance; there is nothing more delicate in all

There is another fine thing at Tours which is not
particularly delicate, but which makes a great impres-
sion, - the- very interesting old church of Saint Julian,
lurking in a crooked corner at the right of the Rue
Royale, near the point at which this indifferent thorough-
fare emerges, with its little cry of admiration, on the
bank of the Loire. Saint Julian stands to-day in a
kind of neglected hollow, where it is much shut in by
houses; but in the year 1225, when the edifice was
begun, the site was doubtless, as the architects say,
more eligible. At present, indeed, when once you have
caught a glimpse of the stout, serious Romanesque
tower, - which is not high, but strong, - you feel that
the building has something to say, and that you must
stop to listen to it. Within, it has a vast and splendid
nave, of immense height, - the nave of a cathedral, -
with a shallow choir and transepts, and some admir-
able old glass. I spent half an hour there one morn-
ing, listening to what the church had to say, in perfect
solitude. Not a worshipper entered, - not even an old
man with a broom. I have always thought there is a
sex in fine buildings; and Saint Julian, with its noble
nave, is of the gender of the name of its patron.

It was that same morning, I think, that I went in
search of the old houses of Tours; for the town con-
tains several goodly specimens of the domestic archi-
tecture of the past. The dwelling to which the average
Anglo-Saxon will most promptly direct his steps, and
the only one I have space to mention, is the so-called
Maison de Tristan l'Hermite, - a gentleman whom the
readers of "Quentin Durward" will not have forgotten,
- the hangman-in-ordinary to the great King Louis XI.
Unfortunately the house of Tristan is not the house of
Tristan at all; this illusion has been cruelly dispelled.
There are no illusions left, at all, in the good city of
Tours, with regard to Louis XI. His terrible castle of
Plessis, the picture of which sends a shiver through
the youthful reader of Scott, has been reduced to sub-
urban insignificance; and the residence of his _triste
compere,_ on the front of which a festooned rope figures
as a motive for decoration, is observed to have been
erected in the succeeding century. The Maison de
Tristan may be visited for itself, however, if not for
Walter Scott; it is an exceedingly picturesque old
facade, to which you pick your way through a narrow
and tortuous street, - a street terminating, a little be-
yond it, in the walk beside the river. An elegant
Gothic doorway is let into the rusty-red brick-work,
and strange little beasts crouch at the angles of the
windows, which are surmounted by a tall graduated
gable, pierced with a small orifice, where the large
surface of brick, lifted out of the shadow of the street,
looks yellow and faded. The whole thing is disfigured
and decayed; but it is a capital subject for a sketch
in colors. Only I must wish the sketcher better luck
- or a better temper - than my own. If he ring the
bell to be admitted to see the court, which I believe
is more sketchable still, let him have patience to wait
till the bell is answered. He can do the outside while
they are coming.

The Maison de Tristan, I say, may be visited for
itself; but I hardly know what the remnants of Plessis-
les-Tours may be visited for. To reach them you
wander through crooked suburban lanes, down the
course of the Loire, to a rough, undesirable, incon-
gruous spot, where a small, crude building of red
brick is pointed out to you by your cabman (if you
happen to drive) as the romantic abode of a super-
stitious king, and where a strong odor of pigsties and
other unclean things so prostrates you for the moment
that you have no energy to protest against the obvious
fiction. You enter a yard encumbered with rubbish
and a defiant dog, and an old woman emerges from a
shabby lodge and assures you that you are indeed in
an historic place. The red brick building, which looks
like a small factory, rises on the ruins of the favorite
residence of the dreadful Louis. It is now occupied
by a company of night-scavengers, whose huge carts
are drawn up in a row before it. I know not whether
this be what is called the irony of fate; at any rate,
the effect of it is to accentuate strongly the fact (and
through the most susceptible of our senses) that there
is no honor for the authors of great wrongs. The
dreadful Louis is reduced simply to an offence to the
nostrils. The old woman shows you a few fragments,
- several dark, damp, much-encumbered vaults, de-
nominated dungeons, and an old tower staircase,
in good condition. There are the outlines of the old
moat; there is also the outline of the old guard-room,
which is now a stable; and there are other vague out-
lines and inconsequent lumps, which I have forgotten.
You need all your imagination, and even then you
cannot make out that Plessis was a castle of large ex-
tent, though the old woman, as your eye wanders over
the neighboring _potagers,_ talks a good deal about the
gardens and the park. The place looks mean and
flat; and as you drive away you scarcely know whether
to be glad or sorry that all those bristling horrors have
been reduced to the commonplace.

A certain flatness of impression awaits you also, I
think, at Marmoutier, which is the other indisuensable
excursion in the near neighborhood of Tours. The
remains of this famous abbey lie on the other bank of
the stream, about a mile and a half from the town.
You follow the edge of the big brown river; of a fine
afternoon you will be glad to go further still. The
abbey has gone the way of most abbeys; but the place
is a restoration as well as a ruin, inasmuch as the
sisters of the Sacred Heart have erected a terribly
modern convent here. A large Gothic doorway, in a
high fragment of ancient wall, admits you to a garden-
like enclosure, of great extent, from which you are
further introduced into an extraordinarily tidy little
parlor, where two good nuns sit at work. One of these
came out with me, and showed me over the place, -
a very definite little woman, with pointed features, an
intensely distinct enunciation, and those pretty man-
ners which (for whatever other teachings it may be
responsible) the Catholic church so often instils into
its functionaries. I have never seen a woman who had
got her lesson better than this little trotting, murmur-
ing, edifying nun. The interest, of Marmoutier to-day
is not so much an interest of vision, so to speak, as an
interest of reflection, - that is, if you choose to reflect
(for instance) upon the wondrous legend of the seven
sleepers (you may see where they lie in a row), who
lived together - they were brothers and cousins - in
primitive piety, in the sanctuary constructed by the
blessed Saint Martin (emulous of his precursor, Saint
Gatianus), in the face of the hillside that overhung the
Loire, and who, twenty-five years after his death,
yielded up their seven souls at the same moment, and
enjoyed the curious privilege of retaining in their faces,
in spite of this process, the rosy tints of life. The
abbey of Marmoutier, which sprung from the grottos in
the cliff to which Saint Gatianus and Saint Martin re-
tired to pray, was therefore the creation of the latter
worthy, as the other great abbey, in the town proper,
was the monument of his repose. The cliff is still
there; and a winding staircase, in the latest taste, en-
ables you conveniently to explore its recesses. These
sacred niches are scooped out of the rock, and will
give you an impression if you cannot do without one.
You will feel them to be sufficiently venerable when
you learn that the particular pigeon-hole of Saint
Gatianus, the first Christian missionary to Gaul, dates
from the third century. They have been dealt with as
the Catholic church deals with most of such places to-
day; polished and furnished up; labelled and ticketed,
- _edited,_ with notes, in short, like an old book. The
process is a mistake, - the early editions had more
sanctity. The modern buildings (of the Sacred Heart),
on which you look down from these points of vantage,
are in the vulgar taste which seems doomed to stamp
itself on all new Catholic work; but there was never-
theless a great sweetness in the scene. The afternoon
was lovely, and it was flushing to a close. The large
garden stretched beneath us, blooming with fruit and
wine and succulent vegetables, and beyond it flowed
the shining river. The air was still, the shadows were
long, and the place, after all, was full of memories,
most of which might pass for virtuous. It certainly
was better than Plessis-les-Tours.


Your business at Tours is to make excursions; and
if you make them all, you will be very well occupied.
Touraine is rich in antiquities; and an hour's drive
from the town in almost any direction will bring you
to the knowledge of some curious fragment of domestic
or ecclesiastical architecture, some turreted manor,
some lonely tower, some gabled village, or historic
site. Even, however, if you do everything, - which was
not my case, - you cannot hope to relate everything,
and, fortunately for you, the excursions divide them-
selves into the greater and the less. You may achieve
most of the greater in a week or two; but a summer
in Touraine (which, by the way must be a charming
thing) would contain none too many days for the others.
If you come down to Tours from Paris, your best
economy is to spend a few days at Blois, where a
clumsy, but rather attractive little inn, on the edge of
the river, will offer you a certain amount of that
familiar and intermittent hospitality which a few weeks
spent in the French provinces teaches you to regard
as the highest attainable form of accommodation. Such
an economy I was unable to practise. I could only go
to Blois (from Tours) to spend the day; but this feat
I accomplished twice over. It is a very sympathetic
little town, as we say nowadays, and one might easily
resign one's self to a week there. Seated on the north
bank of the Loire, it presents a bright, clean face to
the sun, and has that aspect of cheerful leisure which
belongs to all white towns that reflect, themselves in
shining waters. It is the water-front only of Blois,
however, that exhibits, this fresh complexion; the in-
terior is of a proper brownness, as befits a signally
historic city. The only disappointment I had there
was the discovery that the castle, which is the special
object of one's pilgrimage, does not overhang the river,
as I had always allowed myself to understand. It
overhangs the town, but it is scarcely visible from the
stream. That peculiar good fortune is reserved for
Amboise and Chaurnont.

The Chateau de Blois is one of the most beautiful
and elaborate of all the old royal residences of this
part of France, and I suppose it should have all the
honors of my description. As you cross its threshold,
you step straight into the brilliant movement of the
French Renaissance. But it is too rich to describe, -
I can only touch it here and there. It must be pre-
mised that in speaking of it as one sees it to-day,
one speaks of a monument unsparingly restored. The
work of restoration has been as ingenious as it is pro-
fuse, but it rather chills the imagination. This is
perhaps almost the first thing you feel as you ap-
proach the castle from the streets of the town. These
little streets, as they, leave the river, have pretensions
to romantic steepness; one of them, indeed, which
resolves itself into a high staircase with divergent
wings (the _escalier monumental_), achieved this result
so successfully as to remind me vaguely - I hardly
know why - of the great slope of the Capitol, beside
the Ara Coeli, at Rome. The view of that part of the
castle which figures to-day as the back (it is the only
aspect I had seen reproduced) exhibits the marks of
restoration with the greatest assurance. The long
facade, consisting only of balconied windows deeply
recessed, erects itself on the summit of a considerable
hill, which gives a fine, plunging movement to its
foundations. The deep niches of the windows are all
aglow with color. They have been repainted with red
and blue, relieved with gold figures; and each of them
looks more like the royal box at a theatre than like
the aperture of a palace dark with memories. For all
this, however, and in spite of the fact that, as in some
others of the chateaux of Touraine, (always excepting
the colossal Chambord, which is not in Touraine!)
there is less vastness than one had expected, the least
hospitable aspect of Blois is abundantly impressive.
Here, as elsewhere, lightness and grace are the key-
note; and the recesses of the windows, with their
happy proportions, their sculpture, and their color, are
the empty frames of brilliant pictures. They need
the figure of a Francis I. to complete them, or of a
Diane de Poitiers, or even of a Henry III. The base
of this exquisite structure emerges from a bed of light
verdure, which has been allowed to mass itself there,
and which contributes to the springing look of the
walls; while on the right it joins the most modern
portion of the castle, - the building erected, on founda-
tions of enormous height and solidity, in 1635, by
Gaston d'Orleans. This fine, frigid mansion - the proper
view of it is from the court within - is one of the
masterpieces of Francois Mansard, whom. a kind pro-
vidence did not allow to make over the whole palace
in the superior manner of his superior age. This had
been a part of Gaston's plan, - he was a blunderer
born, and this precious project was worthy of him.
This execution of it would surely have been one of
the great misdeeds of history. Partially performed,
the misdeed is not altogether to be regretted; for as
one stands in the court of the castle, and lets one's
eye wander from the splendid wing of Francis I. -
which is the last work of free and joyous invention -
to the ruled lines and blank spaces of the ponderous
pavilion of Mansard, one makes one's reflections upon
the advantage, in even the least personaI of the arts,
of having something to say, and upon the stupidity of
a taste which had ended by becoming an aggregation
of negatives. Gaston's wing, taken by itself, has much
of the _bel air_ which was to belong to the architecture
of Louis XIV.; but, taken in contrast to its flowering,
laughing, living neighbor, it marks the difference be-
tween inspiration and calculation. We scarcely grudge
it its place, however, for it adds a price to the rest of
the chateau.

We have entered the court, by the way, by jump-
ing over the walls. The more orthodox method is to
follow a modern, terrace, which leads to the left, from
the side of the chateau that I began by speaking of,
and passes round, ascending, to a little square on a
considerably higher level, which is not, like a very
modern square on which the back (as I have called
it) looks out, a thoroughfare. This small, empty _place,_
oblong in form, at once bright and quiet, with a cer-
tain grass-grown look, offers an excellent setting to the
entrance-front of the palace, - the wing of Louis XII.
The restoration here has been lavish; but it was per-
haps but an inevitable reaction against the injuries,
still more lavish, by which the unfortunate building
had long been overwhelmed. It had fallen into a state
of ruinous neglect, relieved only by the misuse pro-
ceeding from successive generations of soldiers, for
whom its charming chambers served as barrack-room.
Whitewashed, mutilated, dishonored, the castle of Blois
may be said to have escaped simply with its life. This
is the history of Amboise as well, and is to a certain
extent the history of Chambord. Delightful, at any
rate, was the refreshed facade of Louis XII. as I stood
and looked at it one bright September morning. In
that soft, clear, merry light of Touraine, everything
shows, everything speaks. Charming are the taste, the
happy proportions, the color of this beautiful front, to
which the new feeling for a purely domestic architec-
ture - an architecture of security and tranquillity, in
which art could indulge itself - gave an air of youth
and gladness. It is true that for a long time to come
the castle of Blois was neither very safe nor very
quiet; but its dangers came from within, from the evil
passions of its inhabitants, and not from siege or in-
vasion. The front of Louis XII. is of red brick, crossed
here and there with purple; and the purple slate of
the high roof, relieved with chimneys beautifully
treated, and with the embroidered caps of pinnacles
and arches, with the porcupine of Louis, the ermine
and the festooned rope which formed the devices of
Anne of Brittany, - the tone of this rich-looking roof
carries out the mild glow of the wall. The wide, fair
windows look as if they had expanded to let in the
rosy dawn of the Renaissance. Charming, for that
matter, are the windows of all the chateaux of Touraine,
with their squareness corrected (as it is not in the
Tudor architecture) by the curve of the upper corners,
which makes this line look - above the expressive
aperture - like a pencilled eyebrow. The low door of
this front is crowned by a high, deep niche, in which,
under a splendid canopy, stiffly astride of a stiffly
draped charger, sits in profile an image of the good
King Louis. Good as he had been, - the father of
his people, as he was called (I believe he remitted
various taxes), - he was not good enough to pass
muster at the Revolution; and the effigy I have just
described is no more than a reproduction of the
primitive statue demolished at that period.

Pass beneath it into the court, and the sixteenth
century closes round you. It is a pardonable flight
of fancy to say that the expressive faces of an age
in which human passions lay very near the surface
seem to look out at you from the windows, from the
balconies, from the thick foliage of the sculpture. The
portion of the wing of Louis XII. that looks toward
the court is supported on a deep arcade. On your
right is the wing erected by Francis I., the reverse of
the mass of building which you see on approaching
the castle. This exquisite, this extravagant, this trans-
cendent piece of architecture is the most joyous ut-
terance of the French Renaissance. It is covered with
an embroidery of sculpture, in which every detail is
worthy of the hand of a goldsmith. In the middle of
it, or rather a little to the left, rises the famous wind-
ing staircase (plausibly, but I believe not religiously,
restored), which even the ages which most misused it
must vaguely have admired. It forms a kind of chiselled
cylinder, with wide interstices, so that the stairs are
open to the air. Every inch of this structure, of its
balconies, its pillars, its great central columns, is
wrought over with lovely images, strange and ingenious
devices, prime among which is the great heraldic sala-
mander of Francis I. The salamander is everywhere
at Blois, - over the chimneys, over the doors, on the
walls. This whole quarter , of the castle bears the
stamp of that eminently pictorial prince. The run-
ning cornice along the top of the front is like all un-
folded, an elongated, bracelet. The windows of the
attic are like shrines for saints. The gargoyles, the
medallions, the statuettes, the festoons, are like the
elaboration of some precious cabinet rather than the
details of a building exposed to the weather and to
the ages. In the interior there is a profusion of res-
toration, and it is all restoration in color. This has
been, evidently, a work of great energy and cost, but
it will easily strike you as overdone. The universal
freshness is a discord, a false note; it seems to light
up the dusky past with an unnatural glare. Begun in
the reign of Louis Philippe, this terrible process - the
more terrible always the more you admit that it has
been necessary - has been carried so far that there is
now scarcely a square inch of the interior that has the
color of the past upon it. It is true that the place
had been so coated over with modern abuse that
something was needed to keep it alive; it is only, per-
haps, a pity that the restorers, not content with saving
its life, should have undertaken to restore its youth.
The love of consistency, in such a business, is a
dangerous lure. All the old apartments have been
rechristened, as it were; the geography of the castle
has been re-established. The guardrooms, the bed-
rooms, the closets, the oratories, have recovered their
identity. Every spot connected with the murder of
the Duke of Guise is pointed out by a small, shrill
boy, who takes you from room to room, and who has
learned his lesson in perfection. The place is full of
Catherine de' Medici, of Henry III., of memories, of
ghosts, of echoes, of possible evocations and revivals.
It is covered with crimson and gold. The fireplaces
and the ceilings are magnificent; they look like ex-
pensive "sets" at the grand opera.

I should have mentioned that below, in the court,
the front of the wing of Gaston d'Orleans faces you
as you enter, so that the place is a course of French
history. Inferior in beauty and grace to the other
portions of the castle, the wing is yet a nobler monu-
ment than the memory of Gaston deserves. The second
of the sons of Henry IV., - who was no more fortunate as
a father than as a husband, - younger brother of Louis
XIII., and father of the great Mademoiselle, the most
celebrated, most ambitious, most self-complacent, and
most unsuccessful _fille a marier_ in French history,
passed in enforced retirement at the castle of Blois
the close of a life of clumsy intrigues against Cardinal
Richelieu, in which his rashness was only equalled by
his pusillanimity and his ill-luck by his inaccessibility
to correction, and which, after so many follies and
shames, was properly summed up in the project - be-
gun, but not completed - of demolishing the beautiful
habitation of his exile in order to erect a better one.
With Gaston d'Orleans, however, who lived there with-
out dignity, the history of the Chateau de Blois de-
clines. Its interesting period is that of the wars of
religion. It was the chief residence of Henry III., and
the scene of the principal events of his depraved and
dramatic reign. It has been restored more than enough,
as I have said, by architects and decorators; the visitor,
as he moves through its empty rooms, which are at
once brilliant and ill-lighted (they have not been re-
furnished), undertakes a little restoration of his own.
His imagination helps itself from the things that re-
main; he tries to see the life of the sixteenth century
in its form and dress, - its turbulence, its passions, its
loves and hates, its treacheries, falsities, touches of
faith, its latitude of personal development, its presen-
tation of the whole nature, its nobleness of costume,
charm of speech, splendor of taste, unequalled pic-
turesqueness. The picture is full of movement, of
contrasted light and darkness, full altogether of abomi-
nations. Mixed up with them all is the great name of
religion, so that the drama wants nothing to make it
complete. What episode was ever more perfect - looked
at as a dramatic occurrence - than the murder of the
Duke of Guise? The insolent prosperity of the victim;
the weakness, the vices, the terrors, of the author of
the deed; the perfect execution of the plot; the accu-
mulation of horror in what followed it, - give it, as a
crime, a kind of immortal solidity.

But we must not take the Chateau de Blois too
hard: I went there, after all, by way of entertainment.
If among these sinister memories your visit should
threaten to prove a tragedy, there is an excellent way
of removing the impression. You may treat yourself
at Blois to a very cheerful afterpiece. There is a
charming industry practised there, and practised in
charming conditions. Follow the bright little quay
down the river till you get quite out of the town, and
reach the point where the road beside the Loire be-
comes sinuous and attractive, turns the corner of dimi-
nutive headlands, and makes you wonder what is be-
yond. Let not your curiosity induce you, however, to
pass by a modest white villa which overlooks the
stream, enclosed in a fresh little court; for here dwells
an artist, - an artist in faience. There is no sort of
sign, and the place looks peculiarly private. But if
you ring at the gate, you will not be turned away.
You will, on the contrary, be ushered upstairs into a
parlor - there is nothing resembling a shop- encum-
bered with specimens - of remarkably handsome pottery.
The work is of the best, - a careful reproduction of
old forms, colors, devices; and the master of the
establishment is one of those completely artistic types
that are often found in France. His reception is as
friendly as his work is ingenious; and I think it is not
too much to say that you like the work the better be-
cause he has produced it. His vases, cups and jars,
lamps, platters, _plaques,_ with their brilliant glaze, their
innumerable figures, their family likeness, and wide
variations, are scattered, through his occupied rooms;
they serve at once as his stock-in-trade and as house-
hold ornament. As we all know, this is an age of
prose, of machinery, of wholesale production, of coarse
and hasty processes. But one brings away from the
establishment of the very intelligent M. Ulysse the
sense of a less eager activity and a greater search for
perfection. He has but a few workmen, and he gives
them plenty of time. The place makes a little vignette,
leaves an impression, - the quiet white house in its
garden on the road by the wide, clear river, without
the smoke, the bustle, the ugliness, of so much of our
modern industry. It ought to gratify Mr. Ruskin.


The second time I went to Blois I took a carriage
for Chambord, and came back by the Chateau de
Cheverny and the forest of Russy, - a charming little
expedition, to which the beauty of the afternoon (the
finest in a rainy season that was spotted with bright
days) contributed not a little. To go to Chambord,
you cross the Loire, leave it on one side, and strike
away through a country in which salient features be-
come less and less numerous, and which at last has
no other quality than a look of intense, and peculiar
rurality, - the characteristic, even when it is not the
charm, of so much of the landscape of France. This
is not the appearance of wildness, for it goes with
great cultivation; it is simply the presence of the
delving, drudging, economizing peasant. But it is a
deep, unrelieved rusticity. It is a peasant's landscape;
not, as in England, a landlord's. On the way to Cham-
bord you enter the flat and sandy Sologne. The wide
horizon opens out like a great _potager,_ without inter-
ruptions, without an eminence, with here and there a
long, low stretch of wood. There is an absence of
hedges, fences, signs of property; everything is ab-
sorbed in the general flatness, - the patches of vine-
yard, the scattered cottages, the villages, the children
(planted and staring and almost always pretty), the
women in the fields, the white caps, the faded blouses,
the big sabots. At the end of an hour's drive (they
assure you at Blois that even with two horses you will
spend double that time), I passed through a sort of
gap in a wall, which does duty as the gateway of the
domain of an exiled pretender. I drove along a
straight avenue, through a disfeatured park, - the park
of Chambord has twenty-one miles of circumference, -
a very sandy, scrubby, melancholy plantation, in which
the timber must have been cut many times over and
is to-day a mere tangle of brushwood. Here, as in so
many spots in France, the traveller perceives that he
is in a land of revolutoins. Nevertheless, its great ex-
tent and the long perspective of its avenues give this
desolate boskage a certain majesty; just as its shabbi-
ness places it in agreement with one of the strongest
impressions of the chateau. You follow one of these
long perspectives a proportionate time, and at last you
see the chimneys and pinnacles of Chambord rise ap-
parently out of the ground. The filling-in of the wide
moats that formerly surrounded it has, in vulgar par-
lance, let it down, bud given it an appearance of top-
heaviness that is at the same time a magnificent Orien-
talism. The towers, the turrets, the cupolas, the gables,
the lanterns, the chimneys, look more like the spires
of a city than the salient points of a single building.
You emerge from the avenue and find yourself at the
foot of an enormous fantastic mass. Chambord has a
strange mixture of society and solitude. A little village
clusters within view of its stately windows, and a couple
of inns near by offer entertainment to pilgrims. These
things, of course, are incidents of the political pro-
scription which hangs its thick veil over the place.
Chambord is truly royal, - royal in its great scale, its
grand air, its indifference to common considerations.
If a cat may look at a king, a palace may lock at a
tavern. I enjoyed my visit to this extraordinary struc-
ture as much as if I had been a legitimist; and indeed
there is something interesting in any monument of a
great system, any bold presentation of a tradition.

You leave your vehicle at one of the inns, which
are very decent and tidy, and in which every one is
very civil, as if in this latter respect the influence of
the old regime pervaded the neighborhood, and you
walk across the grass and the gravel to a small door,
- a door infinitely subordinate and conferring no title
of any kind on those who enter it. Here you ring a
bell, which a highly respectable person answers (a per-
son perceptibly affiliated, again, to the old regime),
after which she ushers you across a vestibule into an
inner court. Perhaps the strongest impression I got
at Chambord came to me as I stood in this court.
The woman who admitted me did not come with
me; I was to find my guide somewhere else. The
specialty of Chambord is its prodigious round towers.
There are, I believe, no less than eight of them,
placed at each angle of the inner and outer square of
buildings; for the castle is in the form of a larger
structure which encloses a smaller one. One of these
towers stood before me in the court; it seemed to
fling its shadow over the place; while above, as I
looked up, the pinnacles and gables, the enormous
chimneys, soared into the bright blue air. The place
was empty and silent; shadows of gargoyles, of extra-
ordinary projections, were thrown across the clear
gray surfaces. One felt that the whole thing was
monstrous. A cicerone appeared, a languid young
man in a rather shabby livery, and led me about with
a mixture of the impatient and the desultory, of con-
descension and humility. I do not profess to under-
stand the plan of Chambord, and I may add that I
do not even desire to do so; for it is much more
entertaining to think of it, as you can so easily, as an
irresponsible, insoluble labyrinth. Within, it is a
wilderness of empty chambers, a royal and romantic
barrack. The exiled prince to whom it gives its title
has not the means to keep up four hundred rooms;
he contents himself with preserving the huge outside.
The repairs of the prodigious roof alone must absorb
a large part of his revenue. The great feature of
the interior is the celebrated double staircase, rising
straight through the building, with two courses of
steps, so that people may ascend and descend without
meeting. This staircase is a truly majestic piece of
humor; it gives you the note, as it were, of Chambord.
It opens on each landing to a vast guard-room, in
four arms, radiations of the winding shaft. My guide
made me climb to the great open-work lantern which,
springing from the roof at the termination of the
rotund staircase (surmounted here by a smaller one),
forms the pinnacle of the bristling crown of Cham-
bord. This lantern is tipped with a huge _fleur-de-lis_
in stone, - the only one, I believe, that the Revolution
did not succeed in pulling down. Here, from narrow
windows, you look over the wide, flat country and the
tangled, melancholy park, with the rotation of its
straight avenues. Then you walk about the roof, in
a complication of galleries, terraces, balconies, through
the multitude of chimneys and gables. This roof,
which is in itself a sort of castle in the air, has an
extravagant, faboulus quality, and with its profuse
ornamentation, - the salamander of Francis I. is a con-
tant motive, - its lonely pavements, its sunny niches,
the balcony that looks down over the closed and
grass-grown main entrance, a strange, half-sad, half-
brilliant charm. The stone-work is covered with fine
mould. There are places that reminded me of some
of those quiet, mildewed corners of courts and ter-
races, into which the traveller who wanders through
the Vatican looks down from neglected windows. They
show you two or three furnished rooms, with Bourbon
portraits, hideous tapestries from the ladies of France,
a collection of the toys of the _enfant du miracle,_ all
military and of the finest make. "Tout cela fonc-
tionne," the guide said of these miniature weapons;
and I wondered, if he should take it into his head to
fire off his little canon, how much harm the Comte de
Chambord would do.

From below, the castle would look crushed by
the redundancy of its upper protuberances if it were
not for the enormous girth of its round towers, which
appear to give it a robust lateral development. These
towers, however, fine as they are in their way, struck
me as a little stupid; they are the exaggeration of
an exaggeration. In a building erected after the days
of defence, and proclaiming its peaceful character from
its hundred embroideries and cupolas, they seem
to indicate a want of invention. I shall risk the ac-
cusation of bad taste if I say that, impressive as it is,
the Chateau de Chambord seemed to me to have al-
together a little of that quality of stupidity. The
trouble is that it represents nothing very particular;
it has not happened, in spite of sundry vicissitudes,
to have a very interesting history. Compared with
that of Blois and Amboise, its past is rather vacant;
and one feels to a certain extent the contrast between
its pompous appearance and its spacious but some-
what colorless annals. It had indeed the good for-
tune to be erected by Francis I., whose name by itself
expresses a good deal of history. Why he should
have built a palace in those sandy plains will ever
remain an unanswered question, for kings have never
been obliged to give reasons. In addition to the fact
that the country was rich in game and that Francis
was a passionate hunter, it is suggested by M. de la
Saussaye, the author of the very complete little history
of Chambord which you may buy at the bookseller's
at Blois, that he was govemed in his choice of the
site by the accident of a charming woman having
formerly lived there. The Comtesse de Thoury had
a manor in the neighborhood, and the Comtesse de
Thoury had been the object of a youthful passion on
the part of the most susceptible of princes before his
accession to the throne. This great pile was reared,
therefore, according to M. de la Saussaye, as a _souvenir
de premieres amours!_ It is certainly a very massive
memento; and if these tender passages were propor-
tionate to the building that commemorates them, they
were tender indeed. There has been much discus-
sion as to the architect employed by Francis I., and
the honor of having designed this splendid residence
has been claimed for several of the Italian artists who
early in the sixteenth century came to seek patronage
in France. It seems well established to-day, however,
that Chambord was the work neither of Primaticcio,
of Vignola, nor of Il Rosso, all of whom have left
some trace of their sojourn in France; but of an
obscure yet very complete genius, Pierre Nepveu,
known as Pierre Trinqueau, who is designated in the
papers which preserve in some degree the history of
the origin of the edifice, as the _maistre de l'oeuvre de
maconnerie._ Behind this modest title, apparently, we
must recognize one of the most original talents of
the French Renaissance; and it is a proof of the vigor
of the artistic life of that period that, brilliant pro-
duction being everywhere abundant, an artist of so
high a value should not have been treated by his con-
temporaries as a celebrity. We manage things very
differently to-day.

The immediate successors of Francis I. continued
to visit, Chambord; but it was neglected by Henry IV.,
and was never afterwards a favorite residence of any
French king. Louis XIV. appeared there on several
occasions, and the apparition was characteristically
brilliant; but Chambord could not long detain a
monarch who had gone to the expense of creating a
Versailles ten miles from Paris. With Versailles, Fon-
tainebleau, Saint-Germain, and Saint-Cloud within easy
reach of their capital, the later French sovereigns had
little reason to take the air in the dreariest province
of their kingdom. Chambord therefore suffered from
royal indifference, though in the last century a use
was found for its deserted halls. In 1725 it was oc-
cupied by the luckless Stanislaus Leszczynski, who
spent the greater part of his life in being elected
King of Poland and being ousted from his throne,
and who, at this time a refugee in France, had found
a compensation for some of his misfortunes in marry-
ing his daughter to Louis XV. He lived eight years
at Chambord, and filled up the moats of the castle.
In 1748 it found an illustrious tenant in the person
of Maurice de Saxe, the victor of Fontenoy, who, how-
ever, two years after he had taken possession of it,
terminated a life which would have been longer had
he been less determined to make it agreeable. The
Revolution, of course, was not kind to Chambord.
It despoiled it in so far as possible of every vestige
of its royal origin, and swept like a whirlwind through
apartments to which upwards of two centuries had
contributed a treasure of decoration and furniture. In
that wild blast these precious things were destroyed
or forever scattered. In 1791 an odd proposal was
made to the French Government by a company of
English Quakers who had conceived the bold idea of
establishing in the palace a manufacture of some
peaceful commodity not to-day recorded. Napoleon
allotted Chambord, as a "dotation," to one of his
marshals, Berthier, for whose benefit it was converted,
in Napoleonic fashion, into the so-called principality
of Wagram. By the Princess of Wagram, the marshal's
widow, it was, after the Restoration, sold to the
trustees of a national subscription which had been
established for the purpose of presenting it to the in-
fant Duke of Bordeaux, then prospective King of
France. The presentation was duly made; but the
Comte de Chambord, who had changed his title in
recognition of the gift, was despoiled of his property
by the Government of Louis Philippe. He appealed
for redress to the tribunals of his country; and the
consequence of his appeal was an interminable litiga-
tion, by which, however, finally, after the lapse of
twenty-five years, he was established in his rights. In
1871 he paid his first visit to the domain which had
been offered him half a century before, a term of
which he had spent forty years in exile. It was from
Chambord that he dated his famous letter of the 5th
of July of that year, - the letter, directed to his so-
called subjects, in which he waves aloft the white
flag of the Bourbons. This amazing epistle, which is
virtually an invitation to the French people to re-
pudiate, as their national ensign, that immortal tricolor,
the flag of the Revolution and the Empire, under
which they have, won the glory which of all glories
has hitherto been dearest to them, and which is as-
sociated with the most romantic, the most heroic, the
epic, the consolatory, period of their history, - this
luckless manifesto, I say, appears to give the measure
of the political wisdom of the excellent Henry V. It
is the most factitious proposal ever addressed to an
eminently ironical nation.

On the whole, Chambord makes a great impression;
and the hour I was, there, while the yellow afternoon
light slanted upon the September woods, there was a
dignity in its desolation. It spoke, with a muffled
but audible voice, of the vanished monarchy, which
had been so strong, so splendid, but to-day has be-
come a sort of fantastic vision, like the cupolas and
chimneys that rose before me. I thought, while I
lingered there, of all the fine things it takes to make
up such a monarchy; and how one of them is a su-
perfluity of mouldering, empty, palaces. Chambord is
touching, - that is the best word for it; and if the
hopes of another restoration are in the follies of the
Republic, a little reflection on that eloquence of ruin
ought to put the Republic on its guard. A sentimental
tourist may venture to remark that in the presence of
several chateaux which appeal in this mystical manner
to the retrospective imagination, it cannot afford to be
foolish. I thought of all this as I drove back to Blois
by the way of the Chateau de Cheverny. The road
took us out of the park of Chambord, but through a
region of flat woodland, where the trees were not
mighty, and again into the prosy plain of the Sologne,
- a thankless soil, all of it, I believe, but lately much
amended by the magic of cheerful French industry
and thrift. The light had already begun to fade, and
my drive reminded me of a passage in some rural
novel of Madame Sand. I passed a couple of timber
and plaster churches, which looked very old, black,
and crooked, and had lumpish wooden porches and
galleries encircling the base. By the time I reached
Cheverny, the clear twilight had approached. It was
late to ask to be allowed to visit an inhabited house;
but it was the hour at which I like best to visit almost
anything. My coachman drew up before a gateway,
in a high wall, which opened upon a short avenue,
along which I took my way on foot; the coachmen in
those parts being, for reasons best known to them-
selves, mortally averse to driving up to a house. I
answered the challenge of a very tidy little portress,
who sat, in company with a couple of children, en-
joying the evening air in, front of her lodge, and who
told me to walk a little further and turn to the right.
I obeyed her to the letter, and my turn brought me
into sight of a house as charming as an old manor in
a fairy tale. I had but a rapid and partial view of
Cheverny; but that view was a glimpse of perfection.
A light, sweet mansion stood looking over a wide green
lawn, over banks of flowers and groups of trees. It
had a striking character of elegance, produced partly
by a series of Renaissance busts let into circular niches
in the facade. The place looked so private, so reserved,
that it seemed an act of violence to ring, a stranger
and foreigner, at the graceful door. But if I had not
rung I should be unable to express - as it is such a
pleasure to do - my sense of the exceeding courtesy
with which this admirable house is shown. It was
near the dinner-hour, - the most sacred hour of the
day; but I was freely conducted into the inhabited
apartments. They are extremely beautiful. What I
chiefly remember is the charming staircase of white
embroidered stone, and the great _salle des gardes_ and
_chambre a coucher du roi_ on the second floor. Che-
verny, built in 1634, is of a much later date than the
other royal residences of this part of France; it be-
longs to the end of the Renaissance, and has a touch
of the rococo. The guard-room is a superb apartment;
and as it contains little save its magnificent ceiling
and fireplace and certain dim tapestries on its walls,
you the more easily take the measure of its noble
proportions. The servant opened the shutters of a
single window, and the last rays of the twilight slanted
into the rich brown gloom. It was in the same pic-
turesque fashion that I saw the bedroom (adjoining) of
Henry IV., where a legendary-looking bed, draped in
folds long unaltered, defined itself in the haunted
dusk. Cheverny remains to me a very charming, a
partly mysterious vision. I drove back to Blois in the
dark, some nine miles, through the forest of Russy,
which belongs to the State, and which, though con-
sisting apparently of small timber, looked under the
stars sufficiently vast and primeval. There was a damp
autumnal smell and the occasional sound of a stirring
thing; and as I moved through the evening air I
thought of Francis I. and Henry IV.


You may go to Amboise either from Blois or from
Tours; it is about half-way between these towns. The
great point is to go, especially if you have put it off
repeatedly; and to go, if possible, on a day when the
great view of the Loire, which you enjoy from the
battlements and terraces, presents itself under a friendly
sky. Three persons, of whom the author of these
lines was one, spent the greater part of a perfect
Sunday morning in looking at it. It was astonishing,
in the course of the rainiest season in the memory of
the oldest Tourangeau, how many perfect days we
found to our hand. The town of Amboise lies, like
Tours, on the left bank of the river, a little white-
faced town, staring across an admirable bridge, and
leaning, behind, as it were, against the pedestal of
rock on which the dark castle masses itself. The town
is so small, the pedestal so big, and the castle so high
and striking, that the clustered houses at the base of
the rock are like the crumbs that have fallen from a
well-laden table. You pass among them, however, to
ascend by a circuit to the chateau, which you attack,
obliquely, from behind. It is the property of the
Comte de Paris, another pretender to the French
throne; having come to him remotely, by inheritance,
from his ancestor, the Duc de Penthievre, who toward
the close of the last century bought it from the crown,
which had recovered it after a lapse. Like the castle
of Blois it has been injured and defaced by base uses,
but, unlike the castle of Blois, it has not been com-
pletely restored. "It is very, very dirty, but very
curious," - it is in these terms that I heard it described
by an English lady, who was generally to be found
engaged upon a tattered Tauchnitz in the little _salon
de lecture_ of the hotel at Tours. The description is
not inaccurate; but it should be said that if part of
the dirtiness of Amboise is the result of its having
served for years as a barrack and as a prison, part of
it comes from the presence of restoring stone-masons,
who have woven over a considerable portion of it a
mask of scaffolding. There is a good deal of neatness
as well, and the restoration of some of the parts seems
finished. This process, at Amboise, consists for the
most part of simply removing the vulgar excrescences
of the last two centuries.

The interior is virtually a blank, the old apart-
ments having been chopped up into small modern
rooms; it will have to be completely reconstructed. A
worthy woman, with a military profile and that sharp,
positive manner which the goodwives who show you
through the chateaux of Touraine are rather apt to
have, and in whose high respectability, to say nothing
of the frill of her cap and the cut of her thick brown
dress, my companions and I thought we discovered
the particular note, or _nuance_, of Orleanism, - a com-
petent, appreciative, peremptory person, I say, - at-
tended us through the particularly delightful hour we
spent upon the ramparts of Amboise. Denuded and
disfeatured within, and bristling without with brick-
layers' ladders, the place was yet extraordinarily im-
pressive and interesting. I should confess that we
spent a great deal of time in looking at the view.
Sweet was the view, and magnificent; we preferred it
so much to certain portions of the interior, and to oc-
casional effusions of historical information, that the
old lady with the prove sometimes lost patience with
us. We laid ourselves open to the charge of pre-
ferring it even to the little chapel of Saint Hubert,
which stands on the edge of the great terrace, and
has, over the portal, a wonderful sculpture of the mi-
raculous hunt of that holy man. In the way of plastic
art this elaborate scene is the gem of Amboise. It
seemed to us that we had never been in a place where
there are so many points of vantage to look down
from. In the matter of position Amboise is certainly
supreme among the old houses of the Loire; and I
say this with a due recollection of the claims of Chau-
mont and of Loches, - which latter, by the way (ex-
cuse the afterthought), is not on the Loire. The plat-
forms, the bastions, the terraces, the high-perched
windows and balconies, the hanging gardens and dizzy
crenellations, of this complicated structure, keep you
in perpetual intercourse with an immense horizon.
The great feature of the-place is the obligatory round
tower which occupies the northern end of it, and
which has now been, completely restored. It is of
astounding size, a fortress in itself, and contains,
instead of a staircase, a wonderful inclined plane, so
wide and gradual that a coach and four may be driven
to the top. This colossal cylinder has to-day no
visible use; but it corresponds, happily enough, with
the great circle of the prospect. The gardens of Am-
boise, perched in the air, covering the irregular rem-
nants of the platform on which the castle stands, and
making up in picturesqueness what they lack in ex-
tent, constitute of come but a scanty domain. But
bathed, as we found them, in the autumn sunshine,
and doubly private from their aerial site, they offered
irresistible opportunities for a stroll, interrupted, as
one leaned against their low parapets, by long, con-
templative pauses. I remember, in particular, a certain
terrace, planted with clipped limes, upon which we
looked down from the summit of the big tower. It
seemed from that point to be absolutely necessary to
one's happiness to go down and spend the rest of the
morning there; it was an ideal place to walk to and
fro and talk. Our venerable conductress, to whom
our relation had gradually become more filial, per-
mitted us to gratify this innocent wish, - to the extent,
that is, of taking a turn or two under the mossy _tilleuls._
At the end of this terrace is the low door, in a wall,
against the top of which, in 1498, Charles VIII., ac-
cording to an accepted tradition, knocked his head to
such good purpose that he died. It was within the
walls of Amboise that his widow, Anne of Brittany,
already in mourning for three children, two of whom
we have seen commemorated in sepulchral marble at
Tours, spent the first violence of that grief which was
presently dispelled by a union with her husband's
cousin and successor, Louis XII. Amboise was a fre-
quent resort of the French Court during the sixteenth
century; it was here that the young Mary Stuart spent
sundry hours of her first marriage. The wars of re-
ligion have left here the ineffaceable stain which they
left wherever they passed. An imaginative visitor at
Amboise to-day may fancy that the traces of blood
are mixed with the red rust on the crossed iron bars
of the grim-looking balcony, to which the heads of
the Huguenots executed on the discovery of the con-
spiracy of La Renaudie are rumored to have been
suspended. There was room on the stout balustrade -
an admirable piece of work - for a ghastly array. The
same rumor represents Catherine de' Medici and the
young queen as watching from this balcony the _noyades_
of the captured Huguenots in the Loire. The facts of
history are bad enough; the fictions are, if possible,
worse; but there is little doubt that the future Queen
of Scots learnt the first lessons of life at a horrible
school. If in subsequent years she was a prodigy of
innocence and virtue, it was not the fault of her whilom ???
mother-in-law, of her uncles of the house of Guise, or
of the examples presented to her either at the
windows of the castle of Amboise or in its more pri-
vate recesses.

It was difficult to believe in these dark deeds, how-
ever, as we looked through the golden morning at the
placidity of the far-shining Loire. The ultimate con-
sequence of this spectacle was a desire to follow the
river as far as the castle of Chaumont. It is true
that the cruelties practised of old at Amboise might
have seemed less phantasmal to persons destined to
suffer from a modern form of inhumanity. The mis-
tress of the little inn at the base of the castle-rock -
it stands very pleasantly beside the river, and we had
breakfasted there - declared to us that the Chateau de
Chaumont, which is often during the autumn closed
to visitors, was at that particular moment standing so
wide open to receive us that it was our duty to hire
one of her carriages and drive thither with speed.
This assurance was so satisfactory that we presently
found ourselves seated in this wily woman's most com-
modious vehicle, and rolling, neither too fast nor too
slow, along the margin of the Loire. The drive of
about an hour, beneath constant clumps of chestnuts,
was charming enough to have been taken for itself;
and indeed, when we reached Chaumont, we saw that
our reward was to be simply the usual reward of
virtue, - the consciousness of having attempted the
right. The Chateau de Chaumont was inexorably
closed; so we learned from a talkative lodge-keeper,
who gave what grace she could to her refusal. This
good woman's dilemma was almost touching; she
wished to reconcile two impossibles. The castle was
not to be visited, for the family of its master was
staying there; and yet she was loath to turn away a
party of which she was good enough to say that it had
a _grand genre;_ for, as she also remarked, she had her
living to earn. She tried to arrange a compromise,
one of the elements of which was that we should
descend from our carriage and trudge up a hill which
would bring us to a designated point, where, over the
paling of the garden, we might obtain an oblique and
surreptitious view of a small portion of the castle walls.
This suggestion led us to inquire (of each other) to
what degree of baseness it is allowed to an enlightened
lover of the picturesque to resort, in order to catch a
glimpse of a feudal chateau. One of our trio decided,
characteristically, against any form of derogation; so
she sat in the carriage and sketched some object that
was public property, while her two companions, who
were not so proud, trudged up a muddy ascent which
formed a kind of back-stairs. It is perhaps no more
than they deserved that they were disappointed. Chau-
mont is feudal, if you please; but the modern spirit is
in possession. It forms a vast clean-scraped mass,
with big round towers, ungarnished with a leaf of ivy
or a patch of moss, surrounded by gardens of moderate
extent (save where the muddy lane of which I speak
passes near it), and looking rather like an enormously
magnified villa. The great merit of Chaumont is its
position, which almost exactly resembles that of Am-
boise; it sweeps the river up and down, and seems to
look over half the province. This, however, was better
appreciated as, after coming down the hill and re-
entering the carriage, we drove across the long sus-
pension-bridge which crosses the Loire just beyond
the village, and over which we made our way to the
small station of Onzain, at the farther end, to take
the train back to Tours. Look back from the middle
of this bridge; the whole picture composes, as the
painters say. The towers, the pinnacles, the fair front
of the chateau, perched above its fringe of garden and
the rusty roofs of the village, and facing the afternoon
sky, which is reflected also in the great stream that
sweeps below, - all this makes a contribution to your
happiest memories of Touraine.


We never went to Chinon; it was a fatality. We
planned it a dozen times; but the weather interfered,
or the trains didn't suit, or one of the party was
fatigued with the adventures of'the day before. This
excursion was so much postponed that it was finally
postponed to everything. Besides, we had to go to
Chenonceaux, to Azay-le-Rideau, to Langeais, to Loches.
So I have not the memory of Chinon; I have only the
regret. But regret, as well as memory, has its visions;
especially when, like memory, it is assisted by photo-
graphs. The castle of Chinon in this form appears
to me as an enormous ruin, a mediaeval fortress, of
the extent almost of a city. It covers a hill above the
Vienne, and after being impregnable in its time is in-
destructible to-day. (I risk this phrase in the face of
the prosaic truth. Chinon, in the days when it was a
prize, more than once suflered capture, and at present
it is crumbling inch by inch. It is apparent, however,
I believe, that these inches encroach little upon acres
of masonry.) It was in the castle that Jeanne Darc ?????
had her first interview with Charles VII., and it is in
the town that Francois Rabelais is supposed to have
been born. To the castle, moreover, the lover of the
picturesque is earnestly recommended to direct his
steps. But one cannot do everything, and I would
rather have missed Chinon than Chenonceaux. For-
tunate exceedingly were the few hours that we passed
at this exquisite residence.

"In 1747," says Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his
"Confessions," "we went to spend the autumn in Tou-
raine, at the Chateau, of Chenonceaux, a royal resi-
dence upon the Cher, built by Henry II. for Diana of
Poitiers, whose initials are still to be seen there, and
now in possession of M. Dupin, the farmer-general.
We amused ourselves greatly in this fine spot; the liv-
ing was of the best, and I became as fat as a monk.
We made a great deal of music, and acted comedies."

This is the only description that Rousseau gives
of one of the most romantic houses in France, and of
an episode that must have counted as one of the most
agreeable in his uncomfortable career. The eighteenth
century contented itself with general epithets; and
when Jean-Jacques has said that Chenonceaux was a
"beau lieu," he thinks himself absolved from further
characterization. We later sons of time have, both for
our pleasure and our pain, invented the fashion of
special terms, and I am afraid that even common
decency obliges me to pay some larger tribute than
this to the architectural gem of Touraine. Fortunately
I can discharge my debt with gratitude. In going
from Tours you leave the valley of the Loire and enter
that of the Cher, and at the end of about an hour you
see the turrets of the castle on your right, among the
trees, down in the meadows, beside the quiet little
river. The station and the village are about ten
minutes' walk from the chateau, and the village con-
tains a very tidy inn, where, if you are not in too
great a hurry to commune with the shades of the royal
favorite and the jealous queen, you will perhaps stop
and order a dinner to be ready for you in the evening.
A straight, tall avenue leads to the grounds of the
castle; what I owe to exactitude compels me to add
that it is crossed by the railway-line. The place is so
arranged, however, that the chateau need know nothing
of passing trains, - which pass, indeed, though the
grounds are not large, at a very sufficient distance.
I may add that the trains throughout this part of
France have a noiseless, desultory, dawdling, almost
stationary quality, which makes them less of an offence
than usual. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the light
was yellow, save under the trees of the avenue, where,
in spite of the waning of September, it was duskily
green. Three or four peasants, in festal attire, were
strolling about. On a bench at the beginning of the
avenue, sat a man with two women. As I advanced
with my companions he rose, after a sudden stare,
and approached me with a smile, in which (to be
Johnsonian for a moment) certitude was mitigated by
modesty and eagerness was embellished with respect.
He came toward me with a salutation that I had seen
before, and I am happy to say that after an instant I
ceased to be guilty of the brutality of not knowing
where. There was only one place in the world where
people smile like that, - only one place where the art
of salutation has that perfect grace. This excellent
creature used to crook his arm, in Venice, when I
stepped into my gondola; and I now laid my hand on
that member with the familiarity of glad recognition;
for it was only surprise that had kept me even for a
moment from accepting the genial Francesco as an
ornament of the landscape of Touraine. What on
earth - the phrase is the right one - was a Venetian
gondolier doing at Chenonceaux? He had been
brought from Venice, gondola and all, by the mistress
of the charming house, to paddle about on the Cher.
Our meeting was affectionate, though there was a kind
of violence in seeing him so far from home. He was
too well dressed, too well fed; he had grown stout,
and his nose had the tinge of good claret. He re-
marked that the life of the household to which he had
the honor to belong was that of a _casa regia;_ which
must have been a great change for poor Checco, whose
habits in Venice were not regal. However, he was
the sympathetic Checco still; and for five minutes
after I left him I thought less about the little plea-
sure-house by the Cher than about the palaces of the

But attention was not long in coming round to the
charming structure that presently rose before us. The
pale yellow front of the chateau, the small scale of
which is at first a surprise, rises beyond a consider-
able court, at the entrance of which a massive and
detached round tower, with a turret on its brow (a
relic of the building that preceded the actual villa),
appears to keep guard. This court is not enclosed -
or is enclosed, at least, only by the gardens, portions
of which are at present in a state of violent reforma-
tion. Therefore, though Chenonceaux has no great
height, its delicate facade stands up boldly enough.
This facade, one of the most finished things in Tou-
raine, consists of two stories, surmounted by an attic
which, as so often in the buildings of the French
Renaissance, is the richest part of the house. The
high-pitched roof contains three windows of beautiful
design, covered with embroidered caps and flowering
into crocketed spires. The window above the door
is deeply niched; it opens upon a balcony made in
the form of a double pulpit, - one of the most charm-
ing features of the front. Chenonceaux is not large,
as I say, but into its delicate compass is packed a
great deal of history, - history which differs from that
of Amboise and Blois in being of the private and sen-
timental kind. The echoes of the place, faint and far
as they are to-day, are not political, but personal.
Chenonceaux dates, as a residence, from the year 1515,
when the shrewd Thomas Bohier, a public functionary
who had grown rich in handling the finances of Nor-
mandy, and had acquired the estate from a family
which, after giving it many feudal lords, had fallen
into poverty, erected the present structure on the
foundations of an old mill. The design is attributed,
with I know not what justice, to Pierre Nepveu, _alias_
Trinqueau, the audacious architect of Chambord. On
the death of Bohier the house passed to his son, who,
however, was forced, under cruel pressure, to surrender
it to the crown, in compensation for a so-called deficit
in the accounts of the late superintendent of the trea-
sury. Francis I. held the place till his death; but
Henry II., on ascending the throne, presented it out of
hand to that mature charmer, the admired of two
generations, Diana of Poitiers. Diana enjoyed it till
the death of her protector; but when this event oc-
curred, the widow of the monarch, who had been
obliged to submit in silence, for years, to the ascend-
ency of a rival, took the most pardonable of all the
revenges with which the name of Catherine de' Medici
is associated, and turned her out-of-doors. Diana was
not in want of refuges, and Catherine went through
the form of giving her Chaumont in exchange; but
there was only one Chenonceaux. Catherine devoted
herself to making the place more completely unique.
The feature that renders it sole of its kind is not ap-
preciated till you wander round to either side of the
house. If a certain springing lightness is the charac-
teristic of Chenonceaux, if it bears in every line the
aspect of a place of recreation, - a place intended for
delicate, chosen pleasures, - nothing can confirm this
expression better than the strange, unexpected move-
ment with which, from behind, it carries itself across
the river. The earlier building stands in the water;
it had inherited the foundations of the mill destroyed
by Thomas Bohier. The first step, therefore, had been
taken upon solid piles of masonry; and the ingenious
Catherine - she was a _raffinee_ - simply proceeded to
take the others. She continued the piles to the op-
posite bank of the Cher, and over them she threw a
long, straight gallery of two stories. This part of the
chateau, which looks simply like a house built upon a
bridge and occupying its entire length, is of course
the great curiosity of Chenonceaux. It forms on each
floor a charming corridor, which, within, is illuminated
from either side by the flickering river-light. The
architecture of these galleries, seen from without, is
less elegant than that of the main building, but the
aspect of the whole thing is delightful. I have spoken
of Chenonceaux as a "villa," using the word ad-
visedly, for the place is neither a castle nor a palace.
It is a very exceptional villa, but it has the villa-
quality, - the look of being intended for life in com-
mon. This look is not at all contradicted by the wing
across the Cher, which only suggests intimate pleasures,
as the French say, - walks in pairs, on rainy days;
games and dances on autumn nights; together with as
much as may be of moonlighted dialogue (or silence)
in the course, of evenings more genial still, in the well-
marked recesses of windows.

It is safe to say that such things took place there
in the last century, during the kindly reign of Mon-
sieur and Madame Dupin. This period presents itself
as the happiest in the annals of Chenonceaux. I know
not what festive train the great Diana may have led,
and my imagination, I am afraid, is only feebly kindled
by the records of the luxurious pastimes organized on
the banks of the Cher by the terrible daughter of the
Medici, whose appreciation of the good things of life
was perfectly consistent with a failure to perceive why
others should live to enjoy, them. The best society
that ever assembled there was collected at Chenon-
ceaux during the middle of the eighteenth century.
This was surely, in France at least, the age of good
society, the period when it was well for appreciative
people to have been born. Such people should of
course have belonged to the fortunate few, and not to
the miserable many; for the prime condition of a
society being good is that it be not too large. The
sixty years that preceded the French Revolution were
the golden age of fireside talk and of those pleasures
which proceed from the presence of women in whom
the social art is both instinctive and acquired. The
women of that period were, above all, good company;
the fact is attested by a thousand documents. Chenon-
ceaux offered a perfect setting to free conversation;
and infinite joyous discourse must have mingled with
the liquid murmur of the Cher. Claude Dupin was
not only a great man of business, but a man of honor
and a patron of knowledge; and his wife was gracious,
clever, and wise. They had acquired this famous pro-
perty by purchase (from one of the Bourbons; for
Chenonceaux, for two centuries after the death of
Catherine de' Medici, remained constantly in princely
hands), and it was transmitted to their son, Dupin de
Francueil, grandfather of Madame George Sand. This
lady, in her Correspondence, lately published, describes
a visit that she paid, more than thirty years ago, to
those members of her family who were still in posses-
sion. The owner of Chenonceaux to-day is the daughter
of an Englishman naturalized in France. But I have
wandered far from my story, which is simply a sketch
of the surface of the place. Seen obliquely, from either
side, in combination with its bridge and gallery, the
chateau is singular and fantastic, a striking example
of a wilful and capricious conception. Unfortunately,
all caprices are not so graceful and successful, and I
grudge the honor of this one to the false and blood-
polluted Catherine. (To be exact, I believe the arches
of the bridge were laid by the elderly Diana. It was
Catherine, however, who completed the monument.)
Within, the house has been, as usual, restored. The
staircases and ceilings, in all the old royal residences
of this part of France, are the parts that have suffered
least; many of them have still much of the life of the
old time about them. Some of the chambers of Che-
nonceaux, however, encumbered as they are with mo-
dern detail, derive a sufficiently haunted and suggestive
look from the deep setting of their beautiful windows,
which thickens the shadows and makes dark, corners.
There is a charming little Gothic chapel, with its apse
hanging over the water, fastened to the left flank of
the house. Some of the upper balconies, which look
along the outer face of the gallery, and either up or
down the river, are delightful protected nooks. We
walked through the lower gallery to the other bank of
the Cher; this fine apartment appeared to be for the
moment a purgatory of ancient furniture. It terminates
rather abruptly; it simply stops, with a blank wall.
There ought, of course, to have been a pavilion here,
though I prefer very much the old defect to any mo-
dern remedy. The wall is not so blank, however, but
that it contains a door which opens on a rusty draw-
bridge. This drawbridge traverses the small gap which
divides the end of the gallery from the bank of the
stream. The house, therefore, does not literally rest
on opposite edges of the Cher, but rests on one and
just fails to rest on the other. The pavilion would
have made that up; but after a moment we ceased to
miss this imaginary feature. We passed the little
drawbridge, and wandered awhile beside the river.
From this opposite bank the mass of the chateau looked
more charming than ever; and the little peaceful, lazy
Cher, where two or three men were fishing in the
eventide, flowed under the clear arches and between
the solid pedestals of the part that spanned it, with
the softest, vaguest light on its bosom. This was the
right perspective; we were looking across the river of
time. The whole scene was deliciously mild. The
moon came up; we passed back through the gallery
and strolled about a little longer in the gardens. It
was very still. I met my old gondolier in the twilight.
He showed me his gondola; but I hated, somehow, to
see it there. I don't like, as the French say, to _meler
les genres_. A gondola in a little flat French river?
The image was not less irritating, if less injurious, than
the spectacle of a steamer in the Grand Canal, which
had driven me away from Venice a year and a half
before. We took our way back to the Grand Monarque,
and waited in the little inn-parlor for a late train to
Tours. We were not impatient, for we had an ex-
cellent dinner to occupy us; and even after we had
dined we were still content to sit awhile and exchange
remarks upon, the superior civilization of France.
Where else, at a village inn, should we have fared so
well? Where else should we have sat down to our
refreshment without condescension? There were two
or three countries in which it would not have been
happy for us to arrive hungry, on a Sunday evening,
at so modest an hostelry. At the little inn at Chenon-
ceaux the _cuisine_ was not only excellent, but the ser-
vice was graceful. We were waited on by mademoiselle
and her mamma; it was so that mademoiselle alluded
to the elder lady, as she uncorked for us a bottle of
Vouvray mousseux. We were very comfortable, very
genial; we even went so far as to say to each other
that Vouvray mousseux was a delightful wine. From
this opinion, indeed, one of our trio differed; but this
member of the party had already exposed herself to
the charge of being too fastidious, by declining to de-
scend from the carriage at Chaumont and take that
back-stairs view of the castle.


Without fastidiousness, it was fair to declare, on
the other hand, that the little inn at Azay-le-Rideau
was very bad. It was terribly dirty, and it was in
charge of a fat _megere_ whom the appearance of four
trustful travellers - we were four, with an illustrious
fourth, on that occasion - roused apparently to fury.
I attached great importance to this incongruous
hostess, for she uttered the only uncivil words I heard
spoken (in connection with any business of my own)
during a tour of some six weeks in France. Breakfast
not at Azay-le-Rideau, therefore, too trustful traveller;
or if you do so, be either very meek or very bold.
Breakfast not, save under stress of circumstance; but
let no circumstance whatever prevent you from going
to see the admirable chateau, which is almost a rival
of Chenonceaux. The village lies close to the gates,
though after you pass these gates you leave it well
behind. A little avenue, as at Chenonceaux, leads to
the house, making a pretty vista as you approach the
sculptured doorway. Azay is a most perfect and
beautiful thing; I should place it third in any list of
the great houses of this part of France in which these
houses should be ranked according to charm. For


Back to Full Books