A Little Tour In France
Henry James

Part 2 out of 5

beauty of detail it comes after Blois and Chenon-
ceaux; but it comes before Amboise and Chambord.
On the other hand, of course, it is inferior in majesty
to either of these vast structures. Like Chenonceaux,
it is a watery place, though it is more meagrely
moated than the little chateau on the Cher. It consists
of a large square _corps de logis_, with a round tower
at each angle, rising out of a somewhat too slumberous
pond. The water - the water of the Indre - sur-
rounds it, but it is only on one side that it bathes its
feet in the moat. On one of the others there is a
little terrace, treated as a garden, and in front there
is a wide court, formed by a wing which, on the right,
comes forward. This front, covered with sculptures,
is of the richest, stateliest effect. The court is ap-
proachcd by a bridge over the pond, and the house
would reflect itself in this wealth of water if the water
were a trifle less opaque. But there is a certain
stagnation - it affects more senses than one - about
the picturesque pools of Azay. On the hither side of
the bridge is a garden, overshadowed by fine old
sycamores, - a garden shut in by greenhouses and by
a fine last-century gateway, flanked with twin lodges.
Beyond the chateau and the standing waters behind
it is a so-called _parc_, which, however, it must be con-
fessed, has little of park-like beauty. The old houses
(many of them, that is) remain in France; but the old
timber does not remain, and the denuded aspect of
the few acres that surround the chateaux of Touraine
is pitiful to the traveller who has learned to take the
measure of such things from the manors and castles
of England. The domain of the lordly Chaumont is
that of an English suburban villa; and in that and
in other places there is little suggestion, in the
untended aspect of walk and lawns, of the vigilant
British gardener. The manor of Azay, as seen to-day,
dates from the early part of the sixteenth century;
and the industrious Abbe Chevalier, in his very
entertaining though slightly rose-colored book on
Touraine,* (* Promenades pittoresque en Touraine.
Tours: 1869.) speaks of it as, "perhaps the purest expres-
sion of the _belle Renaissance francaise_." "Its height,"
he goes on, "is divided between two stories, terminat-
ing under the roof in a projecting entablature which
imitates a row of machicolations. Carven chimneys
and tall dormer windows, covered with imagery, rise
from the roofs; turrets on brackets, of elegant shape,
hang with the greatest lightness from the angles of
the building. The soberness of the main lines, the
harmony of the empty spaces and those that are
filled out, the prominence of the crowning parts, the
delicacy of all the details, constitute an enchanting
whole." And then the Abbe speaks of the admirable
staircase which adorns the north front, and which,
with its extention, inside, constitutes the principal
treasure of Azay. The staircase passes beneath one
of the richest of porticos, - a portico over which a
monumental salamander indulges in the most deco-
rative contortions. The sculptured vaults of stone
which cover the windings of the staircase within, the
fruits, flowers, ciphers, heraldic signs, are of the
noblest effect. The interior of the chateau is rich,
comfortable, extremely modern; but it makes no
picture that compares with its external face, about
which, with its charming proportions, its profuse yet
not extravagant sculpture, there is something very
tranquil and pure. I took particular fancy to the
roof, high, steep, old, with its slope of bluish slate,
and the way the weather-worn chimneys seemed to
grow out of it, like living things out of a deep soil.
The only defect of the house is the blankness and
bareness of its walls, which have none of those delicate
parasites attached to them that one likes to see on the
surface of old dwellings. It is true that this bareness
results in a kind of silvery whiteness of complexion,
which carries out the tone of the quiet pools and even
that of the scanty and shadeless park.


I hardly know what to say about the tone of
Langeais, which, though I have left it to the end of
my sketch, formed the objective point of the first ex-
cursion I made from Tours. Langeais is rather dark
and gray; it is perhaps the simplest and most severe
of all the castles of the Loire. I don't know why I
should have gone to see it before any other, unless it
be because I remembered the Duchesse de Langeais,
who figures in several of Balzac's novels, and found
this association very potent. The Duchesse de Lan-
geais is a somewhat transparent fiction; but the
castle from which Balzac borrowed the title of his
heroine is an extremely solid fact. My doubt just
above as to whether I should pronounce it excep-
tionally grey came from my having seen it under a
sky which made most things look dark. I have, how-
ever, a very kindly memory of that moist and melan-
choly afternoon, which was much more autumnal than
many of the days that followed it. Langeais lies
down the Loire, near the river, on the opposite side
from Tours, and to go to it you will spend half an
hour in the train. You pass on the way the Chateau
de Luynes, which, with its round towers catching
the afternoon light, looks uncommonly well on a hill
at a distance; you pass also the ruins of the castle
of Cinq-Mars, the ancestral dwelling of the young
favorite of Louis XIII., the victim, of Richelieu, the
hero of Alfred de Vigny's novel, which is usually re-
commended to young ladies engaged in the study of
French. Langeais is very imposing and decidedly
sombre; it marks the transition from the architecture
of defence to that of elegance. It rises, massive and
perpendicular, out of the centre of the village to
which it gives its name, and which it entirely domi-
nates; so that, as you stand before it, in the crooked
and empty street, there is no resource for you but to
stare up at its heavy overhanging cornice and at the
huge towers surmounted with extinguishers of slate.
If you follow this street to the end, however, you
encounter in abundance the usual embellishments of
a French village: little ponds or tanks, with women
on their knees on the brink, pounding and thumping
a lump of saturated linen; brown old crones, the tone
of whose facial hide makes their nightcaps (worn by
day) look dazzling; little alleys perforating the thick-
ness of a row of cottages, and showing you behind,
as a glimpse, the vividness of a green garden. In
the rear of the castle rises a hill which must formerly
have been occupied by some of its appurtenances,
and which indeed is still partly enclosed within its
court. You may walk round this eminence, which,
with the small houses of the village at its base, shuts
in the castle from behind. The enclosure is not
defiantly guarded, however; for a small, rough path,
which you presently reach, leads up to an open gate.
This gate admits you to a vague and rather limited
_parc_, which covers the crest of the hill, and through
which you may walk into the gardens of castle.
These gardens, of small extent, confront the dark
walls with their brilliant parterres, and, covering the
gradual slope of the hill, form, as it were, the fourth
side of the court. This is the stateliest view of the
chateau, which looks to you sufficiently grim and gray
as, after asking leave of a neat young woman who
sallies out to learn your errand, you sit there on a
garden bench and take the measure of the three tall
towers attached to this inner front and forming sever-
ally the cage of a staircase. The huge bracketed cor-
nice (one of the features of Langeais) which is merely
ornamental, as it is not machicolated, though it looks
so, is continued on the inner face as well. The whole
thing has a fine feudal air, though it was erected on
the rains of feudalism.

The main event in the history of the castle is the
marriage of Anne of Brittany to her first husband,
Charles VIII., which took place in its great hall in
1491. Into this great hall we were introduced by
the neat young woman, - into this great hall and
into sundry other halls, winding staircases, galleries,
chambers. The cicerone of Langeais is in too great a
hurry; the fact is pointed out in the excellent Guide-
Joanne. This ill-dissimulated vice, however, is to be
observed, in the country of the Loire, in every one
who carries a key. It is true that at Langeais there
is no great occasion to indulge in the tourist's weak-
ness of dawdling; for the apartments, though they
contain many curious odds and ends of, antiquity, are
not of first-rate interest. They are cold and musty,
indeed, with that touching smell of old furniture, as
all apartments should be through which the insatiate
American wanders in the rear of a bored domestic,
pausing to stare at a faded tapestry or to read the
name on the frame of some simpering portrait.

To return to Tours my companion and I had counted
on a train which (as is not uncommon in France)
existed only in the "Indicateur des Chemins de Fer;"
and instead of waiting for another we engaged a vehicle
to take us home. A sorry _carriole_ or _patache_ it proved
to be, with the accessories of a lumbering white mare
and a little wizened, ancient peasant, who had put on,
in honor of the occasion, a new blouse of extraordinary
stiffness and blueness. We hired the trap of an energetic
woman who put it "to" with her own hands; women
in Touraine and the B1esois appearing to have the
best of it in the business of letting vehicles, as well as
in many other industries. There is, in fact, no branch
of human activity in which one is not liable, in France,
to find a woman engaged. Women, indeed, are not
priests; but priests are, more or less; women. They
are not in the army, it may be said; but then they _are_
the army. They are very formidable. In France one
must count with the women. The drive back from
Langeais to Tours was long, slow, cold; we had an
occasional spatter of rain. But the road passes most
of the way close to the Loire, and there was some-
thing in our jog-trot through the darkening land, beside
the flowing, river, which it was very possible to enjoy.


The consequence of my leaving to the last my little
mention of Loches is that space and opportunity fail
me; and yet a brief and hurried account of that extra-
ordinary spot would after all be in best agreement with
my visit. We snatched a fearful joy, my companion
and I, the afternoon we took the train for Loches.
The weather this time had been terribly against us:
again and again a day that promised fair became hope-
lessly foul after lunch. At last we determined that if
we could not make this excursion in the sunshine, we
would make it with the aid of our umbrellas. We
grasped them firmly and started for the station, where
we were detained an unconscionable time by the evolu-
tions, outside, of certain trains laden with liberated
(and exhilarated) conscripts, who, their term of service
ended, were about to be restored to civil life. The
trains in Touraine are provoking; they serve as little
as possible for excursions. If they convey you one
way at the right hour, it is on the condition of bring-
ing you back at the wrong; they either allow you far
too little time to examine the castle or the ruin, or
they leave you planted in front of it for periods that
outlast curiosity. They are perverse, capricious, ex-
asperating. It was a question of our having but an
hour or two at Loches, and we could ill afford to sacri-
fice to accidents. One of the accidents, however, was
that the rain stopped before we got there, leaving be-
hind it a moist mildness of temperature and a cool
and lowering sky, which were in perfect agreement
with the gray old city. Loches is certainly one of the
greatest impressions of the traveller in central France,
- the largest cluster of curious things that presents
itself to his sight. It rises above the valley of the
Indre, the charming stream set in meadows and sedges,
which wanders through the province of Berry and
through many of the novels of Madame George Sand;
lifting from the summit of a hill, which it covers to
the base, a confusion of terraces, ramparts, towers, and
spires. Having but little time, as I say, we scaled
the hill amain, and wandered briskly through this
labyrinth of antiquities. The rain had decidedly
stopped, and save that we had our train on our minds,
we saw Loches to the best advantage. We enjoyed
that sensation with which the conscientious tourist is
- or ought to be - well acquainted, and for which, at
any rate, he has a formula in his rough-and-ready
language. We "experienced," as they say, (most odious
of verbs!) an "agreeable disappointment." We were
surprised and delighted; we had not suspected that
Loches was so good.

I hardly know what is best there: the strange and
impressive little collegial church, with its romanesque
atrium or narthex, its doorways covered with primitive
sculpture of the richest kind, its treasure of a so-called
pagan altar, embossed with fighting warriors, its three
pyramidal domes, so unexpected, so sinister, which I
have not met elsewhere, in church architecture; or the
huge square keep, of the eleventh century, - the most
cliff-like tower I remember, whose immeasurable thick-
ness I did not penetrate; or the subterranean mysteries
of two other less striking but not less historic dungeons,
into which a terribly imperative little cicerone intro-
duced us, with the aid of downward ladders, ropes,
torches, warnings, extended hands; and, many, fearful
anecdotes, - all in impervious darkness. These horrible
prisons of Loches, at an incredible distance below the
daylight, were a favorite resource of Louis XI., and
were for the most part, I believe, constructed by him.
One of the towers of the castle is garnished with the
hooks or supports of the celebrated iron cage in which
he confined the Cardinal La Balue, who survived so
much longer than might have been expected this extra-
ordinary mixture of seclusion and exposure. All these
things form part of the castle of Loches, whose enorm-
ous _enceinte_ covers the whole of the top of the hill, and
abounds in dismantled gateways, in crooked passages,
in winding lanes that lead to postern doors, in long
facades that look upon terraces interdicted to the
visitor, who perceives with irritation that they com-
mand magnificent views. These views are the property
of the sub-prefect of the department, who resides at
the Chateau de Loches, and who has also the enjoy-
ment of a garden - a garden compressed and curtailed,
as those of old castles that perch on hill-tops are apt
to be - containing a horse-chestnut tree of fabulous
size, a tree of a circumference so vast and so perfect
that the whole population of Loches might sit in con-
centric rows beneath its boughs. The gem of the place,
however, is neither the big _marronier_, nor the collegial
church, nor the mighty dungeon, nor the hideous prisons
of Louis XI.; it is simply the tomb of Agnes Sorel, _la
belle des belles_, so many years the mistress of Charles VII.
She was buried, in 1450, in the collegial church,
whence, in the beginning of the present century, her
remains, with the monument that marks them, were
transferred to one of the towers of the castle. She has
always, I know not with what justice, enjoyed a fairer
fame than most ladies who have occupied her position,
and this fairness is expressed in the delicate statue
that surmounts her tomb. It represents her lying there
in lovely demureness, her hands folded with the best
modesty, a little kneeling angel at either side of her
head, and her feet, hidden in the folds of her decent
robe, resting upon a pair of couchant lambs, innocent
reminders of her name. Agnes, however, was not
lamb-like, inasmuch as, according to popular tradition
at least, she exerted herself sharply in favor of the ex-
pulsion of the English from France. It is one of the
suggestions of Loches that the young Charles VII.,
hard put to it as he was for a treasury and a capital,
- "le roi de Bourges," he was called at Paris, - was
yet a rather privileged mortal, to stand up as he does
before posterity between the noble Joan and the _gentille
Agnes_; deriving, however much more honor from one
of these companions than from the other. Almost as
delicate a relic of antiquity as this fascinating tomb is
the exquisite oratory of Anne of Brittany, among the
apartments of the castle the only chamber worthy of
note. This small room, hardly larger than a closet,
and forming part of the addition made to the edifice
by Charles VIII., is embroidered over with the curious
and remarkably decorative device of the ermine and
festooned cord. The objects in themselves are not
especially graceful; but the constant repetition of the
figure on the walls and ceiling produces an effect of
richness, in spite of the modern whitewash with which,
if I remember rightly, they have been endued. The
little streets of Loches wander crookedly down the hill,
and are full of charming pictorial "bits:" an old town-
gate, passing under a mediaeval tower, which is orna-
mented by Gothic windows and the empty niches of
statues; a meagre but delicate _hotel de ville_, of the
Renaissance, nestling close beside it; a curious _chancel-
lerie_ of the middle of the sixteenth century, with
mythological figures and a Latin inscription on the
front, - both of these latter buildings being rather un-
expected features of the huddled and precipitous little
town. Loches has a suburb on the other side of the
Indre, which we had contented ourselves with looking
down at from the heights, while we wondered whether,
even if it had not been getting late and our train were
more accommodating, we should care to take our way
across the bridge and look up that bust, in terra-cotta,
of Francis I., which is the principal ornament of the
Chateau de Sansac and the faubourg of Beaulieu. I
think we decided that we should not; that we were
already quite well enough acquainted with the nasal
profile of that monarch.


I know not whether the exact limits of an excur-
sion, as distinguished from a journey, have ever been
fixed; at any rate, it seemed none of my business, at
Tours, to settle the question. Therefore, though the
making of excursions had been the purpose of my
stay, I thought it vain, while I started for Bourges, to
determine to which category that little expedition
might belong. It was not till the third day that I re-
turned to Tours; and the distance, traversed for the
most part after dark, was even greater than I had sup-
posed. That, however, was partly the fault of a tire-
some wait at Vierzon, where I had more than enough
time to dine, very badly, at the _buffet_, and to observe
the proceedings of a family who had entered my rail-
way carriage at Tours and had conversed unreservedly,
for my benefit, all the way from that station, - a family
whom it entertained me to assign to the class of _petite
noblesse de province_. Their noble origin was confirmed
by the way they all made _maigre_ in the refreshment
oom (it happened to be a Friday), as if it had been
possible to do anything else. They ate two or three
omelets apiece, and ever so many little cakes, while
the positive, talkative mother watched her children as
the waiter handed about the roast fowl. I was destined
to share the secrets of this family to the end; for
when I had taken place in the empty train that was
in waiting to convey us to Bourges, the same vigilant
woman pushed them all on top of me into my com-
partment, though the carriages on either side con-
tained no travellers at all. It was better, I found, to
have dined (even on omelets and little cakes) at the
station at Vierzon than at the hotel at Bourges, which,
when I reached it at nine o'clock at night, did not
strike me as the prince of hotels. The inns in the
smaller provincial towns in France are all, as the term
is, commercial, and the _commis-voyageur_ is in triumphant
possession. I saw a great deal of him for several
weeks after this; for he was apparently the only traveller
in the southern provinces, and it was my daily fate to
sit opposite to him at tables d'hote and in railway
trains. He may be known by two infallible signs, -
his hands are fat, and he tucks his napkin into his
shirt-collar. In spite of these idiosyncrasies, he seemed
to me a reserved and inoffensive person, with singularly
little of the demonstrative good-humor that he has
been described as possessing. I saw no one who re-
minded me of Balzac's "illustre Gaudissart;" and in-
deed, in the course of a month's journey through a
large part of France, I heard so little desultory con-
versation that I wondered whether a change had not
come over the spirit of the people. They seemed to
me as silent as Americans when Americans have not
been "introduced," and infinitely less addicted to ex-
changing remarks in railway trains and at tables d'hote
the colloquial and cursory English; a fact per-
haps not worth mentioning were it not at variance
with that reputation which the French have long en-
joyed of being a pre-eminently sociable nation. The
common report of the character of a people is, how-
ever, an indefinable product; and it is, apt to strike
the traveller who observes for himself as very wide of
the mark. The English, who have for ages been de-
scribed (mainly by the French) as the dumb, stiff,
unapproachable race, present to-day a remarkable ap-
pearance of good-humor and garrulity, and are dis-
tinguished by their facility of intercourse. On the
other hand, any one who has seen half a dozen
Frenchmen pass a whole day together in a railway-
carriage without breaking silence is forced to believe
that the traditional reputation of these gentlemen is
simply the survival of some primitive formula. It was
true, doubtless, before the Revolution; but there have
been great changes since then. The question of which
is the better taste, to talk to strangers or to hold your
tongue, is a matter apart; I incline to believe that the
French reserve is the result of a more definite con-
ception of social behavior. I allude to it only be-
came it is at variance with the national fame, and at
the same time is compatible with a very easy view of
life in certain other directions. On some of these
latter points the Boule d'Or at Bourges was full of
instruction; boasting, as it did, of a hall of reception
in which, amid old boots that had been brought to be
cleaned, old linen that was being sorted for the wash,
and lamps of evil odor that were awaiting replenish-
ment, a strange, familiar, promiscuous household life
went forward. Small scullions in white caps and aprons
slept upon greasy benches; the Boots sat staring at
you while you fumbled, helpless, in a row of pigeon-
holes, for your candlestick or your key; and, amid the
coming and going of the _commis-voyageurs_, a little
sempstress bent over the under-garments of the hostess,
- the latter being a heavy, stem, silent woman, who
looked at people very hard.

It was not to be looked at in that manner that one
had come all the way from Tours; so that within ten
minutes after my arrival I sallied out into the dark-
ness to get somehow and somewhere a happier im-
pression. However late in the evening I may arrive
at a place, I cannot go to bed without an impression.
The natural place, at Bourges, to look for one seemed
to be the cathedral; which, moreover, was the only
thing that could account for my presence _dans cette
galere_. I turned out of a small square, in front of the
hotel, and walked up a narrow, sloping street, paved
with big, rough stones and guiltless of a foot-way.
It was a splendid starlight night; the stillness of a
sleeping _ville de province_ was over everything; I had
the whole place to myself. I turned to my right, at
the top of the street, where presently a short, vague
lane brought me into sight of the cathedral. I ap-
proached it obliquely, from behind; it loomed up in
the darkness above me, enormous and sublime. It
stands on the top of the large but not lofty eminence
over which Bourges is scattered, - a very good position,
as French cathedrals go, for they are not all so nobly
situated as Chartres and Laon. On the side on which
I approached it (the south) it is tolerably well ex-
posed, though the precinct is shabby; in front, it is
rather too much shut in. These defects, however, it
makes up for on the north side and behind, where it
presents itself in the most admirable manner to the
garden of the Archeveche, which has been arranged
as a public walk, with the usual formal alleys of the
_jardin francais_. I must add that I appreciated these
points only on the following day. As I stood there in
the light of the stars, many of which had an autumnal
sharpness, while others were shooting over the heavens,
the huge, rugged vessel of the church overhung me in
very much the same way as the black hull of a ship
at sea would overhang a solitary swimmer. It seemed
colossal, stupendous, a dark leviathan.

The next morning, which was lovely, I lost no
time in going back to it, and found, with satisfaction,
that the daylight did it no injury. The cathedral of
Bourges is indeed magnificently huge; and if it is a
good deal wanting in lightness and grace it is perhaps
only the more imposing. I read in the excellent hand-
book of M. Joanne that it was projected "_des_ 1172,"
but commenced only in the first years of the thirteenth
century. "The nave" the writer adds, "was finished
_tant bien que mal, faute de ressources;_ the facade is of
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in its lower
part, and of the fourteenth in its upper." The allusion
to the nave means the omission of the transepts. The
west front consists of two vast but imperfect towers;
one of which (the south) is immensely buttressed, so
that its outline slopes forward, like that of a pyramid,
being the taller of the two. If they had spires, these
towers would be prodigious; as it is, given the rest
of the church, they are wanting in elevation. There
are five deeply recessed portals, all in a row, each
surmounted with a gable; the gable over the central
door being exceptionally high. Above the porches,
which give the measure of its width, the front rears
itself, piles itself, on a great scale, carried up by gal-
leries, arches, windows, sculptures, and supported by
the extraordinarily thick buttresses of which I have
spoken, and which, though they embellish it with deep
shadows thrown sidewise, do not improve its style.
The portals, especially the middle one, are extremely
interesting; they are covered with curious early sculp-
tures. The middle one, however, I must describe
alone. It has no less than six rows of figures, - the
others have four, - some of which, notably the upper
one, are still in their places. The arch at the top has
three tiers of elaborate imagery. The upper of these
is divided by the figure of Christ in judgment, of great
size, stiff and terrible, with outstretched arms. On
either side of him are ranged three or four angels,
with the instruments of the Passion. Beneath him, in
the second frieze, stands the angel of justice, with his
scales; and on either side of him is the vision of the
last judgment. The good prepare, with infinite titilla-
tion and complacency, to ascend to the skies; while
the bad are dragged, pushed, hurled, stuffed, crammed,
into pits and caldrons of fire. There is a charming
detail in this section. Beside the angel, on, the right,
where the wicked are the prey of demons, stands a
little female figure, that of a child, who, with hands
meekly folded and head gently raised, waits for the
stern angel to decide upon her fate. In this fate, how-
ever, a dreadful, big devil also takes a keen interest;
he seems on the point of appropriating the tender
creature; he has a face like a goat and an enormous
hooked nose. But the angel gently lays a hand upon
the shoulder of the little girl - the movement is full
of dignity - as if to say, "No; she belongs to the other
side." The frieze below represents the general re-
surrection, with the good and the wicked emerging from
their sepulchres. Nothing can be more quaint and
charming than the difference shown in their way of
responding to the final trump. The good get out of
their tombs with a certain modest gayety, an alacrity
tempered by respect; one of them kneels to pray as
soon as he has disinterred himself. You may know
the wicked, on the other hand, by their extreme shy-
ness; they crawl out slowly and fearfully; they hang
back, and seem to say, "Oh, dear!" These elaborate
sculptures, full of ingenuous intention and of the
reality of early faith, are in a remarkable state of pre-
servation; they bear no superficial signs of restoration,
and appear scarcely to have suffered from the centu-
ries. They are delightfully expressive; the artist had
the advantage of knowing exactly the effect he wished
to produce.

The interior of the cathedral has a great simplicity
and majesty, and, above all, a tremendous height. The
nave is extraordinary in this respect; it dwarfs every-
thing else I know. I should add, however, that I am,
in architecture, always of the opinion of the last
speaker. Any great building seems to me, while I
look at it, the ultimate expression. At any rate, during
the hour that I sat gazing along the high vista of
Bourges, the interior of the great vessel corresponded
to my vision of the evening before. There is a tranquil
largeness, a kind of infinitude, about such an edifice:
it soothes and purifies the spirit, it illuminates the
mind. There are two aisles, on either side, in addi-
tion to the nave, - five in all, - and, as I have said,
there are no transepts; an omission which lengthens
the vista, so that from my place near the door the
central jewelled window in the depths of the perpen-
dicular choir seemed a mile or two away. The second,
or outward, of each pair of aisles is too low, and the
first too high; without this inequality the nave would
appear to take an even more prodigious flight. The
double aisles pass all the way round the choir, the
windows of which are inordinately rich in magnificent
old glass. I have seen glass as fine in other churches;
but I think I have never seen so much of it at once.

Beside the cathedral, on the north, is a curious
structure of the fourteenth or fifteenth century, which
looks like an enormous flying buttress, with its sup-
port, sustaining the north tower. It makes a massive
arch, high in the air, and produces a romantic effect
as people pass under it to the open gardens of the
Archeveche, which extend to a considerable distance
in the rear of the church. The structure supporting
the arch has the girth of a largeish house, and con-
tains chambers with whose uses I am unacquainted,
but to which the deep pulsations of the cathedral, the
vibration of its mighty bells, and the roll of its organ-
tones must be transmitted even through the great arm
of stone.

The archiepiscopal palace, not walled in as at Tours,
is visible as a stately habitation of the last century,
now in course of reparation in consequence of a fire.
From this side, and from the gardens of the palace,
the nave of the cathedral is visible in all its great
length and height, with its extraordinary multitude of
supports. The gardens aforesaid, accessible through
tall iron gates, are the promenade - the Tuileries - of
the town, and, very pretty in themselves, are immensely
set off by the overhanging church. It was warm and
sunny; the benches were empty; I sat there a long
time, in that pleasant state of mind which visits the
traveller in foreign towns, when he is not too hurried,
while he wonders where he had better go next. The
straight, unbroken line of the roof of the cathedral
was very noble; but I could see from this point how
much finer the effect would have been if the towers,
which had dropped almost out of sight, might have
been carried still higher. The archiepiscopal gardens
look down at one end over a sort of esplanade or
suburban avenue lying on a lower level, on which they
open, and where several detachments of soldiers
(Bourges is full of soldiers) had just been drawn up.
The civil population was also collecting, and I saw
that something was going to happen. I learned that
a private of the Chasseurs was to be "broken" for
stealing, and every one was eager to behold the cere-
mony. Sundry other detachments arrived on the
ground, besides many of the military who had come
as a matter of taste. One of them described to me
the process of degradation from the ranks, and I felt
for a moment a hideous curiosity to see it, under the
influence of which I lingered a little. But only a
little; the hateful nature of the spectacle hurried me
away, at the same time that others were hurrying for-
ward. As I turned my back upon it I reflected that
human beings are cruel brutes, though I could not
flatter myself that the ferocity of the thing was ex-
clusively French. In another country the concourse
would have been equally great, and the moral of it all
seemed to be that military penalties are as terrible as
military honors are gratifying.


The cathedral is not the only lion of Bourges; the
house of Jacques Coeur is an object of interest scarcely
less positive. This remarkable man had a very strange
history, and he too was "broken," like the wretched
soldier whom I did not stay to see. He has been re-
habilitated, however, by an age which does not fear
the imputation of paradox, and a marble statue of
him ornaments the street in front of his house. To
interpret him according to this image - a womanish
figure in a long robe and a turban, with big bare arms
and a dramatic pose - would be to think of him as a
kind of truculent sultana. He wore the dress of his
period, but his spirit was very modern; he was a Van-
derbilt or a Rothschild of the fifteenth century. He
supplied the ungrateful Charles VII. with money to pay
the troops who, under the heroic Maid, drove the
English from French soil. His house, which to-day is
used as a Palais de Justice, appears to have been re-
garded at the time it was built very much as the resi-
dence of Mr. Vanderbilt is regarded in New York to-day.
It stands on the edge of the hill on which most of the
town is planted, so that, behind, it plunges down to a
lower level, and, if you approach it on that side, as I
did, to come round to the front of it, you have to
ascend a longish flight of steps. The back, of old,
must have formed a portion of the city wall; at any
rate, it offers to view two big towers, which Joanne
says were formerly part of the defence of Bourges.
From the lower level of which I speak - the square in
front of the post-office - the palace of Jacques Coeur
looks very big and strong and feudal; from the upper
street, in front of it, it looks very handsome and deli-
cate. To this street it presents two stories and a con-
siderable length of facade; and it has, both within and
without, a great deal of curious and beautiful detail.
Above the portal, in the stonework, are two false win-
dows, in which two figures, a man and a woman, ap-
parently household servants, are represented, in sculp-
ture, as looking down into the street. The effect is
homely, yet grotesque, and the figures are sufficiently
living to make one commiserate them for having been
condemned, in so dull a town, to spend several cen-
turies at the window. They appear to be watching for
the return of their master, who left his beautiful house
one morning and never came back.

The history of Jacques Coeur, which has been
written by M. Pierre Clement, in a volume crowned
by the French Academy, is very wonderful and in-
teresting, but I have no space to go into it here.
There is no more curious example, and few more
tragical, of a great fortune crumbling from one day to
the other, or of the antique superstition that the gods
grow jealous of human success. Merchant, million-
naire, banker, ship-owner, royal favorite, and minister
of finance, explorer of the East and monopolist of the
glittering trade between that quarter of the globe and
his own, great capitalist who had anticipated the
brilliant operations of the present time, he expiated
his prosperity by poverty, imprisonment, and torture.
The obscure points in his career have been elucidated
by M. Clement, who has drawn, moreover, a very vivid
picture of the corrupt and exhausted state of France
during the middle of the fifteenth century. He has
shown that the spoliation of the great merchant was a
deliberately calculated act, and that the king sacrificed
him without scruple or shame to the avidity of a sin-
gularly villanous set of courtiers. The whole story is
an extraordinary picture of high-handed rapacity, -
the crudest possible assertion of the right of the stronger.
The victim was stripped of his property, but escaped
with his life, made his way out of France, and, betak-
ing himself to Italy, offered his services to the Pope.
It is proof of the consideration that he enjoyed in
Europe, and of the variety of his accomplishments,
that Calixtus III. should have appointed him to take
command of a fleet which his Holiness was fitting out
against the Turks. Jacques Coeur, however, was not
destined to lead it to victory. He died shortly after
the expedition had started, in the island of Chios, in
1456. The house of Bourges, his native place, testifies
in some degree to his wealth and splendor, though it
has in parts that want of space which is striking in
many of the buildings of the Middle Ages. The court,
indeed, is on a large scale, ornamented with turrets
and arcades, with several beautiful windows, and with
sculptures inserted in the walls, representing the various
sources of the great fortune of the owner. M. Pierre
Clement describes this part of the house as having
been of an "incomparable richesse," - an estimate of its
charms which seems slightly exaggerated to-day. There
is, however, something delicate and familiar in the
bas-reliefs of which I have spoken, little scenes of
agriculture and industry, which show, that the pro-
prietor was not ashamed of calling attention to his
harvests and enterprises. To-day we should question
the taste of such allusions, even in plastic form, in
the house of a "merchant prince" (say in the Fifth
Avenue). Why is it, therefore, that these quaint little
panels at Bourges do not displease us? It is perhaps
because things very ancient never, for some mysterious
reason, appear vulgar. This fifteenth-century million-
naire, with his palace, his egotistical sculptures, may
have produced that impression on some critical spirits
of his own day.

The portress who showed me into the building was
a dear litte old woman, with the gentlest, sweetest,
saddest face - a little white, aged face, with dark,
pretty eyes - and the most considerate manner. She
took me up into an upper hall, where there were a
couple of curious chimney-pieces and a fine old oaken
roof, the latter representing the hollow of a long boat.
There is a certain oddity in a native of Bourges - an
inland town if there ever was one, without even a river
(to call a river) to encourage nautical ambitions - hav-
ing found his end as admiral of a fleet; but this boat-
shaped roof, which is extremely graceful and is re-
peated in another apartment, would suggest that the
imagination of Jacques Coeur was fond of riding the
waves. Indeed, as he trafficked in Oriental products
and owned many galleons, it is probable that he was
personally as much at home in certain Mediterranean
ports as in the capital of the pastoral Berry. If, when
he looked at the ceilings of his mansion, he saw his
boats upside down, this was only a suggestion of the
shortest way of emptying them of their treasures. He
is presented in person above one of the great stone
chimney-pieces, in company with his wife, Macee de
Leodepart, - I like to write such an extraordinary name.
Carved in white stone, the two sit playing at chess at
an open window, through which they appear to give
their attention much more to the passers-by than to
the game. They are also exhibited in other attitudes;
though I do not recognize them in the composition on
top of one of the fireplaces which represents the battle-
ments of a castle, with the defenders (little figures be-
tween the crenellations) hurling down missiles with a
great deal of fury and expression. It would have been
hard to believe that the man who surrounded himself
with these friendly and humorous devices had been
guilty of such wrong-doing as to call down the heavy
hand of justice.

It is a curious fact, however, that Bourges contains
legal associations of a purer kind than the prosecution
of Jacques Coeur, which, in spite of the rehabilitations
of history, can hardly be said yet to have terminated,
inasmuch as the law-courts of the city are installed in
his quondam residence. At a short distance from it
stands the Hotel Cujas, one of the curiosities of Bourges
and the habitation for many years of the great juris-
consult who revived in the sixteenth century the study
of the Roman law, and professed it during the close
of his life in the university of the capital of Berry.
The learned Cujas had, in spite of his sedentary pur-
suits, led a very wandering life; he died at Bourges in
the year 1590. Sedentary pursuits is perhaps not
exactly what I should call them, having read in the
"Biographie Universelle" (sole source of my knowledge
of the renowned Cujacius) that his usual manner of
study was to spread himself on his belly on the floor.
He did not sit down, he lay down; and the "Biographie
Universelle" has (for so grave a work) an amusing pic-
ture of the short, fat, untidy scholar dragging himself
_a plat ventre_ across his room, from one pile of books
to the other. The house in which these singular gym-
nastics took place, and which is now the headquarters
of the gendarmerie, is one of the most picturesque at
Bourges. Dilapidated and discolored, it has a charm-
ing Renaissance front. A high wall separates it from
the street, and on this wall, which is divided by a
large open gateway, are perched two overhanging
turrets. The open gateway admits you to the court,
beyond which the melancholy mansion erects itself,
decorated also with turrets, with fine old windows, and
with a beautiful tone of faded red brick and rusty
stone. It is a charming encounter for a provincial by-
street; one of those accidents in the hope of which
the traveller with a propensity for sketching (whether
on a little paper block or on the tablets of his brain)
decides to turn a corner at a venture. A brawny gen-
darme, in his shirt-sleeves, was polishing his boots in
the court; an ancient, knotted vine, forlorn of its
clusters, hung itself over a doorway, and dropped its
shadow on the rough grain of the wall. The place
was very sketchable. I am sorry to say, however, that
it was almost the only "bit." Various other curious
old houses are supposed to exist at Bourges, and I
wandered vaguely about in search of them. But I had
little success, and I ended by becoming sceptical.
Bourges is a _ville de province_ in the full force of the
term, especially as applied invidiously. The streets,
narrow, tortuous, and dirty, have very wide cobble-
stones; the houses for the most part are shabby, with-
out local color. The look of things is neither modern
nor antique, - a kind of mediocrity of middle age.
There is an enormous number of blank walls, - walls
of gardens, of courts, of private houses - that avert
themselves from the street, as if in natural chagrin at
there being so little to see. Round about is a dull,
flat, featureless country, on which the magnificent
cathedral looks down. There is a peculiar dulness
and ugliness in a French town of this type, which, I
must immediately add, is not the most frequent one.
In Italy, everything has a charm, a color, a grace; even
desolation and _ennui_. In England a cathedral city
may be sleepy, but it is pretty sure to be mellow. In
the course of six weeks spent _en province_, however, I
saw few places that had not more expression than

I went back to the cathedral; that, after all, was
a feature. Then I returned to my hotel, where it was
time to dine, and sat down, as usual, with the _commis-
voyageurs_, who cut their bread on their thumb and
partook of every course; and after this repast I re-
paired for a while to the cafe, which occupied a part
of the basement of the inn and opened into its court.
This cafe was a friendly, homely, sociable spot, where
it seemed the habit of the master of the establishment
to _tutoyer_ his customers, and the practice of the cus-
tomers to _tutoyer_ the waiter. Under these circum-
stances the waiter of course felt justified in sitting
down at the same table with a gentleman who had
come in and asked him for writing materials. He
served this gentleman with a horrible little portfolio,
covered with shiny black cloth and accompanied with
two sheets of thin paper, three wafers, and one of
those instruments of torture which pass in France for
pens, - these being the utensils invariably evoked by
such a request; and then, finding himself at leisure,
he placed himself opposite and began to write a letter
of his own. This trifling incident reminded me afresh
that France is a democratic country. I think I re-
ceived an admonition to the same effect from the free,
familiar way in which the game of whist was going
on just behind me. It was attended with a great deal
of noisy pleasantry, flavored every now and then with
a dash of irritation. There was a young man of whom
I made a note; he was such a beautiful specimen of
his class. Sometimes he was very facetious, chatter-
ing, joking, punning, showing off; then, as the game
went on and he lost, and had to pay the _consomma-
tion_, he dropped his amiability, slanged his partner,
declared he wouldn't play any more, and went away
in a fury. Nothing could be more perfect or more
amusing than the contrast. The manner of the
whole affair was such as, I apprehend, one would not
have seen among our English-speaking people; both
the jauntiness of the first phase and the petulance of
the second. To hold the balance straight, however,
I may remark that if the men were all fearful "cads,"
they were, with their cigarettes and their inconsistency,
less heavy, less brutal, than our dear English-speaking
cad; just as the bright little cafe where a robust mater-
familias, doling out sugar and darning a stocking, sat
in her place under the mirror behind the _comptoir_,
was a much more civilized spot than a British public-
house, or a "commercial room," with pipes and whiskey,
or even than an American saloon.


It is very certain that when I left Tours for Le
Mans it was a journey and not an excursion; for I
had no intention of coming back. The question, in-
deed, was to get away, - no easy matter in France, in
the early days of October, when the whole _jeunesse_
of the country is going back to school. It is accom-
panied, apparently, with parents and grandparents,
and it fills the trains with little pale-faced _lyceens_,
who gaze out of the windows with a longing, lingering
air, not unnatural on the part of small members of a
race in which life is intense, who are about to be
restored to those big educative barracks that do such
violence to our American appreciation of the oppor-
tunities of boyhood. The train stopped every five
minutes; but, fortunately, the country was charming, -
hilly and bosky, eminently good-humored, and dotted
here and there with a smart little chateau. The old
capital of the province of the Maine, which has given
its name to a great American State, is a fairly interest-
ing town, but I confess that I found in it less than I
expected to admire. My expectations had doubtless
been my own fault; there is no particular reason why
Le Mans should fascinate. It stands upon a hill,
indeed, - a much better hill than the gentle swell of
Bourges. This hill, however, is not steep in all direc-
tions; from the railway, as I arrived, it was not even
perceptible. Since I am making comparisons, I may
remark that, on the other hand, the Boule d'Or at Le
Mans is an appreciably better inn than the Boule d'Or
at Bourges. It looks out upon a small market-place
which has a certain amount of character and seems
to be slipping down the slope on which it lies, though
it has in the middle an ugly _halle_, or circular market-
house, to keep it in position. At Le Mans, as at
Bourges, my first business was with the cathedral, to
which, I lost no time in directing my steps. It suf-
fered by juxta-position to the great church I had seen
a few days before; yet it has some noble features. It
stands on the edge of the eminence of the town, which
falls straight away on two sides of it, and makes a
striking mass, bristling behind, as you see it from
below, with rather small but singularly numerous flying
buttresses. On my way to it I happened to walk
through the one street which contains a few ancient
and curious houses, - a very crooked and untidy lane,
of really mediaeval aspect, honored with the denomina-
tion of the Grand' Rue. Here is the house of Queen
Berengaria, - an absurd name, as the building is of a
date some three hundred years later than the wife of
Richard Coeur de Lion, who has a sepulchral monu-
ment in the south aisle of the cathedral. The structure
in question - very sketchable, if the sketcher could get
far enough away from it - is an elaborate little dusky
facade, overhanging the street, ornamented with panels
of stone, which are covered with delicate Renaissance
sculpture. A fat old woman, standing in the door of
a small grocer's shop next to it, - a most gracious old
woman, with a bristling moustache and a charming
manner, - told me what the house was, and also in-
dicated to me a rotten-looking brown wooden mansion,
in the same street, nearer the cathedral, as the Maison
Scarron. The author of the "Roman Comique," and
of a thousand facetious verses, enjoyed for some years,
in the early part of his life, a benefice in the cathedral
of Le Mans, which gave him a right to reside in one
of the canonical houses. He was rather an odd canon,
but his history is a combination of oddities. He wooed
the comic muse from the arm-chair of a cripple, and
in the same position - he was unable even to go down
on his knees - prosecuted that other suit which made
him the first husband of a lady of whom Louis XIV.
was to be the second. There was little of comedy in
the future Madame de Maintenon; though, after all,
there was doubtless as much as there need have been
in the wife of a poor man who was moved to compose
for his tomb such an epitaph as this, which I quote
from the "Biographie Universelle":-

"Celui qui cy maintenant dort,
Fit plus de pitie que d'envie,
Et souffrit mille fois la mort,
Avant que de perdre la vie.
Passant, ne fais icy de bruit,
Et garde bien qu'il ne s'eveille,
Car voicy la premiere nuit,
Que le Pauvre Scarron sommeille."

There is rather a quiet, satisfactory _place_ in front
of the cathedral, with some good "bits" in it; notably
a turret at the angle of one of the towers, and a very
fine, steep-roofed dwelling, behind low walls, which it
overlooks, with a tall iron gate. This house has two
or three little pointed towers, a big, black, precipitous
roof, and a general air of having had a history. There
are houses which are scenes, and there are houses
which are only houses. The trouble with the domestic
architecture of the United States is that it is not
scenic, thank Heaven! and the good fortune of an old
structure like the turreted mansion on the hillside of
Le Mans is that it is not simply a house. It is a per-
son, as it were, as well. It would be well, indeed, if
it might have communicated a little of its personality
to the front of the cathedral, which has none of its
own. Shabby, rusty, unfinished, this front has a
romanesque portal, but nothing in the way of a tower.
One sees from without, at a glance, the peculiarity of
the church, - the disparity between the romanesque
nave, which is small and of the twelfth century, and
the immense and splendid transepts and choir, of a
period a hundred years later. Outside, this end of
the church rises far above the nave, which looks merely
like a long porch leading to it, with a small and curious
romanesque porch in its own south flank. The transepts,
shallow but very lofty, display to the spectators in the
_place_ the reach of their two clere-story windows, which
occupy, above, the whole expanse of the wall. The
south transept terminates in a sort of tower, which is
the only one of which the cathedral can boast. Within,
the effect of the choir is superb; it is a church in it-
self, with the nave simply for a point of view. As I
stood there, I read in my Murray that it has the stamp
of the date of the perfection of pointed Gothic, and I
found nothing to object to the remark. It suffers little
by confrontation with Bourges, and, taken in itself,
seems to me quite as fine. A passage of double aisles
surrounds it, with the arches that divide them sup-
ported on very thick round columns, not clustered.
There are twelve chapels in this passage, and a charm-
ing little lady chapel, filled with gorgeous old glass.
The sustained height of this almost detached choir is
very noble; its lightness and grace, its soaring sym-
metry, carry the eye up to places in the air from
which it is slow to descend. Like Tours, like Chartres,
like Bourges (apparently like all the French cathedrals,
and unlike several English ones) Le Mans is rich in
splendid glass. The beautiful upper windows of the
choir make, far aloft, a sort of gallery of pictures,
blooming with vivid color. It is the south transept
that contains the formless image - a clumsy stone
woman lying on her back - which purports to represent
Queen Berengaria aforesaid.

The view of the cathedral from the rear is, as usual,
very fine. A small garden behind it masks its base;
but you descend the hill to a large _place de foire_, ad-
jacent to a fine old pubic promenade which is known
as Les Jacobins, a sort of miniature Tuileries, where I
strolled for a while in rectangular alleys, destitute of
herbage, and received a deeper impression of vanished
things. The cathedral, on the pedestal of its hill, looks
considerably farther than the fair-ground and the
Jacobins, between the rather bare poles of whose
straightly planted trees you may admire it at a con-
venient distance. I admired it till I thought I should
remember it (better than the event has proved), and
then I wandered away and looked at another curious
old church, Notre-Dame-de-la-Couture. This sacred
edifice made a picture for ten minutes, but the picture
has faded now. I reconstruct a yellowish-brown facade,
and a portal fretted with early sculptures; but the
details have gone the way of all incomplete sensations.
After you have stood awhile in the choir of the
cathedral, there is no sensation at Le Mans that goes
very far. For some reason not now to be traced, I
had looked for more than this. I think the reason
was to some extent simply in the name of the place;
for names, on the whole, whether they be good reasons
or not, are very active ones. Le Mans, if I am not
mistaken, has a sturdy, feudal sound; suggests some-
thing dark and square, a vision of old ramparts and
gates. Perhaps I had been unduly impressed by the
fact, accidentally revealed to me, that Henry II., first
of the English Plantagenets, was born there. Of course
it is easy to assure one's self in advance, but does it
not often happen that one had rather not be assured?
There is a pleasure sometimes in running the risk of
disappointment. I took mine, such as it was, quietly
enough, while I sat before dinner at the door of one
of the cafes in the market-place with a _bitter-et-curacao_
(invaluable pretext at such an hour!) to keep me com-
pany. I remember that in this situation there came
over me an impression which both included and ex-
cluded all possible disappointments. The afternoon
was warm and still; the air was admirably soft. The
good Manceaux, in little groups and pairs, were seated
near me; my ear was soothed by the fine shades of
French enunciation, by the detached syllables of that
perfect tongue. There was nothing in particular in
the prospect to charm; it was an average French view.
Yet I felt a charm, a kind of sympathy, a sense of the
completeness of French life and of the lightness and
brightness of the social air, together with a desire to
arrive at friendly judgments, to express a positive
interest. I know not why this transcendental mood
should have descended upon me then and there; but
that idle half-hour in front of the cafe, in the mild
October afternoon, suffused with human sounds, is
perhaps the most definite thing I brought away from
Le Mans.


I am shocked at finding, just after this noble de-
claration of principles that in a little note-book which
at that time I carried about with me, the celebrated
city of Angers is denominated a "sell." I reproduce
this vulgar term with the greatest hesitation, and only
because it brings me more quickly to my point. This
point is that Angers belongs to the disagreeable class
of old towns that have been, as the English say, "done
up." Not the oldness, but the newness, of the place
is what strikes the sentimental tourist to-day, as he
wanders with irritation along second-rate boulevards,
looking vaguely about him for absent gables. "Black
Angers," in short, is a victim of modern improvements,
and quite unworthy of its admirable name, - a name
which, like that of Le Mans, had always had, to my
eyes, a highly picturesque value. It looks particularly
well on the Shakspearean page (in "King John"), where
we imagine it uttered (though such would not have
been the utterance of the period) with a fine old in-
sular accent. Angers figures with importance in early
English history: it was the capital city of the Plantagenet
race, home of that Geoffrey of Anjou who married, as
second husband, the Empress Maud, daughter of
Henry I. and competitor of Stephen, and became father
of Henry II., first of the Plantagenet kings, born, as we
have seen, at Le Mans. The facts create a natural
presumption that Angers will look historic; I turned
them over in my mind as I travelled in the train from
Le Mans, through a country that was really pretty, and
looked more like the usual English than like the usual
French scenery, with its fields cut up by hedges and
a considerable rotundity in its trees. On my way
from the station to the hotel, however, it became plain
that I should lack a good pretext for passing that night
at the Cheval Blanc; I foresaw that I should have con-
tented myself before th e end of the day. I remained
at the White Horse only long enough to discover that
it was an exceptionally good provincial inn, one of the
best that I encountered during six weeks spent in
these establishments.

"Stupidly and vulgarly rnodernized," - that is an-
other phrase from my note-book, and note-books are
not obliged to be reasonable. "There are some narrow
and tortuous-streets, with a few curious old houses," - I
continue to quote; "there is a castle, of which the ex-
terior is most extraordinary, and there is a cathedral
of moderate interest. It is fair to say that the
Chateau d'Angers is by itself worth a pilgrimage; the
only drawback is that you have seen it in a quarter of
an hour. You cannot do more than look at it, and
one good look does your business. It has no beauty,
no grace, no detail, nothing that charms or detains
you; it is simply very old and very big, - so big and
so old that this simple impression is enough, and it
takes its place in your recollections as a perfect specimen
of a superannuated stronghold. It stands at one end
of the town, surrounded by a huge, deep moat, which
originally contained the waters of the Maine, now
divided from it by a quay. The water-front of Angers
is poor, - wanting in color and in movement; and there
is always an effect of perversity in a town lying near a
great river and, yet not upon it. The Loire is a few
miles off; but Angers contents itself with a meagre
affluent of that stream. The effect was naturally much
better when the huge, dark mass of the castle, with its
seventeen prodigious towers, rose out of the protecting
flood. These towers are of tremendous girth and soli-
dity; they are encircled with great bands, or hoops, of
white stone, and are much enlarged at the base.
Between them hang vast curtains of infinitely old-look-
ing masonry, apparently a dense conglomeration of
slate, the material of which the town was originally
built (thanks to rich quarries in the neighborhood),
and to which it owed its appellation of the Black.
There are no windows, no apertures, and to-day no
battlements nor roofs. These accessories were removed
by Henry III., so that, in spite of its grimness and
blackness, the place has not even the interest of look-
ing like a prison; it being, as I supposed, the essence
of a prison not to be open to the sky. The only
features of the enormous structure are the black, sombre
stretches and protrusions of wall, the effect of which,
on so large a scale, is strange and striking. Begun by
Philip Augustus, and terminated by St. Louis, the
Chateau d'Angers has of course a great deal of history.
The luckless Fouquet, the extravagant minister of
finance of Louis XIV., whose fall from the heights of
grandeur was so sudden and complete, was confined
here in 1661, just after his arrest, which had taken
place at Nantes. Here, also, Huguenots and Vendeans
have suffered effective captivity.

I walked round the parapet which protects the
outer edge of the moat (it is all up hill, and the moat
deepens and deepens), till I came to the entrance
which faces the town, and which is as bare and
strong as the rest. The concierge took me into the
court; but there was nothing to see. The place is
used as a magazine of ammunition, and the yard con-
tains a multitude of ugly buildings. The only thing
to do is to walk round the bastions for the view; but
at the moment of my visit the weather was thick, and
the bastions began and ended with themselves. So I
came out and took another look at the big, black ex-
terior, buttressed with white-ribbed towers, and per-
ceived that a desperate sketcher might extract a
picture from it, especially if he were to bring in, as
they say, the little black bronze statue of the good
King Rene (a weak production of David d'Angers),
which, standing within sight, ornaments the melancholy
faubourg. He would do much better, however, with
the very striking old timbered house (I suppose of the
fifteenth century) which is called the Maison d'Adam,
and is easily the first specimen at Angers of the
domestic architecture of the past. This admirable
house, in the centre of the town, gabled, elaborately
timbered, and much restored, is a really imposing
monument. The basement is occupied by a linen-
draper, who flourishes under the auspicious sign of
the Mere de Famille; and above his shop the tall
front rises in five overhanging stories. As the house
occupies the angle of a little _place_, this front is double,
and the black beams and wooden supports, displayed
over a large surface and carved and interlaced, have
a high picturesqueness. The Maison d'Adam is quite
in the grand style, and I am sorry to say I failed to
learn what history attaches to its name. If I spoke just
above of the cathedral as "moderate," I suppose I
should beg its pardon; for this serious charge was
probably prompted by the fact that it consists only of
a nave, without side aisles. A little reflection now
convinces me that such a form is a distinction; and,
indeed, I find it mentioned, rather inconsistently, in
my note-book, a little further on, as "extremely simple
and grand." The nave is spoken of in the same
volume as "big, serious, and Gothic," though the choir
and transepts are noted as very shallow. But it is not
denied that the air of the whole thing is original and
striking; and it would therefore appear, after all, that
the cathedral of Angers, built during the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, is a sufficiently honorable church;
the more that its high west front, adorned with a very
primitive Gothic portal, supports two elegant tapering
spires, between which, unfortunately, an ugly modern
pavilion has been inserted.

I remember nothing else at Angers but the curious
old Cafe Serin, where, after I had had my dinner at
the inn, I went and waited for the train which, at nine
o'clock in the evening, was to convey me, in a couple
of hours, to Nantes, - an establishment remarkable for
its great size and its air of tarnished splendor, its
brown gilding and smoky frescos, as also for the fact
that it was hidden away on the second floor of an un-
assuming house in an unilluminated street. It hardly
seemed a place where you would drop in; but when
once you had found it, it presented itself, with the
cathedral, the castle, and the Maison d'Adam, as one
of the historical monuments of Angers.


If I spent two nights at Nantes, it was for reasons
of convenience rather than of sentiment; though, in-
deed, I spent them in a big circular room which had
a stately, lofty, last-century look, - a look that con-
soled me a little for the whole place being dirty. The
high, old-fashioned, inn (it had a huge, windy _porte-
cochere_, and you climbed a vast black stone staircase
to get to your room) looked out on a dull square, sur-
rounded with other tall houses, and occupied on one
side by the theatre, a pompous building, decorated
with columns and statues of the muses. Nantes be-
longs to the class of towns which are always spoken
of as "fine," and its position near the mouth of the
Loire gives it, I believe, much commercial movement.
It is a spacious, rather regular city, looking, in the
parts that I traversed, neither very fresh nor very
venerable. It derives its principal character from the
handsome quays on the Loire, which are overhung
with tall eighteenth-century houses (very numerous,
too, in the other streets), - houses, with big _entresols_
marked by arched windows, classic pediments, balcony-
rails of fine old iron-work. These features exist in
still better form at Bordeaux; but, putting Bordeaux
aside, Nantes is quite architectural. The view up and
down the quays has the cool, neutral tone of color
that one finds so often in French water-side places, -
the bright grayness which is the tone of French land-
scape art. The whole city has rather a grand, or at
least an eminently well-established air. During a day
passed in it of course I had time to go to the Musee;
the more so that I have a weakness for provincial
museums, - a sentiment that depends but little on the
quality of the collection. The pictures may be bad,
but the place is often curious; and, indeed, from bad
pictures, in certain moods of the mind, there is a
degree of entertainment to be derived. If they are
tolerably old they are often touching; but they must
have a relative antiquity, for I confess I can do no-
thing with works of art of which the badness is of
receat origin. The cool, still, empty chambers in
which indifferent collections are apt to be preserved,
the red brick tiles, the diffused light, the musty odor,
the mementos around you of dead fashions, the snuffy
custodian in a black skull cap, who pulls aside a
faded curtain to show you the lustreless gem of the
museum, - these things have a mild historical quality,
and the sallow canvases after all illustrate something.
Many of those in the museum of Nantes illustrate the
taste of a successful warrior; having been bequeathed
to the city by Napoleon's marshal, Clarke (created
Duc de Feltre). In addition to these there is the
usual number of specimens of the contemporary French
school, culled from the annual Salons and presented
to the museum by the State. Wherever the traveller
goes, in France, he is reminded of this very honorable
practice, - the purchase by the Government of a cer-
tain number of "pictures of the year," which are pre-
sently distributed in the provinces. Governments suc-
ceed each other and bid for success by different
devices; but the "patronage of art" is a plank, as we
should say here, in every platform. The works of art
are often ill-selected, - there is an official taste which
you immediately recognize, - but the custom is essen-
tially liberal, and a government which should neglect
it would be felt to be painfully common. The only
thing in this particular Musee that I remember is a
fine portrait of a woman, by Ingres, - very flat and
Chinese, but with an interest of line and a great deal
of style.

There is a castle at Nantes which resembles in
some degree that of Angers, but has, without, much
less of the impressiveness of great size, and, within,
much more interest of detail. The court contains the
remains of a very fine piece of late Gothic, a tall ele-
gant building of the sixteenth century. The chateau
is naturally not wanting in history. It was the residence
of the old Dukes of Brittany, and was brought, with
the rest of the province, by the Duchess Anne, the last
representative of that race, as her dowry, to Charles
VIII. I read in the excellent hand-book of M. Joanne
that it has been visited by almost every one of the
kings of France, from Louis XI. downward; and also
that it has served as a place of sojourn less voluntary
on the part of various other distinguished persons,
from the horrible Merechal de Retz, who in the fifteenth
century was executed at Nantes for the murder of a
couple of hundred young children, sacrificed in abomin-
able rites, to the ardent Duchess of Berry, mother of
the Count of Chambord, who was confined there for a
few hours in 1832, just after her arrest in a neigh-
boring house. I looked at the house in question - you
may see it from the platform in front of the chateau
- and tried to figure to myself that embarrassing scene.
The duchess, after having unsuccessfully raised the
standard of revolt (for the exiled Bourbons), in the
legitimist Bretagne, and being "wanted," as the phrase
is, by the police of Louis Philippe, had hidden herself
in a small but loyal house at Nantes, where, at the end
of five months of seclusion, she was betrayed, for gold,
to the austere M. Guizot, by one of her servants, an
Alsatian Jew named Deutz. For many hours before
her capture she had been compressed into an inter-
stice behind a fireplace, and by the time she was
drawn forth into the light she had been ominously
scorched. The man who showed me the castle in-
dicated also another historic spot, a house with little
_tourelles_, on the Quai de la Fosse, in which Henry IV.
is said to have signed the Edict of Nantes. I am,
however, not in a position to answer for this pedigree.

There is another point in the history of the fine
old houses which command the Loire, of which, I sup-
pose, one may be tolerably sure; that is, their having,
placid as they stand there to-day, looked down on the
horrors of the Terror of 1793, the bloody reign of the
monster Carrier and his infamous _noyades_. The most
hideous episode of the Revolution was enacted at
Nantes, where hundreds of men and women, tied to-
gether in couples, were set afloat upon rafts and sunk
to the bottom of the Loire. The tall eighteenth-century
house, full of the _air noble_, in France always reminds
me of those dreadful years, - of the street-scenes of the
Revolution. Superficially, the association is incongru-
ous, for nothing could be more formal and decorous
than the patent expression of these eligible residences.
But whenever I have a vision of prisoners bound on
tumbrels that jolt slowly to the scaffold, of heads car-
ried on pikes, of groups of heated _citoyennes_ shaking
their fists at closed coach-windows, I see in the back-
ground the well-ordered features of the architecture of
the period, - the clear gray stone, the high pilasters,
the arching lines of the _entresol_, the classic pediment,
the slate-covered attic. There is not much architecture
at Nantes except the domestic. The cathedral, with a
rough west front and stunted towers, makes no im-
pression as you approach it. It is true that it does its
best to recover its reputation as soon as you have
passed the threshold. Begun in 1434 and finished
about the end of the fifteenth century, as I discover in
Murray, it has a magnificent nave, not of great length,
but of extraordinary height and lightness. On the
other hand, it has no choir whatever. There is much
entertainment in France in seeing what a cathedral
will take upon itself to possess or to lack; for it is
only the smaller number that have the full complement
of features. Some have a very fine nave and no choir;
others a very fine choir and no nave. Some have a
rich outside and nothing within; others a very blank
face and a very glowing heart. There are a hundred
possibilities of poverty and wealth, and they make the
most unexpected combinations.

The great treasure of Nantes is the two noble se-
pulchral monuments which occupy either transept, and
one of which has (in its nobleness) the rare distinction
of being a production of our own time. On the south
side stands the tomb of Francis II., the last of the
Dukes of Brittany, and of his second wife, Margaret
of Foix, erected in 1507 by their daughter Anne, whom
we have encountered already at the Chateau de Nantes,
where she was born; at Langeais, where she married
her first husband; at Amboise, where she lost him; at
Blois, where she married her second, the "good"
Louis XII., who divorced an impeccable spouse to
make room for her, and where she herself died. Trans-
ferred to the cathedral from a demolished convent,
this monument, the masterpiece of Michel Colomb,
author of the charming tomb of the children of Charles
VIII. and the aforesaid Anne, which we admired at
Saint Gatien of Tours, is one of the most brilliant
works of the French Renaissance. It has a splendid
effect, and is in perfect preservation. A great table of
black marble supports the reclining figures of the duke
and duchess, who lie there peacefully and majestically,
in their robes and crowns, with their heads each on a
cushion, the pair of which are supported, from behind,
by three, charming little kneeling angels; at the foot of
the quiet couple are a lion and a greyhound, with
heraldic devices. At each of the angles of the table
is a large figure in white marble of a woman elaborately
dressed, with a symbolic meaning, and these figures,
with their contemporary faces and clothes, which give
them the air of realistic portraits, are truthful and liv-
ing, if not remarkably beautiful. Round the sides of
the tomb are small images of the apostles. There is a
kind of masculine completeness in the work, and a
certain robustness of taste.

In nothing were the sculptors of the Renaissance
more fortunate than in being in advance of us with
their tombs: they have left us noting to say in regard
to the great final contrast, - the contrast between the
immobility of death and the trappings and honors that
survive. They expressed in every way in which it was
possible to express it the solemnity, of their conviction
that the Marble image was a part of the personal
greatness of the defunct, and the protection, the re-
demption, of his memory. A modern tomb, in com-
parison, is a sceptical affair; it insists too little on the
honors. I say this in the face of the fact that one has
only to step across the cathedral of Nantes to stand in
the presence of one of the purest and most touching
of modern tombs. Catholic Brittany has erected in
the opposite transept a monument to one of the most
devoted of her sons, General de Lamoriciere, the de-
fender of the Pope, the vanquished of Castelfidardo.
This noble work, from the hand of Paul Dubois, one
of the most interesting of that new generation of sculp-
tors who have revived in France an art of which our
overdressed century had begun to despair, has every
merit but the absence of a certain prime feeling. It
is the echo of an earlier tune, - an echo with a beauti-
ful cadence. Under a Renaissance canopy of white
marble, elaborately worked with arabesques and che-
rubs, in a relief so low that it gives the work a cer-
tain look of being softened and worn by time, lies the
body of the Breton soldier, with, a crucifix clasped to
his breast and a shroud thrown over his body. At
each of the angles sits a figure in bronze, the two best
of which, representing Charity and Military Courage,
had given me extraordinary pleasure when they were
exhibited (in the clay) in the Salon of 1876. They
are admirably cast, and they have a certain greatness:
the one, a serene, robust young mother, beautiful in
line and attitude; the other, a lean and vigilant young
man, in a helmet that overshadows his serious eyes,
resting an outstretched arm, an admirable military
member, upon the hilt of a sword. These figures con-
tain abundant assurance that M. Paul Dubois has been
attentive to Michael Angelo, whom we have all heard
called a splendid example but a bad model. The
visor-shadowed face of his warrior is more or less a
reminiscence of the figure on the tomb of Lorenzo de'
Medici at Florence; but it is doubtless none the worse
for that. The interest of the work of Paul Dubois is
its peculiar seriousness, a kind of moral good faith
which is not the commonest feature of French art, and
which, united as it is in this case with exceeding
knowledge and a remarkable sense of form, produces
an impression, of deep refinement. The whole monu-
ment is a proof of exquisitely careful study; but I am
not sure that this impression on the part of the spec-
tator is altogether a happy one. It explains much of
its great beauty, and it also explains, perhaps, a little
of a certain weakness. That word, however, is scarcely
in place; I only mean that M. Dubois has made a vi-
sible effort, which has been most fruitful. Simplicity
is not always strength, and our complicated modern
genius contains treasures of intention. This fathomless
modern element is an immense charm on the part of
M. Paul Dubois. I am lost in admiration of the deep
aesthetic experience, the enlightenment of taste, re-
vealed by such work. After that, I only hope that
Giuseppe Garibaldi may have a monument as fair.


To go from Nantes to La Rochelle you travel
straight southward, across the historic _bocage_ of La
Vendee, the home of royalist bush-fighting. The
country, which is exceedingly pretty, bristles with
copses, orchards, hedges, and with trees more spread-
ing and sturdy than the traveller is apt to deem the
feathery foliage of France. It is true that as I pro-
ceeded it flattened out a good deal, so that for an
hour there was a vast featureless plain, which offered
me little entertainment beyond the general impression
that I was approaching the Bay of Biscay (from which,
in reality, I was yet far distant). As we drew near
La Rochelle, however, the prospect brightened con-
siderably, and the railway kept its course beside a
charming little canal, or canalized river, bordered
with trees, and with small, neat, bright-colored, and
yet old-fashioned cottages and villas, which stood
back on the further side, behind small gardens, hedges,
painted palings, patches of turf. The whole effect
was Dutch and delightful; and in being delightful,
though not in being Dutch, it prepared me for the
charms of La Rochelle, which from the moment I
entered it I perceived to be a fascinating little town,
a most original mixture of brightness and dulness.
Part of its brightness comes from its being extra-
ordinarily clean, - in which, after all, it _is_ Dutch; a
virtue not particularly noticeable at Bourges, Le Mans,
and Angers. Whenever I go southward, if it be only
twenty miles, I begin to look out for the south, pre-
pared as I am to find the careless grace of those lati-
tudes even in things of which it may, be said that
they may be south of something, but are not southern.
To go from Boston to New York (in this state of
mind) is almost as soft a sensation as descending the
Italian side, of the Alps; and to go from New York to
Philadelphia is to enter a zone of tropical luxuriance
and warmth. Given this absurd disposition, I could
not fail to flatter myself, on reaching La Rochelle,
that I was already in the Midi, and to perceive in
everything, in the language of the country, the _ca-
ractere meridional._ Really, a great many things had
a hint of it. For that matter, it seems to me that to
arrive in the south at a bound - to wake up there, as
it were - would be a very imperfect pleasure. The
full pleasure is to approach by stages and gradations;
to observe the successive shades of difference by
which it ceases to be the north. These shades are
exceedingly fine, but your true south-lover has an eye
for them all. If he perceive them at New York and
Philadelphia, - we imagine him boldly as liberated
from Boston, - how could he fail to perceive them at
La Rochelle? The streets of this dear little city are
lined with arcades, - good, big, straddling arcades of
stone, such as befit a land of hot summers, and which
recalled to me, not to go further, the dusky portions
of Bayonne. It contains, moreover, a great wide
_place d'armes_, which looked for all the world like the
piazza of some dead Italian town, empty, sunny,
grass-grown, with a row of yellow houses overhanging
it, an unfrequented cafe, with a striped awning, a tall,
cold, florid, uninteresting cathedral of the eighteenth
century on one side, and on the other a shady walk,
which forms part of an old rampart. I followed this
walk for some time, under the stunted trees, beside
the grass-covered bastions; it is very charming, wind-
ing and wandering, always with trees. Beneath the
rampart is a tidal river, and on the other side, for a
long distance, the mossy walls of the immense garden
of a seminary. Three hundred years ago, La Rochelle
was the great French stronghold of Protestantism; but
to-day it appears to be a'nursery of Papists.

The walk upon the rampart led me round to one
of the gatesi of the town, where I found some small
modern, fortifications and sundry red-legged soldiers,
and, beyond the fortifications, another shady walk, -
a _mail_, as the French say, as well as a _champ de
manoeuvre_, - on which latter expanse the poor little
red-legs were doing their exercise. It was all very
quiet and very picturesque, rather in miniature; and
at once very tidy and a little out of repair. This,
however, was but a meagre back-view of La Rochelle,
or poor side-view at best. There are other gates than
the small fortified aperture just mentioned; one of
them, an old gray arch beneath a fine clock-tower, I
had passed through on my way from the station.
This picturesque Tour de l'Horloge separates the town
proper from the port; for beyond the old gray arch,
the place presents its bright, expressive little face to
the sea. I had a charming walk about the harbor,
and along the stone piers and sea-walls that shut it
in. This indeed, to take things in their order, was
after I had had my breakfast (which I took on arriv-
ing) and after I had been to the _hotel de ville_. The
inn had a long narrow garden behind it, with some
very tall trees; and passing through this garden to a
dim and secluded _salle a manger_, buried in the heavy
shade, I had, while I sat at my repast, a feeling of
seclusion which amounted almost to a sense of in-
carceration. I lost this sense, however, after I had
paid my bill, and went out to look for traces of the
famous siege, which is the principal title of La Rochelle
to renown. I had come thither partly because I
thought it would be interesting to stand for a few
moments in so gallant a spot, and partly because, I
confess, I had a curiosity to see what had been the
starting-point of the Huguenot emigrants who founded
the town of New Rochelle in the State of New York,
a place in which I had passed certain memorable
hours. It was strange to think, as I strolled through
the peaceful little port, that these quiet waters, during
the wars of religion, had swelled with a formidable
naval power. The Rochelais had fleets and admirals,
and their stout little Protestant bottoms carried de-
fiance up and down.

To say that I found any traces of the siege would
be to misrepresent the taste for vivid whitewash by
which La Rochelle is distinguished to-day. The only
trace is the dent in the marble top of the table on
which, in the _hotel de ville_, Jean Guiton, the mayor of
the city, brought down his dagger with an oath, when
in 1628 the vessels and regiments of Richelieu closed
about it on sea and land. This terrible functionary
was the soul of the resistance; he held out from
February to October, in the midst of pestilence and
famine. The whole episode has a brilliant place
among the sieges of history; it has been related a
hundred times, and I may only glance at it and pass.
I limit my ambition, in these light pages, to speaking
of those things of which I have personally received an
impression; and I have no such impression of the
defence of La Rochelle. The hotel de ville is a
pretty little building, in the style of the Renaissance
of Francis I.; but it has left much of its interest in
the hands of the restorers. It has been "done up"
without mercy; its natural place would be at Rochelle
the New. A sort of battlemented curtain, flanked
with turrets, divides it from the street and contains
a low door (a low door in a high wall is always
felicitous), which admits you to an inner court, where
you discover the face of the building. It has statues
set into it, and is raised upon a very low and very
deep arcade. The principal function of the deferential
old portress who conducts you over the place is to call
your attention to the indented table of Jean Guiton;
but she shows you other objects of interest besides.
The interior is absolutely new and extremely sump-
tuous, abounding in tapestries, upholstery, morocco,
velvet, satin. This is especially the case with a really
beautiful _grande salle_, where, surrdunded with the
most expensive upholstery, the mayor holds his official
receptions. (So at least, said my worthy portress.)
The mayors of La Rochelle appear to have changed a
good deal since the days of the grim Guiton; but
these evidences of municipal splendor are interesting
for the light they throw on French manners. Imagine
the mayor of an English or an American town of
twenty thousand inhabitants holding magisterial soirees
in the town-hall! The said _grande salle_, which is un-
changed in form and its larger features, is, I believe,
the room in which the Rochelais debated as to whether
they should shut themselves up, and decided in the
affirmative. The table and chair of Jean Guiton have
been restored, Iike everything else, and are very
elegant and coquettish pieces of furniture, - incongruous
relics of a season of starvation and blood. I believe
that Protestantism is somewhat shrunken to-day at La
Rochelle, and has taken refuge mainly in. the _haute
societe_ and in a single place of worship. There was
nothing particular to remind me of its supposed austerity
as, after leaving the hotel de ville, I walked along the
empty portions and cut out of the Tour de l'Horloge,
which I have already mentioned. If I stopped and
looked up at this venerable monument, it was not to
ascertain the hour, for I foresaw that I should have
more time at La Rochelle than I knew what to do
with; but because its high, gray, weather-beaten face
was an obvious subject for a sketch.
The little port, which has two basins, and is ac-
cessible only to vessels of light tonnage, had a certain
gayety and as much local color as you please. Fisher
folk of pictuesque type were strolling about, most
of them Bretons; several of the men with handsome,
simple faces, not at all brutal, and with a splendid
brownness, - the golden-brown color, on cheek and
beard, that you see on an old Venetian sail. It was
a squally, showery day, with sudden drizzles of sun-
shine; rows of rich-toned fishing-smacks were drawn
up along the quays. The harbor is effective to the
eye by reason of three battered old towers which, at
different points, overhang it and look infinitely weather-
washed and sea-silvered. The most striking of these,
the Tour de la Lanterne, is a big gray mass, of the
fifteenth century, flanked with turrets and crowned
with a Gothic steeple. I found it was called by the
people of the place the Tour des Quatre Sergents,
though I know not what connection it has with the
touching history of the four young sergeants of the
garrison of La Rochelle, who were arrested in 1821
as conspirators against the Government of the Bour-
bons, and executed, amid general indignation, in Paris
in the following year. The quaint little walk, with
its label of Rue sur les Murs, to which one ascends
from beside the Grosse Horloge, leads to this curious
Tour de la Lanterne and passes under it. This walk
has the top of the old town-wall, toward the sea, for
a parapet on one side, and is bordered on the other
with decent but irregular little tenements of fishermen,
where brown old women, whose caps are as white as
if they were painted, seem chiefly in possession. In
this direction there is a very pretty stretch of shore,
out of the town, through the fortifications (which are
Vauban's, by the way); through, also, a diminutive
public garden or straggling shrubbery, which edges
the water and carries its stunted verdure as far as a
big Etablissernent des Bains. It was too late in the
year to bathe, and the Etablissement had the bank-
rupt aspect which belongs to such places out of the
season; so I turned my back upon it, and gained, by
a circuit in the course of which there were sundry
water-side items to observe, the other side of the
cheery little port, where there is a long breakwater
and a still longer sea-wall, on which I walked awhile,
to inhale the strong, salt breath of the Bay of Biscay.
La Rochelle serves, in the months of July and August,
as a _station de bains_ for a modest provincial society;
and, putting aside the question of inns, it must be
charming on summer afternoons.


It is an injustice to Poitiers to approach her by
night, as I did some three hours after leaving La
Rochelle; for what Poitiers has of best, as they would
say at Poitiers, is the appearance she presents to the
arriving stranger who puts his head out of the window
of the train. I gazed into the gloom from such an
aperture before we got into the station, for I re-
membered the impression received on another occa-
sion; but I saw nothing save the universal night,
spotted here and there with an ugly railway lamp.
It was only as I departed, the following day, that I
assured myself that Poitiers still makes something of
the figure she ought on the summit of her consider-
able bill. I have a kindness for any little group of
towers, any cluster of roofs and chimneys, that lift
themselves from an eminence over which a long road
ascends in zigzags; such a picture creates for the mo-
ment a presumption that you are in Italy, and even
leads you to believe that if you mount the winding
road you will come to an old town-wall, an expanse
of creviced brownness, and pass under a gateway sur-
mounted by the arms of a mediaeval despot. Why
I should find it a pleasure, in France, to imagine my-
self in Italy, is more than I can say; the illusion has
never lasted long enough to be analyzed. From the
bottom of its perch Poitiers looks large and high;
and indeed, the evening I reached it, the interminiable
climb of the omnibus of the hotel I had selected,
which I found at the station, gave me the measure of
its commanding position. This hotel, "magnifique
construction ornee de statues," as the Guide-Joanne,
usually so reticent, takes the trouble to announce, has
an omnibus, and, I suppose, has statues, though I
didn't perceive them; but it has very little else save
immemorial accumulations of dirt. It is magnificent,
if you will, but it is not even relatively proper; and
a dirty inn has always seemed to me the dirtiest of
human things, - it has so many opportunities to betray

Poiters covers a large space, and is as crooked
and straggling as you please; but these advantages are
not accompanied with any very salient features or any
great wealth of architecture. Although there are few
picturesque houses, however, there are two or three
curious old churches. Notre Dame la Grande, in the
market-place, a small romanesque structure of the
twelfth century, has a most interesting and venerable
exterior. Composed, like all the churches of Poitiers,
of a light brown stone with a yellowish tinge, it is
covered with primitive but ingenious sculptures, and is
really an impressive monument. Within, it has lately
been daubed over with the most hideous decorative
painting that was ever inflicted upon passive pillars
and indifferent vaults. This battered yet coherent
little edifice has the touching look that resides in
everything supremely old: it has arrived at the age at
which such things cease to feel the years; the waves
of time have worn its edges to a kind of patient dul-
ness; there is something mild and smooth, like the
stillness, the deafness, of an octogenarian, even in its
rudeness of ornament, and it has become insensible
to differences of a century or two. The cathedral
interested me much less than Our Lady the Great,
and I have not the spirit to go into statistics about it.
It is not statistical to say that the cathedral stands
half-way down the hill of Poitiers, in a quiet and
grass-grown _place_, with an approach of crooked lanes
and blank garden-walls, and that its most striking
dimension is the width of its facade. This width is
extraordinary, but it fails, somehow, to give nobleness
to the edifice, which looks within (Murray makes the
remark) like a large public hall. There are a nave
and two aisles, the latter about as high as the nave;
and there are some very fearful modern pictures,
which you may see much better than you usually see
those specimens of the old masters that lurk in glow-
ing side-chapels, there being no fine old glass to dif-
fuse a kindly gloom. The sacristan of the cathedral
showed me something much better than all this bright
bareness; he led me a short distance out of it to the
small Temple de Saint-Jean, which is the most curious
object at Poitiers. It is an early Christian chapel,
one of the earliest in France; originally, it would seem,
- that is, in the sixth or seventh century, - a bap-
tistery, but converted into a church while the Christian
era was still comparatively young. The Temple de
Saint-Jean is therefore a monument even more vener-
able than Notre Dame la Grande, and that numbness
of age which I imputed to Notre Dame ought to reside
in still larger measure in its crude and colorless little
walls. I call them crude, in spite of their having
been baked through by the centuries, only because,
although certain rude arches and carvings are let
into them, and they are surmounted at either end with
a small gable, they have (so far as I can remember)
little fascination of surface. Notre Dame is still ex-
pressive, still pretends to be alive; but the Temple
has delivered its message, and is completely at rest.
It retains a kind of atrium, on the level of the street,
from which you descend to the original floor, now un-
covered, but buried for years under a false bottom.
A semicircular apse was, apparently at the time of its
conversion into a church, thrown out from the east
wall. In the middle is the cavity of the old baptismal
font. The walls and vaults are covered with traces
of extremely archaic frescos, attributed, I believe, to
the twelfth century. These vague, gaunt, staring
fragments of figures are, to a certain extent, a reminder
of some of the early Christian churches in Rome; they
even faintly recalled to me the great mosaics of
Ravenna. The Temple de Saint-Jean has neither the
antiquity nor the completeness of those extraordinary
monuments, nearly the most impressive in Europe;
but, as one may say, it is very well for Poitiers.

Not far from it, in a lonely corner which was ani-
mated for the moment by the vociferations of several
old, women who were selling tapers, presumably for
the occasion of a particular devotion, is the graceful
romanesque church erected in the twelfth century to
Saint Radegonde, - a lady who found means to be a
saint even in the capacity of a Merovingian queen.
It bears a general resemblance to Notre Dame la
Grande, and, as I remember it, is corrugated in some-
what the same manner with porous-looking carvings;
but I confess that what I chiefly recollect is the row
of old women sitting in front of it, each with a tray
of waxen tapers in her lap, and upbraiding me for
my neglect of the opportunity to offer such a tribute to
the saint. I know not whether this privilege is oc-
casional or constant; within the church there was no
appearance of a festival, and I see that the name-
day of Saint Radegonde occurs in August, so that the
importunate old women sit there always, perhaps, and
deprive of its propriety the epithet I just applied to
this provincial corner. In spite of the old women,
however, I suspect that the place is lonely; and in-
deed it is perhaps the old women that have made the

The lion of Poitiers, in the eyes of the natives, is
doubtless the Palais de Justice, in the shadow of which
the statue-guarded hotel, just mentioned, erects itself;
and the gem of the court-house, which has a prosy
modern front, with pillars and a high flight of steps,
is the curious _salle des pas perdus_, or central hall, out
of which the different tribunals open. This is a
feature of every French court-house, and seems the
result of a conviction that a palace of justice - the
French deal in much finer names than we - should be
in some degree palatial. The great hall at Poitiers
has a long pedigree, as its walls date back to the
twelfth century, and its open wooden roof, as well as
the remarkable trio of chimney-pieces at the right end
of the room as you enter, to the fifteenth. The three
tall fireplaces, side by side, with a delicate gallery
running along the top of them, constitute the originality
of this ancient chamber, and make one think of the
groups that must formerly have gathered there, - of
all the wet boot-soles, the trickling doublets, the
stiffened fingers, the rheumatic shanks, that must have
been presented to such an incomparable focus of
heat. To-day, I am afraid, these mighty hearts are
forever cold; justice it probably administered with the
aid of a modern _calorifere_, and the walls of the palace
are perforated with regurgitating tubes. Behind and
above the gallery that surmounts the three fireplaces
are high Gothic windows, the tracery of which masks,
in some sort, the chimneys; and in each angle of this
and of the room to the right and left of the trio of
chimneys, is all open-work spiral staircase, ascending
to - I forget where; perhaps to the roof of the edifice.
This whole side of the _salle_ is very lordly, and seems
to express an unstinted hospitality, to extend the
friendliest of all invitations, to bid the whole world
come and get warm. It was the invention of John,
Duke of Berry and Count of Poitou, about 1395. I
give this information on the authority of the Guide-
Joanne, from which source I gather much other curious
learning; for instance, that it was in this building,
when it had surely a very different front, that Charles VII.
was proclaimed king, in 1422; and that here Jeanne
Darc was subjected, in 1429, to the inquisition of
certain doctors and matrons.

The most charming thing at Poitiers is simply the
Promenade de Blossac, - a small public garden at one
end of the flat top of the hill. It has a happy look
of the last century (having been arranged at that
period), and a beautiful sweep of view over the sur-
rounding country, and especially of the course of the
little river Clain, which winds about a part of the base
of the big mound of Poitiers. The limit of this dear
little garden is formed, on the side that turns away
from the town, by the rampart erected in the fourteenth
century, and by its big semicircular bastions. This
rampart, of great length, has a low parapet; you look
over it at the charming little vegetable-gardens with
which the base of the hill appears exclusively to be
garnished. The whole prospect is delightful, especially
the details of the part just under the walls, at the end
of the walk. Here the river makes a shining twist,
which a painter might have invented, and the side of
the hill is terraced into several ledges, - a sort of
tangle of small blooming patches and little pavillions
with peaked roofs and green shutters. It is idle to
attempt to reproduce all this in words; it should be
reproduced only in water-colors. The reader, how-
ever, will already have remarked that disparity in
these ineffectual pages, which are pervaded by the
attempt to sketch without a palette or brushes. He will


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